Bolivia, Cuba, and the Future of Latin America

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Source / The Dawn News / May 23, 2016.

At a time when Latin America tries to resist the right’s onslaught —which tries to economically asphyxiate Venezuela, destabilize Brazil with coup attempts and attack Correa in Ecuador— Bolivian President Evo Morales receives in Havana the José Martí Order, the highest distinction of the Cuban government.

Evo spoke to Cuban TV stations and said that “the retreat of the left in Latin America is due to the incapacity of progressivist governments to face a media war and the lack of political training of the youth”.

It may not be a coincidence for Cuba to chose precisely this moment to receive the Bolivian President, at a time when joining forces seems more vital than ever, but it’s also not a surprise if we look into the rich history of the relation between both countries, and the present bond they have.

Formally, after a two-decade hiatus, diplomatic relations between Cuba and Bolivia were renewed on January 11, 1983, under the government of President Hernán Siles Zuazo. But the truth is that Bolivia is part of the Cubans’ hearts —and Cuba is in the hearts of the Bolivian people— since the time of the guerrilla and death of Che Guevara on Bolivian land.

Since Evo emerged as a leader in the political scenario of Bolivia, he had the Havana’s  support. “When I first began I didn’t know how to be a President, but there were Hugo [Chávez] and Fidel [Castro]”, said the Bolivian head of state. “Fidel’s teachings have been greatly important for me”. After his coming to power, in 2006, bilateral relations grew until they reached the current levels.

The collaboration of Cuban doctors has been key to the Andean country. In over a decade of work, Cuban doctors have provided over 65 million consultations and saved more than 80,000 lives. The Cuban Medical Brigade currently has several hundreds of collaborators disseminated throughout the territory of Bolivia.

In parallel, around 5,000 Bolivian doctors have obtained their degrees in Cuba, and they will go back to their country to provide their services. Thanks to the Cuban alphabetization program “Yes, I can”, Bolivia achieved the great goal of being declared a Country Free of Illiteracy by the UNESCO eight years ago, in 2008.

This collaboration was backed by a Cooperation Agreement that entered in force in 2006, signed by the leader of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro, and the Bolivian president, who has just been inaugurated as President for the first time.

Now, a new agreement has been signed to promote and develop cooperation programs in the areas of health, education, economy and culture, by the chancellor of Bolivia, David Choquehuanca, and the Cuban Minister of Foreign Commerce and Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, with the approval of Presidents Evo Morales and Raúl Castro.

Beyond the visible results, both countries are united by a shared view on the world and on Latin America, based on the principles of independence and sovereignty, and which rejects any sort of hegemonizing and imperialist attitude —which is the vision that the US and the new right-wing governments of Latin America try to impose.

“To receive this decoration is the best, not for me, but for our social movements”, said the President of Bolivia after the ceremony. “It has been a historic success for our people, for all Bolivians”, he said.

Bolivia represents, at the time, one of the biggest hopes of keeping alive the social justice dreams in the region, paired with an admirable economic growth. For Bolivians, Cuba’s support is fundamental, and for Cubans, it’s important to learn from how Bolivians have been able to break with the myth that says that left-wing governments are not economically efficient. In these circumstances, the alliance between both nations may be important not only for them, but for the future of Latin America.

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