Central speech by the President of the Republic of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, at the 62nd Session of the United Nations (UN), addressing the environment. United Nations, 26 September, 2007
I would like to take this opportunity to express my extreme satisfaction over the election of the new General Secretary of the United Nations who will be leading this international organization for the good of humanity, and above all for the good of the abandoned and dispossessed.
That is why I wish to briefly comment about my country. For the first time in Bolivia’s history the most abandoned sectors, the most despised, scorned, and vilified in Bolivian history, the indigenous people, have assumed leadership of the country in order to transform our beloved Bolivia.
Political changes, economic changes and a commitment to recreate our country. We seek unity, respect for our diversity, and respect for our identity so that together we can solve our economic and social problems.
In this short time I have found that it will be difficult and we will have to struggle for equality and justice for all those living in the country.
But at the same time when the popular movement, the indigenous movement, intellectuals, even businessmen and professionals commit themselves with a great deal of effort to the earth and to their people, one is encouraged to continue working and transforming, democratically and peacefully to guarantee a cultural revolution in my country.
But recovering our natural resources has been the most important step. It pains me to say that in my country during the neo-liberal governments, natural resources and state companies were privatized. Under the pretext of capitalization they de-capitalized the country. They claimed that privatization was the solution for unemployment and corruption, but instead we have seen unemployment and corruption increase.
Just a few years ago Bolivia was considered the world’s champion of corruption, and now I am very pleased that international organizations have noted that corruption in Bolivia has dropped significantly. We would like to eradicate it.
I want you all to know that in 2005, before I became president of the Republic and the hydrocarbons, petroleum, and natural gas were in the hands of trans-nationals, Bolivia only received $300 million from hydrocarbons.
After modifying the hydrocarbon law, after recovering and nationalizing this extremely important natural resource, Bolivia received more than $2,000 million this year.
Therefore I would like to say from experience, to all presidents or nations where the natural resources have been privatized, it is important to recover these natural resources with the support of the people, for the benefit of the people and the nation.
I understand perfectly that the companies have the right to recover their investments and they have the right to profit. But not so much like before which amounted to the outright plunder of our natural resources.
What is most important about this short period is that we have begun to de-colonize Bolivia internally and externally. I say internally because in the past masters ruled our country. If we review our history we find that viceroy masters, religious groups, and the oligarchy have ruled. The people have never had any power.
Now we are establishing the people’s power, so that sovereignty belongs to the people instead of to a group of families and so that the people have the right to decide their own destiny. That is the best democracy we can implement.
It is not just a matter of simply opting for certain policies. When I say that we have begun to de-colonize externally I am not only talking about being subjugated to landlords o bosses in my country. I want you all to know right now that no ambassadors will change our ministers or name ministers in my country.
Regrettably in the past, the U.S. ambassadors changed and named our ministers. That is over. That is why we have begun to de-colonize our country.
In the past the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund imposed policies. That has also ended. I remember perfectly and I want you all to know a little bit of my country’s history.
In 2003, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund told the president of that time that either a spike in gas prices or a high tax had to be imposed in order to avoid a fiscal deficit. The government chose the tax. They taxed workers wages and in two days there were more than 15 Bolivians dead from internal clashes.
I want to inform you all that Bolivia enjoyed a fiscal surplus this year without taxes and without gasoline price spikes thanks to the recovery of our hydrocarbons, which are so important to my country. I want you all to know that we have already begun the external de-colonization.
Because we are interested in how to better gather the proposals and initiatives of our people, of organized people. These social forces, be they civic or labor, especially those with serious economic problems, they have the wisdom to propose initiatives and solutions from their communities, from their trade unions. That is my experience.
So I think it is important to develop the power of the people, thus giving social forces the power to make the decisions. I, as president, only rule in compliance with the people. In this way we will be able to solve our problems.
