Geopolitics

Evo Morales, The Secret To Bolivia's Unstoppable Leftist

Bolivians have given Evo Morales a clear presidential mandate, a vote of approval for his political skills and the benefits of an oil-driven economy. He now must shape a legacy for the future.

Celebrating Morales' reelection in La Paz on Monday.
Celebrating Morales' reelection in La Paz on Monday.

-Editorial-

LA PAZ — Evo Morales did more than just win reelection for the Bolivian presidency this week: He earned a mandate. It was a landslide virtually across the country, with more than 60% of votes cast in his favor.

Even the business-oriented Santa Cruz department, which stubbornly opposed him in his early years, leaned this time toward the colorful candidate of the Movement Toward Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS). With the economy in good shape, a government that has favored the poor and a weak opposition, his victory turned massive.

Yet it has not been a bed of roses all the way.

Bolivia has made an evident turnaround over the past eight years. In 2005, when Morales arrived at the Palacio Quemada, La Paz" presidential palace, an atmosphere of social confrontation augured a period of instability. The indigenous peoples — formerly a neglected majority of Bolivians — have not only become more visible but began to receive direct economic benefits through various new aid programs.

Following the Venezuelan example, the country began paying the Juan Azurduy bonus to women and mothers of young infants, and providing health insurance for all children under the age of five. Its massive literacy programs are also notable.

To achieve this the president has spent the bonanza money obtained from selling oil, gas and minerals at high prices. Bolivia's economy has grown around 5% annually in recent years, and the government has also used such notable figures to take more radical — and contested — economic measures. In 2006, it nationalized the country's oil resources, provoking friction with certain countries affected by the move, though Bolivia moved on unperturbed, and began distributing lands to the poor and indigenous peasants.

Authoritarian tendencies

Political conditions have been more complicated. It took Morales two years, from late 2007 to 2009, to ratify his new constitution with a referendum. He faced separatist movements in some departments, especially Santa Cruz. There were protests and rioting but an agreement was reached, including economic provisions a local businessman had proposed for that wealthy province, which proved fruitful.

The recent election results confirm his relative political and economic successes, even if the opposition continues to criticize Morales' authoritarian style.

Bolivia's current political, social and economic juncture favors the man the country refers to as "Evo," while the future, inevitably, entails challenges. Opponents have said the president has made the country's prosperity dependent on fluctuating revenues derived from energy sector sales.

Politically, it is not clear yet if MAS will control the Plurinational Legislative Assembly. The presidential party needs 111 seats in all, including 87 lower house representatives and 24 senators. It seems Evo will have a majority in the Senate, but possibly fall short of four seats in the lower house, which would force him to negotiate with smaller parties.

The re-elected president and his government will have to keep the economy fit over the next five years, and come to terms with the opposition. Doing so will give them an opportunity to smooth out differences with those who voted for one of the other four candidates, and quiet criticisms over his authoritarian tendencies.

Ultimately, Morales must decide whether the Bolivia he wants to build is an inclusive or divided nation.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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