Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES —Though the final results of Bolivia’s referendum took rather long to reach us, these were evident the very Sunday of the voting process. The government did not acknowledge its defeat until the very last minute, hoping rural votes would tilt the balance in its favor. The opposition, thirsting for victory, didn’t want to wait and beat the drums of havoc.
The people voted against the possibility of a new term (2019-2025) for Evo Morales by a narrow margin. It said “no” to a proposal to allow his candidacy that, at least to Cubans, was certain to be accepted.
In Cuba, of course, it’s hard to have all of the information needed to judge a situation. The island’s media monopoly only highlights the achievements of Morales and his government, not their errors. We also never get to see the opposition expound on its positions, neither on the Cuban news or Telesur – we are only exposed to those who support the government.
On the basis of concrete facts, I believe that, in general terms, Morales has been a good president. He has brought about tangible changes and the majority of the people have supported him through their vote. The negative results of this last electoral effort do not speak against him as such, but against indefinite reelection.
The MAS party continues to be a dominant political force in the Bolivian arena and, if the government doesn’t make any significant mistakes over the next three years, it should continue in power. The opposition, of course, is trying to capitalize on this victory and to portray it as the sign that the MAS’ popularity is in decline. The crisis faced by other left-wing Latin American governments helps frame things this way.
It is a smart strategy that will likely draw supporters, but I don’t think this will be enough to defeat the government. That said, keeping Evo Morales out of the fight is an advantage for his opponents. The keen efforts devoted to keeping him out of the race is proof of his strength, his political capital and how much they fear him.
The news shook Cuba considerably. With the defeat of the neo-Peronistas in Argentina, the opposition taking Venezuela’s parliament by storm, Brazil’s PT under the microscope for corruption charges and Ecuador’s Correa losing control after a misguided law on profits and inheritances, the rejection of Morales’ reelection proposal appears to signal the end of Latin America’s left-wing boom.
It would be prudent, however, to brush away the dry leaves and have a closer look at the terrain before making any serious conjectures. Limiting presidential terms is a democratic precaution designed to keep individuals from capitalizing on power positions or forging ties that can transform real democracies into virtual ones. Personally, I have nothing against continuous reelection, provided all other institutions remain truly independent and functional. But that is not the case in our region.
In addition, it is well known that socialists have a bad record: they want as much power as they can get and they want it forever. It’s in their “political genes,” passed down to them by their Marxist-Leninist precursors, some of whom are still around.
Here, in the Americas, Cuba is like the elder of the socialist tribe, the seasoned advisor, the spiritual guide. Though the new breeds of socialists secured positions of power through democratic channels and claim to have a different approach to things, they carry these impulses in their blood and follow the old paradigms for life.
To grant a socialist the right to continuous reelection, in this context, is like giving a bottle of rum to a man who has just recently, and only “apparently,” overcome his drinking problem.
The old-school socialists don’t want anyone else in the ring with them. They like boxing alone and they would rather see their contender not show up for the match. The new socialists appear to respect democracy, but they panic whenever they’re defeated. Power is a vice. Everyone says it’s a sacrifice, but few want to let go of it.
For a right-wing party, losing is one possibility among others. For a left-wing party, losing is the end of the world. They need to change their guiding paradigm to be able to ditch this dangerous Marxist burden.
In the case of Bolivia, I believe this defeat is positive even for the MAS. Other political figures with great potential can now put themselves forward as candidates. The right will still face a great adversary and Evo Morales can still continue to be useful to his country in a different position. He is a charismatic and independent leader with plenty of initiative. He is a symbol of an era of change, just as the United States’ black president is.
The left is losing ground because the neoliberal economic crisis is gradually being overcome, and the former’s victories were connected to this crisis. Unfortunately, these didn’t stem from a new and solid conception of socialism, of its objectives, principles and goals.
Everything is confusing and anomalous, both ambiguous and mysterious. At times, it appears to be something new and, at others, it resembles its despotic progenitors. Seeking social justice, these leaders end up encouraging parasitism and unsustainable spending.
Since they almost always invest in broad but inefficient sectors, all the while distancing themselves from the capitalist minority (where high quotas of efficiency and capital are concentrated), they end up failing in the economic field. Bolivia is not the exception to this rule, though it has managed this tendency best.
Evo Morales didn’t lose and the opposition didn’t win: old, despotic socialism, which threatens to “cling” to its neo-socialist children through the drug of power, has lost, and Bolivian democracy has won.
The people, the sovereign people, have spoken wisely. Loving Evo, they said “no” to him.