Yesterday, over the past few days and hours I have heard some very encouraging speeches, but also others that really disappointed me. For example global warming and climate change were addressed. I feel that many of our countries are victims of these phenomenon.
I still cannot understand why there are so many lives lost in floods, invasions, or wars. So many lives lost to hunger. I feel that there are economic models that cannot solve the problems of humanity. After having heard many of the statements made here and the experiences expressed by other presidents, I am even more convinced that the concentration of capital in a few hands is not the solution for humanity. Models that accumulate wealth in a few hands are not the solution for humankind, for life, and even less for the poor that inhabit this planet earth.
Global warming and melting icecaps were addressed but without mention of their cause. I am convinced that the cause is what is wrongly termed globalization, or selective globalization, a globalization that does not respect plurality or differences.
When talking about globalization we must first globalize the human being. Well, I don’t know how you all managed to make it to New York, United States, but my delegation had difficulties getting visas. Our parliamentarians, our congresspersons could not obtain visas to come to the U.S.
When I arrived here, my ministers, indigenous brothers, were held up in the airport and subjected to hours and hours of processing. Some from other countries arrived here only to be threatened by the head of the house, President Bush. If it is like that, if it is going to continue to be like that, I think we presidents, we nations, should think about changing the headquarters of the United Nations. I personally do not agree with being subjected to such investigations when coming here.
I feel that it is also time to de-colonize the United Nations. We should all be respected whether we are small or large, with problems or without.
The speeches I heard about polar melting did not reflect on the cause of this melting, this global warming. It is capitalism and the exaggerated and unlimited industrialization of some countries that generates these problems on the continent and around the globe.
But when we align ourselves with social movements in order to protest, to condemn these unsustainable policies, these economic models that do not solve our economic problems, then comes the interventions, military bases, and wars, the demonizing and accusations of terrorism, as if the people have no right to appeal for their needs, to claim their rights and to demand new approaches to rescuing life and humankind.
Therefore I believe it is important that we as presidents, as nations, as delegates sincerely speak the truth about these economic problems that are being faced not only by Bolivia, America, or South America. But when democratic changes take place in South America, liberating democracies not democracies subjugated to the empire, we hear more accusations and distortions, charges of cruelty and of dictators like those I heard President Bush directing towards the president and commander Cuba yesterday.
A salute to all revolutionaries. Especially to President Fidel for whom I have much respect, because Fidel has also sent troops to many countries. But these troops save lives, unlike those deployed by the U.S. president to take lives.
Therefore here, as presidents we should think of life, of humanity, about how to save the planet earth. The issue of global climate change is an ongoing debate.
Esteemed members, I am convinced that is not possible for basic services to continue being in the hands of private business. Fortunately, thanks to the foreign ministers of the Americas, water has been recognized as a human right. If water is a human right then it's now important that it become a public service and not a private business.
Is vital now, right here, to recognize energy as a human right also. Hopefully we can all agree that energy is a human right; and if it is a human right it should never be controlled by private business. Instead it must be a public service in order to meet the needs of the people.
I cannot understand their pretext of hegemony or the accumulation of capital in a few hands, which will only continue harming humanity, affecting the poor, marginalizing the needy.
I believe that that we are talking in order to change these economic policies that have caused and go on causing so much damage. These economic policies have caused genocide; and the genocide continues. I cannot understand why there are still countries involved in an arms race, I don’t agree with war. We are exploring how a large social, political movement, via a new constitution, can reject war.
I'm convinced that war is the industry of death, thus the arms race is just another industry that complements the industry and death. In this new millennium, how can countries and presidents still go on dealing with the interventions, arrogance, and authoritarianism of some countries towards other countries, without even considering humanity.
Esteemed presidents, I believe, that together we can work toward rescuing planet earth, which is the most important issue at the moment if we want to save life and humanity.
But yesterday I heard some speeches about Biofuel. I tried to understand what biofuel, or agrofuel is. I don't understand how we can give up our food to automobiles; I can't understand how the land can be given over to heaps of metal.
