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Indigenous-American civilization & radical Islam

Reader comment on item: Debate in London: Radical Islam vs. Civilization

Submitted by Alan Hootnick (Chile), Feb 2, 2007 at 07:21

Dear Mr. Pipes: I was intrigued by your analysis of the clash of civilizations. I believe you are absolutely correct when you refer to a crossover between societies in the face of the "common enemies", the US & Israel. Below I have copied an article I wrote in 2005 in an English-language web site in Latin America, explaining the true nature of the "Indigenous-American" civillization (which Samuel Huntington erroneously calls "South American").

It is significant that radical Islam has crossed over and supported the Indigenous movement in Bolivia under Evo Morales. Read it and think it over.




By Alan Hootnick

"Thank you, Pachamama, Mother Earth, thank you for the coca leaf."

"Viva la coca, Yankee go home!"

These are the opening and closing statements in a typical speech or document by Evo Morales, the leader of the Bolivian opposition party Movement Toward Socialism, the leader of the cocaleros, the indigenous peoples' movements, the organiser of the roadblocks and general strikes, and very possibly the next President of Bolivia.

Should we take him seriously? Should we take his inflammatory statements literally? More importantly, to what extent does Evo Morales believe in his own message?


It should be understood from the beginning that when trying to comprehend Evo Morales and his movement, we are not merely dealing with another typical Western-style politician. We are actually dealing with an entirely different mentality and set of values. Just as everyone in this globalised world recognises that there are inherent differences in the "Occidental mind" and the "Oriental mind", there are equally profound differences in the "Indigenous-American mind."

For the Indigenous peoples, the earth, the water, the trees and the rest of nature are servants of the Deity and therefore have a special spiritual significance for mankind. When Evo gives thanks to Pachamama, this should be interpreted as being equivalent to an invocation of the Lord or of Jesus Christ, and we should therefore respect those words accordingly. Similarly, when Evo gives thanks for the coca leaf, he is not exhorting his people to get high on coke or to get rich in the drug trade, but is reciting a benediction equivalent to the Jews who give thanks for "the fruit of the vine" not as a license to get drunk, but as a sacrament in a religious service. Granted, the skeptical, cynical Western mind will probably scoff at the idea of endowing the coca leaf with sacramental value, but we must understand that the indigenous peoples have been using coca for millenia, long before the Westerners perverted it by converting it into an addictive recreational drug.

It should also be added that the cocaleros -- the coca producers -- are only slightly less poor than the rest of the miserably poor subsistence farmers in Bolivia. The coca producers earn the smallest share of the world's drug revenue, mere crumbs in comparison with the enormous profits of the distributors. So one could say that the drug cartels are exploiting the Bolivian cocaleros just as the colonialists and capitalists have always impoverished the native peoples. Evo should open his eyes and not be so naive.


Juan Evo Morales Aima, 45, is a native-speaking Aymara who was born in the altiplano mining town of Orinco, but in the 1980s his father moved the family to the eastern lowland town of Chapare where they became farmers of coca leaves. During the 1990s, the government of President Hugo Banzer, under enormous pressure from the US, began a war of eradication against the cocaleros. This provoked fierce resistance from the cocaleros, and Evo Morales emerged as a leader thanks to his organisational energy, his oratorical eloquence and his daily contact with the average cocalero. He was elected to the Bolivian Congress in 1997, representing the provinces Chapare and Carrasco de Cochabamba with 70% of the vote, the highest of any Congressman.

In January 2002, Evo Morales was impeached and removed from Congress on the grounds of supporting "terrorism" -- cocalero resistance to the eradication program. Evo and MAS blamed the United States Ambassador for his removal from office, and from then on he began to attack the US as being the "enemy number one", as he put it, of the indigenous peoples, and accused the political establishment as being puppets. Or rather, he began to equate the two, stating that "American dollars have bribed Bolivian officials, corrupted our institutions, and have united forces against us. Recently, the US Embassy in La Paz has set up a mercenary force with orders to eliminate the coca and the indigenous people who defend it."

Evo Morales declared his candidacy for the June 27, 2002, Presidential elections although public opinion polls showed his national strength at only 4% (but bear in mind that opinion polls in countries such as Bolivia are highly susceptible to manipulation). His party obtained state funding for his campaign ($200,000), and Evo directed his rhetoric principally against US Ambassador Manuel Rocha. His posters read: "Who's in charge? Rocha or the Voice of the People? You decide." None of the other candidates wanted public debates with Morales, dismissing MAS as "a minor party." Evo himself said he would rather debate with US Amb. Rocha. "I prefer to argue with the owner of the circus, not the clowns."

Amb. Rocha declared just a week before the elections that if Evo won, the US would cut off all foreign aid and close off its markets. This provoked the inevitable backlash which helped Evo to finish a strong second with 21% of the vote, just two percentage-points behind the leader. Evo sarcastically thanked Amb. Rocha for his help. "Every statement [Rocha] made against us helped us to grow and awaken the conscience of the people."

Evo Morales then mobilised an unbeatable combination of farmers, shopkeepers, miners and truckers, and paralysed the country on numerous occasions with blockades of roads, strikes and shutdowns. This would probably sound familiar to any Chilean who remembers the tactics of the resistance movements in Chile against the Marxist government of Salvador Allende. The farmers and truckers of any country, if mobilised efficiently and if they have support among other sectors of the rural countryside, could effectively strangle an entire nation by cutting off food supplies. As a wise North American Indian once said: "If there is no food on your table, what are you going to eat? Money?"

The issue of Bolivia's natural gas is acutely neuralgic and emotional, and the indigenous movement's ferocious opposition to any exports to or through Chile is very confusing to Western observers. Why would Evo Morales prefer to sit on his gas rather than export it for the benefit of his people?

