Bolivian diplomat looks to the future

With a new democratically elected president and wide global support, Bolivia is at an important crossroads in its history, Jaime Aparicio told a Morse College Master’s Tea audience Tuesday afternoon.

Aparicio, the former Bolivian ambassador to the United States, spoke to approximately 40 students about the current political situation in Latin America and the significance of the recent election of Evo Morales as Bolivian president. The election of Morales — the first indigenous president of a Latin American country — is part of a new wave of left-wing movement in the politics of traditionally conservative Latin American countries, Aparicio said.

“Almost all of the countries of Latin America are likely going to have governments concentrated in the left side of the political scenario, which is a big change for Latin America,” he said.

Although the last few years have been particularly chaotic for Bolivia — during Aparicio’s three-year tenure, Bolivia had four different presidents — Aparicio said he believes this most recent election was particularly significant because it was democratic, without the military actions or resignations that have characterized past elections. This election will hopefully set an example for other countries in Latin America, he said.

“Bolivia is always promoting change,” Aparicio said. “All of the trends that Bolivia has started [since 1952] were followed by other Latin American countries.”

Aparicio said he believes Morales’ popularity — the president received 54 percent of the Bolivian vote and the support of several foreign leaders — and the economic progress Bolivia has made recently will give him the opportunity to create real, lasting changes.

“No one predicted the magnitude of the victory of Evo Morales,” he said. “This is a radical change with new actors and new politics, a cultural change that has brought new people with old ideas.”

Morales’ current priority of constitutional reform is fine, Aparicio said, as long as the president understands that these changes should be to protect and preserve democracy, not to favor indigenous citizens at the expense of other groups.

“That’s what many people are concerned about,” he said. “A crucial issue is whether or not he will abide by the rules of democracy, the system of checks and balances and the controls of debate. He can’t govern only for the people of the highlands; he needs to unite the people, not create more problems.”

Marcello Kim ’09, an international student from La Paz, Bolivia, who attended the talk, said he agreed with most of what Aparicio said.

“A lot of what he says is a very good perception,” Kim said. “One of my perceptions was that many of the problems are due to corruption in the government, which he said was not as large of an issue as most people think. I may or may not agree with that; with the exception of the current government, everyone else was white, and by the time the presidents left office they were all rich, suspiciously rich.”

Roberto Thais ’08, an international student from Peru who also attended the tea, said he believes that whites have dominated politics in both countries, and that Morales’ election is a step in the right direction.

“Everyone is talking about the shift to the left, which causes Peru to lean left as well,” he said. “Everyone sees that hope and general movement.”

Aparicio has served in executive positions for the Summits of the Americas Secretariat at the Organization of the American States, the Summit of the Americas in Miami, and the Summit of the Americas for Sustainable Development in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. He has also served as deputy director of the Bolivian newspaper “La Razon” and as a professor of international law, diplomatic history and diplomatic law.

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