Morales - In Defense of Humanity

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Speech delivered by Bolivian indigenous leader Evo Morales in Spanish at the conference "En Defensa de la Humanidad" (In Defense of Humanity), held at the Siqueiros Cultural Polyforum in Mexico City on October 24, 2003.

The conference itself has a website at http://www.defensahumanidad.org/ which contains the text of its final declaration. This declaration is also available in a different format here.

Two translations into English language, of the Morales speech, pasted below, some paragraphing added:
Source link to the Spanish language text Source link to the Spanish language text
Recorded by Adam Saytanides; Translated by Ricardo Sala, Translated by Bruce Campbell

Thank you for the invitation to this great meeting of intellectuals "In Defense of Humanity." Thank you for your applause for the Bolivian people, who have mobilized in these recent days of struggle, drawing on our consciousness and our regarding how to reclaim our natural resources.

What happened these past days in Bolivia was a great revolt by those who have been oppressed for more than 500 years. The will of the people was imposed this September and October, and has begun to overcome the empire's cannons. We have lived for so many years through the confrontation of two cultures: the culture of life represented by the indigenous people, and the culture of death represented by West.
 
When we the indigenous people ­ together with the workers and even the businessmen of our country ­ fight for life and justice, the State responds with its "democratic rule of law."
 
What does the "rule of law" mean for indigenous people? For the poor, the marginalized, the excluded, the "rule of law" means the targeted assassinations and collective massacres that we have endured. Not just this September and October, but for many years, in which they have tried to impose policies of hunger and poverty on the Bolivian people.
 
Above all, the "rule of law" means the accusations that we, the Quechuas, Aymaras and Guaranties of Bolivia keep hearing from our governments: that we are narcos, that we are anarchists.
 
This uprising of the Bolivian people has been not only about gas and hydrocarbons, but an intersection of many issues: discrimination, marginalization , and most importantly, the failure of neoliberalism.
 
The cause of all these acts of bloodshed, and for the uprising of the Bolivian people, has a name: neoliberalism.
 
With courage and defiance, we brought down Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada ­ the symbol of neoliberalism in our country ­ on October 17, the Bolivians' day of dignity and identity. We began to bring down the symbol of corruption and the political mafia.
 
And I want to tell you, companeras and companeros, how we have built the consciousness of the Bolivian people from the bottom up. How quickly the Bolivian people have reacted, have said ­ as Subcomandate Marcos says ­ ¡ya basta!, enough policies of hunger and misery.
 
For us, October 17th is the beginning of a new phase of construction. Most importantly, we face the task of ending selfishness and individualism, and creating ­ from the rural campesino and indigenous communities to the urban slums ­ other forms of living, based on solidarity and mutual aid. We must think about how to redistribute the wealth that is concentrated among few hands. This is the great task we Bolivian people face after this great uprising.
 
It has been very important to organize and mobilize ourselves in a way based on transparency, honesty, and control over our own organizations. And it has been important not only to organize but also to unite. Here we are now, united intellectuals in defense of humanity ­ I think we must have not only unity among the social movements, but also that we must coordinate with the intellectual movements. Every gathering, every event of this nature for we labor leaders who come from the social struggle, is a great lesson that allows us to exchange experiences and to keep strengthening our people and our grassroots organizations.
 
Thus, in Bolivia, our social movements, our intellectuals, our workers ­ even those political parties which support the popular struggle ­joined together to drive out Gonzalo Sánchez Lozada.
 
Sadly, we paid the price with many of our lives, because the empire's arrogance and tyranny continue humiliating the Bolivian people.
 
It must be said, compañeras and compañeros, that we must serve the social and popular movements rather than the transnational corporations. I am new to politics; I had hated it and had been afraid of becoming a career politician. But I realized that politics had once been the science of serving the people, and that getting involved in politics is important if you want to help your people. By getting involved, I mean living for politics, rather than living off of politics.
 
We have coordinated our struggles between the social movements and political parties, with the support of our academic institutions, in a way that has created a greater national consciousness. That is what made it possible for the people to rise up in these recent days.
 
When we speak of the "defense of humanity," as we do at this event, I think that this only happens by eliminating neoliberalism and imperialism. But I think that in this we are not so alone, because we see, every day that anti-imperialist thinking is spreading, especially after Bush's bloody "intervention" policy in Iraq. Our way of organizing and uniting against the system, against the empire's aggression towards our people, is spreading, as are the strategies for creating and strengthening the power of the people.
 
I believe only in the power of the people. That was my experience in my own region, a single province ­ the importance of local power. And now, with all that has happened in Bolivia, I have seen the importance of the power of a whole people, of a whole nation. For those of us who believe it important to defend humanity, the best contribution we can make is to help create that popular power. This happens when we check our personal interests with those of the group.
 
Sometimes, we commit to the social movements in order to win power. We need to be led by the people, not use or manipulate them.
 
We may have differences among our popular leaders ­ and it's true that we have them in Bolivia. But when the people are conscious, when the people know what needs to be done, any difference among the different local leaders ends. We've been making progress in this for a long time, so that our people are finally able to rise up, together.
 
What I want to tell you, compañeras and compañeros ­ what I dream of and what we as leaders from Bolivia dream of? is that our task at this moment should be to strengthen anti-imperialist thinking. Some leaders are now talking about how we ­ the intellectuals, the social and political movements ­ can organize a great summit of people like Fidel, Chávez and Lula to say to everyone: "We are here, taking a stand against the aggression of the US imperialism." A summit at which we are joined by compañera Rigoberta Menchú, by other social and labor leaders, great personalities like Pérez Ezquivel. A great summit to say to our people that we are together, united, and defending humanity. We have no other choice, compañeros and compañeras ­ if we want to defend humanity we must change system, and this means overthrowing US imperialism.
 
