And another one. What a treat, two in one day!
CHAPTER 16: It’s our gas
In Jim’s words paraphrased into the refrain
Jumping Jack Flash – it’s our gas
As the fate of the country’s natural resources transformed itself into an issue of national pride, now is an apt moment to compare in greater detail the personalities of Evo and Goni, more specifically the qualities of Evo that allowed him to define the coming agenda and the defects in Goni that blocked his chances of survival.
As already mentioned, Evo first became publically known as a union official in the coca producers’ organization. Already he was slightly out of bounds, coca production being a delicate matter, frowned on by the authorities and the US drug enforcement bodies. But this notoriety did Evo no harm especially as it became evident that he combined his political activities (he had founded his own party MAS - Movement Towards Socialism) with an enthusiasm for playing football and the trombone in his own brass band. What gradually emerges is a public picture of Evo as a secular, informal indigenous leader, on the path which will eventually conduct him to his successful bid for the Presidency in later years. And then came his championing of the wiphala, as an alternative to the Bolivian national flag. The wiphala, composed of quadrilateral subdivisions, made from small squares of Andean textiles, had a very special origin, principally connected to the momentous year of 1992, which is when the combined might of Europe and the States decided that the world might want to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America. But, in the event, it didn’t work out like that; to the surprise of the Bolivian and other South American governments, the jubilee turned into a grass-roots assault on the invaders who assumed they could exult in the annexation of previously free territory. In city after city, from Lima to Cuzco, from Quito to La Paz, the gala celebrations were cancelled before the waves of righteous anger unleashed by the effrontery of the trespassers. Fuck Columbus; he thought he was headed for India (which is why the inhabitants of this land were mistakenly labelled ‘indians’), and reached a previously unannexed continent. What is there to celebrate in his error?
And from this rejection of the 500th anniversary, the wiphala emerged in public consciousness as another option which could validly represent Andean awareness.
That Evo had the good sense to uphold the value of the wiphala attests to his accurate reading of the national mood. The messages contained in the various quadrilateral subdivisions are quite subtle, depending on which of the 7 colours of the rainbow form the central rectangle. Red symbolizes the earth, orange health, yellow energy, green production, purple government, blue the godhead and space, and most importantly white, time and harmony. A moveable feast indeed, though the different variants are open to interpretation, Evo’s choice of the wiphala.as the appropriate ayllu flag for ceremonial events reveals an understanding of indigenous values that put Goni to shame.
In contrast, public opinion noted the following gross failings in Goni, which we shall his classify as his Gonerias, if you’ll excuse the crudity of the term. Without doubt, Goni was viewed as arrogant and selfish even by those political allies who remained at his side. For the rape of Bolivia, historically and, in modern times, to the multi-nationals, is branded as a wholesale sell-out by anyone with even the slightest knowledge of current affairs. One doesn’t need to be an international agitator to mark Goni out as greedy for the way his policies have casually increased his personal fortune.
No wonder that Evo has been able to establish the terms of debate on the road to the tragic finale of Goni’s wretched regime. What we are observing here is the demise of neo-liberalism as a feasible alternative to the development of Bolivia and the groundwork for Evo’s eventual accession to the Presidency in which he will regale the watching world with his informal wardrobe (no ties on this man), his secular fancies (he will ensure his future security by reading coca leaves) and surprise onlookers by naming Pancho Choque as his Foreign Minister, to represent the revolutionary stance of Evo’s Presidency. All to come; no hurry; hold your horses.