The explanation lies in the indigenous mind. As explained above, the indigenous peoples live in communion with nature, recognising that all living things are created and controlled by a kind of "Holy Spirit." They also recognise that all non-living elements in the Earth, such as soil, water, minerals and energy resources, are similarly controlled by the forces of this "Holy Spirit". Therefore natural gas is not just another economic resource which could be exploited strictly for economic gain, but is endowed with a life-giving intrinsic value, and is thus seen as being perishable, just like any living thing.

Therefore Chile's historic disputes with Bolivia -- the lack of a Bolivian outlet to the sea, the matter of the Silala "river" or "springs", and now the question of natural gas exports through Chilean territory which was once Bolivia's -- hit the Bolivian indigenous mind where it hurts the most: waters, resources and territory. So we should not be surprised by Bolivia's emotional reactions, because what we have here is a series of three interrelated casus belli. Wars in Europe have been started over much less.


It must also be noted that many of Evo Morales' political allies are not motivated by indigenous cultural values, but rather by old-fashioned special interest groups and by traditional anti-American ideologies and demagoguery.

Their political agenda includes: 1) nationalisation of all natural gas resources either by way of confiscatory taxes or outright seizure, just like in Libya after Gaddafi's seized power; 2) a cartel of gas exporters, led by Bolivia and Venezuela under Hugo Chávez (whom they see as an ideological brother), just like OPEC; 3) a "new order" for South America, amazingly similar to Colonel Gaddafi's ambition to create a new order for Africa and an all-Africa Army commanded by none other than Colonel Gaddafi himself, and 4) a new political system in Bolivia based upon an "Asamblea Constituyente", curiously similar to Libya's "People's Assembly."

Merely coincidence? Or is this the subtle handiwork of Muammar Gaddafi? It is a known fact that Gaddafi has given financial aid to certain Latin American indigenous movements by way of NGOs in Europe. Although Colonel Gaddafi has demonstrated little interest in Latin America, this is only because Libya has no way of interacting directly with these countries. But he is always alert to the possibility of acquiring new allies.

Ex-President Sánchez de Lozada told the BBC in an interview on Oct. 21, 2003, that "it's interesting to note that Evo Morales received a peace prize in Libya awarded by (Colonel) Gaddafi." This is a fact. Evo Morales received the "Gaddafi Prize" in 2000 from the hands of the Colonel himself. Last November, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela had the great honour of receiving this distinguished award. Yet another example of how birds of a feather flock together.

Nevertheless, one should not get overly paranoid about Colonel Gaddafi. Whether or not he influences Evo's movement directly or merely by example, the impact of Evo's policies upon Western Hemisphere relations would be equally devastating.


Now that Bolivian President Carlos Mesa has effectively discredited himself and the entire traditional political system -- after having threatened to resign, then withdrew his resignation, then tried to call snap elections, and then had to agree for the moment to finish out his term -- Evo Morales is the only alternative left. If he were to come to power, how would he govern? What would his attitude be toward Chile?

As an opposition force, Evo and previous leaders of indigenous movements have always obstructed a final settlement with Chile. In 1975, President Banzer reached a verbal agreement with Chilean President Pinochet on a territorial exchange: the Arica Corridor to Bolivia in exchange for the Silala area for Chile. But the Bolivian social movements nearly brought down Banzer's government. In the mid-'90s, President Frei designated Eduardo Pérez-Yoma as negotiator, and "almost" reached an agreement with Bolivian President Jorge Quiroga, but the Bolivian government was too weak to sell the agreement the people. And then Bolivian President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada "almost" reached an agreement with Chile to export its natural gas through Chilean territory in exchange for further economic integration. But Evo's social movements brought a violent end to the government, forcing President Sánchez himself into exile in the US.

In the final analysis, every attempt to apply Western-style logic to the problems of Bolivian access to the sea and exports of natural gas have always been rejected violently. Why?

The answer lies in "the Indigenous Mind". Western-style economic models are rejected by the Indigenous Mind precisely because they fear that the modern industrial economic model is a threat to the very existence of the indigenous way of life. Therefore any "logical" Western formula applied to Bolivia will be seen as an imperialist trap. Any dialogue proposed by Chile would become a dialogue of the deaf, as we have seen on repeated occasions.

Nevertheless, Evo Morales would be the only Bolivian leader capable of signing a peace treaty with Chile, precisely because he controls all movements which would oppose it. It could be observed in history that the most intractable "hawk" and "extremist" leader of a country often becomes the leader who brings peace. Classic examples are: Anwar Sadat of Egypt, who had to launch a war against Israel in order to make peace; Menachem Begin of Israel who had enough "hawkish" credentials to sign a treaty with Egypt; Charles de Gaulle of France who had the patriotic credentials to end the colonial war in Algeria, and US President Richard Nixon, whose anti-communist reputation helped him to justify détente with China, détente with the Soviets, and to end the war in Vietnam.

Could Evo Morales do the same?

At this point, the answer would be no. He would first have to restore Bolivia's honour before entering into negotiations with Chile, just as Sadat had to launch a war in order to recover Arab honour, and just as the Palestinians had to launch an Intifada before negotiating with Israel. Evo Morales as President of Bolivia would first have to demonstrate a show of military strength or achieve a diplomatic victory over Chile before being able to sit down to talk with the Chileans.

But does Bolivia have the strength to achieve anything which could restore its honour? By itself, no. Bolivia would need an ally. And Bolivia is helplessly isolated and ignored in the international areana.

But an ally is now looming on the northern horizon: President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.

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