Let me just do a quick post now that I hope to follow up later today with posts on my observations in Cochabamba and the story of my epic mountain biking trip yesterday that went wrong and left us stranded in a strange and treacherous landscape after dark (don’t worry, mom and others worried about me, I’m fine).
I just read an excellent post on Bolivia by Jim Schultz at the Democracy Center and I wanted to echo one of his key points. It’s easy and not inaccurate to view Bolivia in class terms, with the ruling class in Santa Cruz and other wealthy department fighting the movement toward socialism of President Evo Morales and his MAS party. But Morales is now facing challenges and opposition that are much more broad than that.
I’ve made a habit of asking people I meet what they think of Evo, and after collecting dozens of answers, I see the patterns that Schultz talked about. Many people who voted for Evo are disappointed in him. Billboards and television all over the country tout the message “Evo Cumple,” which means that he is delivering what he promised. But many of his former supporters don’t believe it, instead seeing a government that is inept and a president who unnecessarily picks fights and launches ideological crusades rather than working to bring the country together and improve the lives of Bolivians.
Perhaps the problem is that people’s expectations are so high and the challenges facing the country are insurmountable in the short run. But if Evo is to succeed, he is going to have to find a way to create a more effective bureaucracy (rather than one that chases away good people, some of whom I have met) and to foster a dialogue with his political opponents that offers some hope of a national reconciliation. And he needs to do that without losing the support of his base in the social movements, which is not an easy feat.