I think that food should be for human beings, the land for life. Because we lack gasoline, because we lack diesel we're going to divert land and food to automobiles?
For this reason I said two days ago that if we are really interested in life we would abandon luxury. It's imperative to abandon luxury. We cannot continue accumulating garbage, we cannot continue thinking only about a few families instead of thinking about humanity. I think that we have profound differences if we talk about these issues of life, especially the lives of our national majorities.
I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank you all for your support, with the exception of four governments, their presidents and their delegates, in approving the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the world. I'm very satisfied. The people of America have waited more than 500 years for their rights to be recognized. We are the culture of patience.
And I want to make clear that just because we have a declaration now doesn’t mean that the indigenous movement is going to become vengeful towards other sectors. The indigenous people do not have a vengeful character. The indigenous people are a culture of dialogue and we are fundamentally a culture of life.
I ask the United Nations to convene a world indigenous forum soon so that we can share our experiences. In Bolivia we are gathering and drawing from our experiences with a program called the good life. In order to live better sometimes you have to exploit, to live better sometimes you have to steal, to live better sometimes you have to discriminate, to live better sometimes you have to plunder, but to live the good life is to live communally, to live collectively.
And not only among human beings, but also to live the good life in harmony with mother earth. The earth for the indigenous movement is sacred; mother earth is our life. The Pachamama, as we say in our language, cannot be converted into merchandise. If we're talking about and protesting against global warming, well, first we must understand what mother earth is. If the earth gives us life we are obligated to change our policies and to also recognize the indigenous movement.
We have lived collectively, communally; those with experience are here debating. We argue for collectivity, communitarianism and against capitalism. Let us draw from those experiences in order to defend life and rescue humankind.
I also want to quickly take this moment to say that this new millennium must be the millennium of life, the millennium of equality, of justice that respects our identity and is committed to human dignity.
Therefore we're talking about changing the economic models that harm humanity. But if we want to change things from here, we must first change ourselves. We mustn’t be egoistic, individualistic, greedy, ambitious, or sectarian. We mustn’t place the interests of a few families above those of the great family of planet earth.
So, we're talking here about first changing ourselves as presidents, as representatives of our respective nations in order to change economic models and seek equality and justice.
And I tell you that in these past 20 months as president working with the people, listening to their needs, I have found that there are still some groups that don’t want to lose their privileges, ill-gotten privileges. Above all they are accustom to the State doing business for the benefit of just a few families instead of for the [Bolivian] family.
I learned in these 20 months as president how beautiful it is to work for the homeland and not for money, how wonderful it is to work for these abandoned people, and how much better it has been to work together with some people who are economically well off but who also love their homeland and are committed to solidarity.
I would like to mention, you all know that we have a historical problem with the sister Republic of Chile: the issue of the ocean. I want to say that so far we have felt a real sense of amity, people to people amity, government to government amity, president to president amity, under the diplomacy of the people.
And we want to pledge to resolve the historic issue but within the framework of complementarity. Because neighboring countries, Latin American countries, countries of the world need to complement one another if we want to solve the problems of our people and the problems of our nations.
The concept of complimentarity is so important and we continue working towards this for humankind. In closing I'd like to say (...sometimes the red light makes one nervous, but never mind...) I would like to say that these kinds of participatory event where we all learn and continue learning, are the best universities available. But we must speak with clarity, with sincerity and not falsify the truth by only speaking of the effects and not the causes or of humanity’s problems.
In this case I wish to tell you all that I believe it is vital to change those economic models and eradicate capitalism.
Thank you very much.
Translated from ABI by Dawn Gable
Posted by Bolivia Rising on Thursday, October 04, 2007
"IN TIMES OF UNIVERSAL DECEIT, TELLING THE TRUTH WILL BE A REVOLUTIONARY ACT." - George Orwell
“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” - Eduardo Galeano