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CIP: Bolivia: Coming to Terms with Diversity

Interviewee: Alvaro Garcia Linera
Interviewer: Laura Carlsen
November 8, 2007

Summary:

Garcia Linera says the conflicts are to be expected, as Bolivian society takes on "the two conquests of equality"—political rights for indigenous peoples and economic equality through a redistribution of national wealth. He calls the Morales administration a "government of social movements" and describes the goals to build "institutions that allow us to recognize our pluralism" and "generate minimal levels of access to opportunities and resources."

Excerpt:

LC: The government of Evo Morales came to power with the symbolic force of being the first indigenous president in the country, and has promised to address an historic backlog of demands for indigenous rights. But the government also faces the challenge of achieving some degree of unity to carry out deep transformations in society. In practice, how do you reconcile these two responsibilities?

AGL: The presence of the first indigenous president is without a doubt the most important symbolic break in the last centuries in Bolivia because it re-establishes a principle of equality that had been denied by colonial and neo-colonial practices and certain customs and mentalities in society.

But soon we saw that while political equality was advancing, the challenge remained to expand advances in political equality into other realms, in this case, the economic realm in the form of a new redistribution of wealth. The society required that both these tasks be taken on together—political equality and the recognition of the equality of indigenous peoples, their culture, and their language; but also a redistribution of wealth to improve peoples' access to resources.

And that's where the job of President Morales' government has gotten complicated.

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