Morales' victory shook the Bush administration, says Fidel

Campaign News | Thursday, 5 January 2006

Cuban leader says Washington is running out of options in Latin America

Havana 04 Jan: Cuban President Fidel Castro has said that the overwhelming electoral victory by Bolivia’s indigenous leader Evo Morales shook the Bush administration and was felt around the world.

During a joint press conference in Havana on Friday, Fidel Castro said that the landslide win by Morales came despite the fact that one and a half million citizens, mostly indigenous, were not allowed to vote due to obstacles in the current Bolivian electoral system.

The Cuban leader noted that the White House is running out of resources to impose its mandates. He said the times of US-sponsored military dictatorships in Latin America are over and predicted that Morales, Bolivia’ s first indigenous president in five centuries, will be successful.

Responding to questions, Fidel Castro said he did not understand how the eye-surgery accord signed with Evo Morales, to give back sight to 50,000 Bolivians each year, could have a negative impact on relations with the United States.

Evo Morales noted that he has never had good dealings with US administrations that have repeatedly demonized him as a drug trafficker and hurled other accusations at him. He said that from now on, if Washington wants to have ties with Bolivia such relations can not be based on submission or extortion, since the sovereignty and dignity of Bolivia will not be compromised.

Morales said he will not accept blackmail and that he is not afraid of threats. He also added that fighting neo-liberalism in Bolivia means fighting against the over-40-year economic blockade imposed by the US on Cuba.

The president-elect said he is committed to achieve unity and integration in Bolivia and to that effort will call a Constitutional Assembly. He said his government will respect social diversity, fight poverty and end discrimination against indigenous people.

Morales reiterated his campaign promise to recover the country’s hydrocarbon resources and warned Washington not to encourage any coup attempt against his government. Instead, he recommended the US withdraw from Iraq and close all its military bases in Latin America.

Morales left Cuba early on Saturday and was seen off by Cuban President Fidel Castro at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport.

Also present for the send-off were Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon, Vice-president Carlos Lage, Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and Council of State member Carlos Valenciaga.

Fidel and Evo hugged each other putting an end to the historic visit to Cuba by the first indigenous Bolivian President.

Cuba welcomes Bolivia's Morales

Havana 1 January: Evo Morales, Bolivia's socialist president-elect, had a hero's welcome in Havana on December 30 in his first trip abroad after his stunning election victory.

He left the island a day later after talks with President Castro and a co-operation deal that will see Cuba offering eye operations and other health and educational services to Bolivia over the next few years.

Cuba has agreed to offer free eye operations to up to 50,000 needy Bolivians as well as 5,000 full scholarships for young Bolivians to study medicine on the island.

The Cuban government welcomed Morales' election as an important triumph over US influence in the region.

Mr. Castro said: "I think that it has moved the world. It's something extraordinary, something historic. The map is changing."

Mr. Castro, 79, sent his private plane to bring Morales to Havana, on his first visit abroad since winning Bolivia's 18 December presidential vote.

Morales, who has never hidden his admiration for Cuba's revolution, said he felt "joy, great emotion to be here".

Morales referred to Castro as "el comandante" and said his trip was a gesture of "friendship with the Cuban people".

Morales' visit to Cuba underlines the political loyalties of the leftist leader, who pledged to join Castro's "anti-imperialist struggle" in a message to the Cuban people the day after his election.

Castro said Morales' election was "something extraordinary" that had "rocked the world". Morales will be the first indigenous president in Bolivia, which has a majority of ethnic Aymara and Quechua peoples.

"Our brother Evo possesses all the necessary qualities needed to lead his country."

Despite US efforts to isolate Cuba, Castro enjoys very close ties to Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's leftist president.

Left-leaning governments have come to power elsewhere in the region, from Argentina and Uruguay to Chile and Brazil.

Castro said "during our discussion we were in touch with Chavez," but he did not offer further details.

A week earlier, Chavez, referring to Morales' win, said "(US) threats have already begun. From here on in, we are demanding that the immoral imperialist US government respect the holy sovereignty of Bolivia and the government elected by Bolivia."

As an activist for coca farmers in Bolivia, Morales cultivated friendly ties with Castro for years and has pledged to support Chavez's effort to defeat a US-proposed free trade area.

During his campaign, Morales described himself as Washington's "nightmare".

Morales has struck a more moderate tone since his election, promising Bolivia's business leaders that he will create a climate favourable for foreign investment and jobs, and will not "expropriate or confiscate any assets".

Morales won the presidency with nearly 54% of the vote - the most support for any president since democracy was restored to Bolivia two decades ago.

Morales has vowed to nationalise Bolivia's large natural gas industry and end the US-sponsored coca eradication programme that he says has hurt farmers and failed to curb drug trafficking.

Morales invited Mr Castro to his inauguration ceremony on 22 January.

Miami Dec 28: According to a report in the Miami Herlad Bolivia's president-elect has said he will meet with Cuban President Fidel Castro during his first trip abroad since winning the Bolivian presidential elections this month.

However, the news was not cnfirmed in Havana and the visit had not been announced officially to the Cuban people by 29 December.

Accorind to the Herald report, President-elect Evo Morales said that he will travel on Friday to Cuba as the first stop in a world tour that includes visits to Europe, China, South Africa and Brazil before he assumes office Jan. 22.

"We have a lot of invitations from governments, from presidents," Morales said Tuesday, adding that he was "very impressed, very happy" with the calls he received from leaders of governments and international organizations, including the United Nations.

The Herald said Morales would meet with Cuban President Fidel Castro on his first trip abroad since winning the Bolivian presidential elections this month. It didn't say how long he would remain in Cuba, which marks the 47th anniversary of its revolution on Jan. 1.

Morales earlier said he would attend a celebration in his hometown of Orinoca, Bolivia, on New Year's Day.

The president-elect also will travel to Europe on Jan. 3, visiting France, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands before continuing on to China and South Africa, where he is to meet with former president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela. And on Jan. 13, he plans to be in Brazil.

Morales has repeatedly declared himself an admirer of Cuba's Castro, and has referred to himself as the "younger brother" of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Morales, an Indian coca farmer and former protest leader, won Bolivia's Dec. 18 presidential contest with nearly 54 percent of the vote -- the most popular support of any president since democracy was restored to Bolivia two decades ago.

A close aide to Morales said Tuesday that Morales will reject U.S. economic and military aid if the United States requires continued coca eradication efforts to get the money.

Morales also plans to withdraw Bolivia's military from anti-drug efforts and leave the job to police, said Juan Ramón Quintana, a member of the Morales' transition team.

Morales campaigned on promises to end the eradication of coca plantations. Coca eradication is a condition for aid from the United States, which gave Bolivia $91 million in 2005. The decision was made "mainly for reasons of sovereignty," said Quintana, who described Bolivia's Special Force to Fight Drug Trafficking as "an appendix" of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

"This poses a huge risk for the security of the state," he said.

"All the national agencies and capabilities must be put back under the government control."

Morales also said that on Jan. 21, the eve of his inauguration, he will receive the blessing of local Indian leaders in a ceremony at the ruins of an ancient civilization south of La Paz.

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