Good news from the south. Chile has elected Michelle Bachelet as President. Bachelet is a socialist, a former political prisoner, a pediatrician, and a former defense minister under Chile's post-Pinochet government.

She is also the country's first female leader. Indeed, she is only the third democratically elected female leader in all of Latin America, and the first who did not come into power through her husband.

Exciting things are happening in the region. Victor Chavez is famously leading a popular revolution in Venezuela; Evo Morales is leading one in Bolivia. I find Morales's election absolutely stunning. Morales is a coca farmer, a lifelong activist, the leader of Bolivia's Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party - and Bolivia's first indigenous president. Indigenous people comprise 65% of Bolivia's population, but none have even come close to becoming president before.

A native person elected president of a Latin American country! That is truly something. When I see him on TV, his features so clearly not Hispanic, I can only imagine the pride poor and working-class Bolivians must feel.

Morales's platform must fill them with hope, too. Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, ruled by a fair-skinned educated elite, populated by peasant farmers. Morales has promised to nationalize the energy industry, and fully legalize coca production. He has been a leader in the movement fighting privatization of water works (which would also make it illegal to catch and use rain water!). He describes the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas as "colonization."

Here's an interview with Morales from In These Times, and a story about his election from CBC News. And here's a soundbite worth quoting: "If [the U.S.] wants relations, welcome. But no to a relationship of submission."

Memo to the Cheney Administration: this is what democracy looks like!

1 comment:

M@ said...

Cheney administration smear campaign beginning in 3... 2... 1...

I share your excitement about these two recent elections though. A commentator I heard on the CBC, I think, pointed out that in a real democracy, you get the status quo losing power. You get surprises. Power moves from one side to the other. There's real democracy emerging in Latin America.

And in Iraq... well maybe not so much.