February 7, 2006
The new president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, is wasting no time in showing to the world that his radical agenda is more than just tough talk. Yesterday he warned that foreign corporations are "conspiring" against his government, and the new vice president, Alvaro Garcia Linera (a former guerrilla), urged that preemptive action against the foreign interests be taken before the "gringos" can "do us damage." Last week "Morales threatened to mobilize Bolivia's social movements if Congress refuses to approve his call for a constituent assembly to rewrite Bolivia's constitution." See CNN.com. Morales met with Bolivia's high military command, or what is left of it, rather. He fired all generals after taking office, so the ones who are left are probably rather timid. He is also appealing to the peasants of Bolivia to prepare to take up arms in defense of his revolution. See Bolivia.com (in Spanish). Well, it's only natural for a person to use the techniques in which he or she has specialized experience, and Morales is certainly better suited to conducting roadblocks and strikes than he is to govern. That's what you call an illiberal democracy, or "mob rule," in the vernacular.
Will the new Jacobins in La Paz get totally carried away with themselves and ruin the economic progress Bolivia achieved at such high cost over the past twenty years? Perhaps a more urgent question is, What will it take to provoke Bolivia's armed forces, who used to intervene in national politics at the drop of the hat, into launching an old-fashioned golpe de estado? If it does come to that, let's just hope that the Bush administration reacts in a more prudent fashion than it did during the attempted coup against Hugo Chavez in May 2003. (Some believe that that coup may have been a bogus ruse aimed at smoking out opponents of Chavez in the high command.) La Paz is no doubt full of such intrigues right now.
Not unexpectedly, voters in Haiti are extremely frustrated with long lines, delays, and even closed polling stations in some of the poorer neighborhoods. There was a vicious cycle stemming from mutual distrust, as protests over late openings impeded efforts by election officials to open some of those polling stations. "[Former President Rene] Preval's supporters were among the most outraged voters..." See washingtonpost.com.