Lessons for Bolivia’s future

By Pedro G. Cavallero (for Safe Democracy)

Pedro G. Cavallero writes on the difficulty that the Latin American Left has had in governing, according to former President of Bolivia, Jaime Paz Zamora. In Paz Zamora‘s opinion, it is essential for the Left to create unity rather than division, to seek out friends in all political parties, and to avoid becoming lost in close-minded, partisan manoeuvring. A new trend of social democratization is sweeping Latin America. By branching out to create unity rather than division, Morales can also be a part of Latin America‘s New Left.

Pedro G. Cavallero is a policy analyst based in Washington DC. He holds a master degree in Comparative Law and comments regularly on U.S. foreign policy and inter-American affairs.

IN LATIN AMERICA, FOR THE LEFT TO BE ABLE TO GOVERN, it must establish alliances with the centre and those democratic right-of-centre political forces. With this straightforward statement, former Bolivian President Jaime Paz Zamora opened up a recent dialogue with La NaciĆ³n, the prestigious Buenos Aires daily paper.

Zamora has personified the struggles and tribulations of the Left in Bolivia. His remarks focus on the current struggles of President Evo Morales –his successor at the Palacio Quemado (Government Palace, in La Paz)– who has found adversaries under every stone, consistent with the Left’s fixation, which is to see enemies everywhere.

Born into a family with deep religious convictions, Paz Zamora pursued his education in Jesuit schools (both in his homeland and in Chile), and later became a novice pastor in neighbouring Argentina. Yet, starting in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Latin America experienced formidable ideological turbulence, instigating all forms of union-based, social, and religious activism. Although he was not ordained, Paz Zamora engaged in social work with a religious order serving La Paz’s slums. Afterward he went on to enroll at the Catholic University of Louvain, in Belgium. While in Europe, he explored Marxism, became active with an expatriate cell of the Maoist Bolivian Communist Party, and was even trained in guerrilla warfare in Enver Hoxha’s repressive Albanian prison-State.

Eventually, however, Paz Zamora would decide to pursue social change through nonviolent, political means. In 1971, he co-founded the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (Revolutionary Left Movement or MIR), a political party that attracted a large portion of the local Marxist intelligentsia –especially university students– drawing strong support from a broad spectrum of Left-wing ideological currents. The 1970s and 1980s signaled a further moderation of his views, allowing Paz Zamora to find common ground with non-Marxists, particularly with reformist leader Hern