Personality Cult in Bolivia

It is not as bad as in dictatorships, but for a democracy, the personality cult surrounding President Evo Morales is quite strong. At Cochabamba airport, you already see a huge poster of the president from the tarmac, and all over the country, you hear, see and read “Evo”. In part, this is authentic admiration and affection for the first indigenous president, of whom even some critics admit that he did preside over a period of stable economic growth and that he began to tackle social problems which had hitherto been ignored. On the other hand, it sometimes seems to me like a substitute for a political agenda. “He is one of us” in lieu of debates about education, economic inequality, the economy’s dependency on raw materials etc.

It is not only because of this personality cult that I am skeptical regarding the planned amendment to the Bolivian constitution, with which President Morales wants to allow the re-election of the president to yet another term, in fact his own renewed re-election to a fourth term (and possibly beyond that, for he is only 56 years old and Fidel Castro is one of his heroes). This issue is subject to a referendum on 21 February 2016, for which I expect a close outcome, although the NO campaign may have benefited from a string of personal and government scandals uncovered in recent weeks.

More about this in the coming days (because today I am traveling in the east of Bolivia), but on the issue of personality cult, I want to share this photo with you. I took it today at the bus and train station in Santa Cruz.

Evo Morales dios.JPG

“Mr President, may God enlighten him forever.” The kitschy photo with the baby is a two-edged sword however, because one of the recently uncovered scandals involves a(nother) illegitimate child of the president.

(Auf Deutsch lesen.)

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Bolivia, Photography, Politics, Travel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Personality Cult in Bolivia

  1. Pingback: Personenkult in Bolivien | Der reisende Reporter

  2. renxkyoko says:

    can already smell it…. this guy wants to be President fo a long time……. the sort of benevolent dictator…… meanwhile his family and relatives are enriching themselves.

    • While I am critical of the planned constitutional amendment, I don’t think the term “dictator” is applicable in any way. Evo Morales does have a lot of support and he has been (re-)elected with clear majorities.

      Also, there is a vibrant opposition, a free press and protests for and against the government all the time. It’s not like there is no possibility for a public debate.

      • Dante says:

        The second item is MUCH more important than the first. For freedom (not neccessarily for democracy), the Finck criterion is at least as crucial than the Popper one. Sir Karl Popper said that there are basically two distinct kinds of states, one where it is possible to get rid of your government without bloodshed and one where it is not. Werner Finck, on the other hand, said: “Ich stehe hinter jeder Regierung, unter der ich nicht sitze, wenn ich nicht hinter ihr stehe.” – “I stand behind any government under its rule I don’t have to ‘sit’ (=to be sentenced) if I don’t stand behind it.”
        Most people think that a dictatorship is the opposite of a democracy in that sense that particularly both are incompatible with each other. I don’t think so. A state can be a democracy in the sense that there are elections where you can vote for a candidate of the opposition but also a dictatorship in the sense that if you, beyond voting for another candidate, are openly against the current government, you are bullied or kind of criminalized.
        A democracy without guaranteed human and civil rights and a political culture which allows you to oppose your government and the majority of your people is just a tyranny with millions of tyrants.

  3. Dante says:

    Mr. Morales, don’t fear those who hate you but those who build a cult around you. And, of course, fear yourself. Never stop asking what young Evo would think about the Bolivia under your presidentship – or, even better, be young Evo and watch your now self critically.

  4. locotojhon says:

    Dear Andreas,,,
    You wrote an interesting article, whereby you seem to infer everything while stating nothing:
    ~”Not as bad as in dictatorships”–Could that also be said about Angela Merkel?
    ~”even some critics admit that he did preside over a period of stable economic growth and that he began to tackle social problems which had hitherto been ignored.”–you suggest that Bolivia’s gains due to Evo’s policy implementation were in the past and are not on-going today–not so.
    ~”…it sometimes seems to me like a substitute for a political agenda. “He is one of us” in lieu of debates about education, economic inequality, the economy’s dependency on raw materials etc.–Unfortunately, your opinion reflects no awareness about the political agenda Evo/MAS operates under–a bottom-up response to the needs of the people as is appropriate to a communitarian-socialistic governance not requiring a political agenda, but rather actions on behalf of requests or demands from the people, to those elected ‘above’.
    ~”…President Morales wants to allow the indefinite re-election of the president, in fact his own renewed re-election to at least a third term “–Please cite a source for your claim that Evo wants indefinite re-election, or post an appropriate retraction.
    ~”(and possibly beyond that, for he is only 56 years old and Fidel Castro is one of his heroes).”–as a lawyer, you have been taught the rules of logic, and must understand what ‘guilt by association’ means to any logical argument–if you use it, you lose.
    ~”the NO campaign may have benefited from a string of personal and government scandals uncovered in recent weeks.”–Nice choice of words whereby–“a string of” suggests many, ‘uncovered’ suggests hidden and the phrase ‘unproven allegations’ is not in sight.
    ~”one of the recently uncovered scandals involves a(nother) illegitimate child of the president.”–suggesting that Evo created a one-man population explosion, without also relating that the baby died shortly after birth, and whose death contributed to the parental breakup.
    So many innuendos–so little time….
    It is too bad you hadn’t gone to Bolivia before Evo was elected, so you could see for yourself what amazing feats of economic and social improvements he has made to benefit all Bolivians, while doing so without a political agenda–or so you claim.
    Lastly, you state “I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I’d much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.”–Real journos depend upon facts, not innuendo; spies depend on learning but not revealing facts–perhaps a fit; but given your ability to travel the world without any visible means of support, becoming a hobo seems quite unlikely, suggesting another ‘invisible’ means of support–I suggest–without any proof whatsoever (other than this article)–you would be an excellent candidate for propagandist, most likely paid by USAID.
    Happy daze to all,,,from locotojhon