That is all. Thank you very much.

What has happened in recent days in Bolivia is a great revolt, after being humiliated for more than 500 years. What happened from September to October of this year is that the people's judgement was imposed and has begun to defeat the cannons of empire. For so many years we have lived the confrontation of two cultures: the culture of life, represented by the indigenous peoples, and the culture of death, represented by the West.
 
And when we the indigenous peoples, along with many professionals, even with our businesspeople, fight for life, fight for justice, the State answers us with the rule of law.
 
And what is that rule of law for the indigenous peoples? The rule of law for the poor, for the marginalized, for the excluded, is targeted assassinations and mass killings, which we have endured not only in September and October of this year, but during so many years in which they have tried to impose on us policies of hunger and misery.
 
The rule of law, above all for the Quechua and the Guaraní of Bolivia, is the accusations we continue to hear that we are drug-traffickers or anarchists.
 
This uprising of the Bolivian people has resulted not only from the issue of natural gas, of hydrocarbons, but from a collection of many issues: from discrimination and from marginalization, but fundamentally from the exhaustion of neoliberalism.
 
The culprit responsible for so many bloody deeds, and also responsible for the uprising of the Bolivian people, has a name: it is called neoliberalism.
 
On October 17, day of dignity and identity for the Bolivian people, we began to overthrow the symbol of neoliberalism expressed in the presidency of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. We began to defeat the symbol of corruption and of the political Mafia.
 
On that day, the people reacted fittingly to say, like Subcomandante Marcos, "¡Ya basta!" (Enough!)... enough with the policies of hunger and misery.
 
For us, on October 17 of this year begins the new stage of how to build. And that will depend on how to confront or overcome selfishness and individualism. And how.... from within the campesino and indigenous communities, from within the barrios... how to build other forms of experience, in solidarity, in reciprocity... how to think about distributing the wealth that is concentrated in so few hands. This is the great task that we have after this great uprising of the Bolivian people.
 
Sometimes it is very important to organize ourselves and govern ourselves on the basis of transparency and honesty and, above all, in control of our organizations. It is very important to unite. And if we are gathered here, or intellectuals in the defense of humanity are gathered, it is because it is important not only to achieve unity among the social movements but, also, to coordinate them with the intellectual movements. Each encounter of this kind is a great lesson for the union leaders and for those of us who come from the social struggles, a great university. These meetings serve to enlighten one another and to exchange experiences, and in this way to continue strengthening our peoples.
 
For this reason the social movements of Bolivia, our intellectuals, our professionals and the political movements that share in the struggle, all came together to throw out Sánchez de Lozada.
 
Lamentably, it cost many lives, and the arrogance, the hubris of the empire, still remains in force to continue humiliating the Bolivian people.
 
It must be said, comrades: we must put ourselves at the service of the social movements, instead of being at the service of the transnationals. I only recently came to understand politics. Before, I hated politics; I feared engaging in politics. But I realized that politics was the science of serving the people. And thus, it seems to me important to serve people through politics, which means living for politics and not making a living from politics.
 
The coordination of our struggles between the social movements and the political movements, with full support from our professional institutions, has allowed for the creation of greater national consciousness so that the people could rise up in recent days.
 
I believe that the defense of humanity requires the elimination of imperialism and of neoliberalism. I believe that we are not so alone, because I have seen that, after Bush's bloody intervention in Iraq, anti-imperialist thinking is growing. That kind of organizing is growing--of calling ourselves together to confront a system, an aggression of the empire against our peoples. Also growing are the ways of creating and strengthening the power of the people.
 
I only believe in the power of the people. That was my experience of a region, of a departamento (province). Now, with the recent events in Bolivia, I have realized that what matters is the power of an entire people, of an entire nation. For those of us who are convinced that it is important to defend humanity, the best support we can offer is to create the power of the people. And that happens, above all, by revising one's personal and group interests.
 
Sometimes, for reasons of imagination or in order to attain positions of power, we are dedicated to social movements.
 
I have realized that it is better to respond to the people's call than to be using or manipulating social movements.
 
We can have our differences among the leadership. We have them in Bolivia. But when the people are aware and the people know what should be done, that's where any differences between the leaders of different sectors of the country come to an end.
 
What I want to tell you--and it is what I dream and what we dream as the leadership of Bolivia--is that our task, in this moment, should be how to assist and empower this anti-imperialist sentiment, how to hold back those aggressions coming from the government of the United States against Cuba, against Chávez. Some of us--the intellectuals, the social movements, the political movements--are weighing how to put together from here a great summit between Fidel, Hugo Chávez and Lula, in order to say to them: "We are here, united against the aggression of U.S. imperialism." How to organize from here a summit of these leaders, accompanied by our sister Rigoberta Menchú, by other leaders like Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, by social activists and labor leaders and personalities. A great summit to say to our peoples: We are together, united, and in this way we will defend humanity. Because we have no other alternative... If we want to defend humanity we must defeat the system; we must defeat U.S. imperialism.
 
That's all. Thank you very much.

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Additional Notes

  • Later, during the 2003 Ibero-American Presidential Summit, Evo Morales, Bolivian congressman and coca farmer leader, spoke with Kofi Annan. The United Nations leader invited Morales to participate in an indigenous rights conference in New York City. However, Morales was unable to attend the meeting due to the fact that the US embassy in Bolivia refused to grant him a visa for the trip. [1]