By Alison Spedding Pallet / Transnational Institute

It was not by accident that it should have been the Mexican government which rescued Evo Morales after his intemperate renunciation of the presidency of the Plurinational State of Bolivia in November 2019, since the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, Institutional Revolutionary Party) of Mexico was during 60 years what the MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo, Movement towards Socialism) aspired – and still aspires – to be: the one party in the state, of which all social organizations form part. A model closer to home is the MNR (Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario, Nationalist Revolutionary Movement) in its first governments after 1952, although both indianists and leftists are accustomed to despise that period.

In its first period in office (2006-2009) and during most of its second (2010-2014), it was not necessary to juggle in order to procure that the leadership of social organizations lined up behind the MAS, and people willingly came out for mass meetings, openings of new public works and other events where Evo was present (at least until we got bored with seeing him so many times and all over the place). It was in the course of his third administration, from 2015 onwards, when his reelection was proposed on the basis of the dubious technicality that, although the new Constitution reformed by the MAS in 2009 only allows two consecutive presidential periods, that is only one consecutive reelection, his first period was under the Republic of Bolivia, supposedly a different country whose rules were irrelevant.1 At that time, and even in the referendum of the 21st of February 2016, when the proposal to allow indefinite re-election of the President and Vicepresident lost by a narrow margin, the yungueños continued to support the MAS. The schism began with the conflicts around the Law 906, the Coca Law, which was eventually promulgated on the 8th of March 2017.

In fact, since 2002 successive governments debated the division of the Law 1008, Law on Coca and Controlled Substances (1988), into two parts, separating the Coca Regime to give it the status of an independent law, Evo Morales, at the time leader of the Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba (the Chapare) and member of parliament, held meetings with Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (MNR) before the latter was forced to resign in 2003. In 2004 Carlos Mesa, in a typical expression of the erratic and improvised policies of his interim presidency, approved the long time demand of the Chapare coca growers for the legalization of a cato (40 by 40 metres) of coca per member of the peasants’ unions, up to a maximum of 3000 Ha. This limit was to have been revised after a year from the emission of the decree, but was not reconsidered until, early in 2017, the law finally entered into debate in the Plurinational Assembly (the new name for the parliament), after years during which it was more useful as a political football with which to distract the coca growers’ organizations into passing time preparing diverse drafts of a law on coca, in which the yungueños also took part presenting their own proposal in their region.