    • I will add USAID to the list of organizations to contact and ask them for support. Right next to the Mossad and the CIA, relating to which I have received similar suggestions.

      But in reality, I am not “without any visible means of support”. In fact, it’s quite easy: I work. My clients pay me. That’s how I survive. I don’t know why people find this concept so surprising, when it seems to me the natural state of affairs for most people.

      • locotojhon says:

        Glad to be of service, Andreas. If you need other suggestions, let me know and I’ll oblige.
        So,,,,you work while traveling, eh?
        Nice work if you can get it (cue the music)–I am envious.
        Do you mind revealing what it is you do that brings in the needed bolivianos? ( I can’t imagine that you can drag around the books needed to practice remote lawyering, but perhaps I suffer from an imagination deficit.)
        And last but not least,,,,you landed in Cochabamba (my favorite and perhaps the nicest city in Bolivia) so you obviously have good taste (at least in places to live).
        Also,,,good job in handling my critique–nicely done.
        Safe journeys, and stay happy,,,locotojhon

      • Thanks!
        I am really happy I picked Cochabamba. Perfect climate, very friendly people, beautiful mountains all around and the city doesn’t feel as big as it is. And I find the Spanish here easier to understand.

        I do some freelance lawying indeed, but restricted to my two main areas of expertise (family law and citizenship law, both regarding Germany, of course). Although I still refuse to read e-books and e-newspapers, I have all the legal resources online.
        And I work as a translator for German and English.
        Lastly, I sometimes sell a photo or an article. That’s what I would like to do more of, but I am so lazy.

        But the most important thing is not to spend too much. No car, no fancy restaurants, no new clothes, no smartphone, and one can get by without having to work every day. Particularly if one picks affordable locations. I will rather spend a month in Bolivia for the same money I would spend in 3 days in London.

      • locotojhon says:

        Typical of me,,,suffering simultaneously from both imagination and technology deficits,
        (What millennium are we in again?)
        Having that kind of portability of making a living any place is enviously fantastic, and coupled with Cbba’s reasonable costs, could be a wonderful way to turn many calendar pages.
        How is your Spanish coming along? (Mine was (is?) pre-elementary, and I still didn’t have much of a problem–the warm and generous people could see I was trying as best as I could and helped me as much as they could.)
        And the food,,,and the German deli there too,,,chorizo sandwiches in La Cancha,,,the freshest juices ever on almost every corner,,,Coca Colas in the old-tyme glass bottles (remember those?) made with real cane sugar instead of gmo/poison-laden corn syrup,,,some awesome museums and many more quite beautiful women, if I recall. (And I absolutely DO recall.) Speaking of which, If you didn’t make it to Oruro for carnival, you might have to stay another year for it.
        Lastly, if you ever have the urge to splurge and satisfy a carne jones in a ‘local’ family restaurant, it is hard to beat La Estancia on Uyuni Ave. (Makes my mouth flood water just thinking about it.)
        Enjoy, Andreas (if I could, I would),,,locotojhon

      • Thank you very much!

        I am trying with my Spanish, but I should really take a month or two off to study and practice every day, without reading or listening to anything in English or German.

        And I have to discipline myself not to go out each night and eat a trancapecho (I live in Cala Cala, with lots of street food vendors popping up at night).

        And while this may be subjective, I also thought upon my arrival: “Wow, I never thought that Bolivia had so many beautiful women.”

  5. One of the pitfalls of a developing democracy is the ruling powers ability to find funding to put this sort of advertising everywhere. MAS’ advertising campaigns have benefited from untold millions. However, to be fair to Evo, the country is in a much better state than it was 10 years ago. Sure he had the luck of a commodities boom, but he took advantage of it by nationalizing relevant industries.

    • That’s why I am so happy about the NO vote in the referendum. Because I heard from many people who voted for MAS and Morales in the past, who acknowledge that the country has been doing well economically, but who don’t agree that one person should stay in power forever. In a way, the people have shown a more astute sense of democracy than MAS.

