Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia, in a talk to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, offered an alternative viewpoint of how member nations should deal with the economic crisis.
He presented a critique of what he called was “the continuation of the neo-liberal agenda of the developed nations”, explaining how this approach would only deepen the crisis rather than help to solve it. “In order to put an end to the financial crisis,” he said, “we have to put an end to the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).”
“It is important to move forward to deep economic change,” Morales explained. This means changing the economic model. He called for replacing the neo-liberal model.
His alternative agenda included providing aid to the victims of the crisis, not the ones who caused the crisis. By the victims he meant those who have lost their homes, and those who are losing their jobs. The money should not go to those who have caused the crisis, he told the member nations of the General Assembly.
Morales also criticized that the G20 summit held on November 15 in Washington DC as not representative of the majority of countries in the world who are affected by the economic crisis. Maybe it was just 20 countries, because those countries feel they bear responsibility for the crisis, he suggested, but that still didn’t justify limiting the decision making process for the world response to the crisis to 20 of the developed nations, he reasoned.
As a model for an alternative economics, he offered the practice of Bolivia where a new constitution has been passed, and services have been instituted to benefit all the people, including those in the rural areas who were ignored by the governing institutions in the past.
Morales noted that it was very important “to be constantly with the people, to heed what the people want, to listen to what the people are asking for.”
Describing how the newly passed constitution would provide rights for the indigenous people, he said that, for the first time, “the state is for all.”
Morales explained that he had come to thank the General Assembly for the support given him and his country when groups tried to destabilize the country. While the nationalization of the oil in Bolivia has resulted in a substantial increase in the funds the country receives from its oil reserves, this also led to certain groups trying various means to cut Bolivia’s exports.
At a press conference held after his speech to the General Assembly, Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockman, who is from Nicaragua, introduced Morales as a head of state who is practicing the values for the 21st century that member nations had described as desirable during meetings supporting interfaith dialogue which had been held at the UN the previous week.
In response to a question at the press conference, Morales explained that illiteracy is being eradicated in Bolivia, and that a pension has been instituted for those over 60 years of age.
He offered these as examples of how the resources of the country are being used to improve the lives of the people.
Also he explained that under the new political constitution, no nation is allowed to set up a military base in Bolivia. He described how his country is opposed the use of the cocoa leaf to produce cocaine, but that consumption of the cocoa leaf is a traditional part of the culture in Bolivia and the government supports this cultural practice.
Morales told members of the media, that though in the past the rural people had no access to telecommunications, after the nationalization of telecommunications important changes have taken place. Now even people tending sheep in the fields have cell phones and can get calls from their relatives abroad.
Electricity in the rural areas, he explained, is becoming more affordable to people.
While Morales offered an alternative economic model for developing nations to that of neo-liberalism as the needed response to the economic crisis, much of the western press focused on his ban on the role played by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Bolivia. In response, Morales described how even when he was a member of the Parliament, he was not allowed to pass a certain check point that was at the time maintained by the officials of the DEA. He also recalled when the DEA had had helicopters monitoring social movement activity.
Morales who had been a labor leader in Bolivia, maintains that government has a duty to serve people and defend the sovereignty of the country.
Note: A video of Evo Morales’ press conference is available at the UN web site.