      • locotojhon says:

        Andreas,,,
        I suppose it is nice that you are happy with the referendum vote, but at the expense of the well-being of the Bolivian people? You should know better—you really should! You’re no dummy. You should be educated enough—after all, you are a lawyer for heaven’s sake.
        What just happened in Bolivia is easily understood after understanding the reality of the following articles: http://www.soaw.org/take-action/bridges-not-bases/233-bridges-not-bases/3637-us-military-presence-in-latin-america describing empire’s footprint, influence, and control over parts of Latin America, and http://www.telesurtv.net/english/analysis/5-CIA-Crimes-in-Latin-America-20160122-0015.html for some more historical perspective to demonstrate the proven accurate capabilities of that same empire; and this–http://www.wikileaks-forum.com/nsa/332/snowden-reveals-us-intelligences-black-budget-dollar52-6-billion-on-secret-programs/22352/ that describes empire’s budgetary excesses with enough specificity for almost any sentient being to understand the likelihood and almost certainty that the referendum’s outcome was determined by other-than-Bolivian powers—and with traitorous Bolivian help.
        The recent Bolivian referendum difference was only about 2% of the votes cast, and the Morales administration was hit with a coordinated attack in a number of unsubstantiated but damaging areas that left no time for an unquestioned defense (unlike the equally fictitious $200 haircut charge, that was later disproved) . This is directly from the “Playbook of Empire”. Will any of the current allegations eventually prove to be true? I seriously doubt it. Think about it–No proof has been presented so far, to substantiate the allegations.
        What Bolivia needs now, is their own courageous “Edward Snowdens”, who have the guts and the insider capabilities to prove without question the origins and financing of the dirty tricks that influenced the referendum—in other words, their own modern-day Tupac Kataris and Bartolina Sisas who have the courage to stand up against the modern-day Spanish empire ‘soft-power’ equivalents.
        Also needed is a better understanding as to how the various social media were used against democracy in Bolivia, so that counter-measures can be implemented to prevent it from happening again—because one thing is for certain—given the ‘success’ this time, empire will try it again—you can bet on it.
        Viva Bolivia de locotojhon

      • As someone living in Bolivia, I really don’t think I need these sermons about imperialism from abroad.

        You have a weird interpretation of democracy anyway if you think that a vote by the Bolivian people is against the well-being of the Bolivian people. And then you are the one accusing others of being imperialist. That’s quite sarcastic.

      • locotojhon says:

        Andreas,,,
        Yeah,,,I admit it. I can get a tad sarcastic and pissy in my old age, especially when it seems like Bolivia is getting the shaft again–all the while being cheered on by interlopers.
        It just seems, to my jaded sensibilities at least, way too soon for empire to be re-exerting control over my beloved Bolivia. After all, it has been only a decade or so of real freedom this time around. (BTW–Have you ever looked into the history of US determination of Bolivian presidents? If not, it might be worth looking into—you know–due diligence and all?)
        Concerning your critique of my earlier post, I think a vote determined (completely or in part) by outside forces cannot be democratic, don’t you agree? And to follow, do you honestly believe that without the dirty tricks–some of which have already been proven false–that the referendum outcome–less than 2%–would be the same as it was with those treasonous tricks?
        Really? Using logic, would you mind explaining how?
        Lastly, perhaps if I were legally-trained, do you think I could learn to say the same things less offensively than I do? That would be valuable training, indeed. Good suggestion–I’ll look into it—it’s on the list. Thank you.
        Viva Bolivia de locotojhon

      • If you look at the many allegations of fraud committed by the SI side, many with photographic or video evidence (even the OAS said that there needs to be an audit and that the vote was not fair), then the real difference between NO and SI was more than 2%.

        We can dismiss your conspiracy theories about “outside influence”. Bolivians voted against changing the constitution because they said that a constitution is more important than one person, because everyone wondered if MAS doesn’t have other candidates (it’s a huge party) and because of the scandals which popped up in the weeks before the referendum. President Morales also handled it extremely stupidly when he lied and denied his ongoing relationship with his former girlfriend despite photographic evidence of them meeting. The SI campaign could also never explain how such a young woman with no qualifications except having a baby with the President (which both of them lied about, claiming that the baby was dead) became manager of a Chinese conglomerate that coincidentally was paid half a billion $$ by the Bolivian government. And so on, and so on.

        President Morales further destroyed his own image when he refused to accept the vote in the first few days, dragging out the “counting” by claiming that the votes in the rural areas hadn’t been counted. (There are fewer people living in rural areas, so their votes were actually counted sooner because the counting is done decentralized.) And then it became more absurd when he blamed “social media” for his loss and said – in was is becoming more resembling of an autocratic regime – that these need to be “regulated”.

        It seems to me that you were in Bolivia in a time when there was Evomania and when President Morales initiated social and economic progress. But the country has moved on, and power changes people. I knew that the NO side would win (hence my prediction) when even among the indigenous people with whom I spoke, almost nobody said they would vote SI.

      • And no, you don’t need to study law. You just need to accept that other opinions are not stupid, they are not evil, they are not paid for by some world conspiracy that only you know about. They are just other opinions. Respect them.

        And lastly, you can rad the hundreds of comments by Bolivians on my Facebook page on the threads from the referendum time. It may give you a glimpse into Bolivia in 2016. – Or you can wait for my book. :-)

      • One last idea regarding the civility of a debate: Maybe if you used your real name and people could check on who you are, you would hold back with some insults and allegations.

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