Have you ever wondered how it was possible that Evo Morales came to be elected President of Bolivia in 2005? Probably not, but it is a question worth pondering. After all the guy had two very serious strikes against him. He's indigenous (an Ayamara) in a country that had been ruled by the "white" descendants of Spanish conquerors for 500 years. And he's not only a socialist, but also the leader of the coca growers unions, peasant villains in the U.S.-sponsored War on Drugs.
According to the intriguing documentary Cocalero, the answer is simple: Evo Morales ran a simple, low budget, back-to-basics campaign. A film crew followed him for the 80 days leading up the December election and what they record is the ordinary nuts and bolts of any well-run grassroots operation. You get to see it all:
- Organizers planning and Evo speaking to a rally of enthusiastic supporters.
- Evo, slightly uncomfortable, at a fundraiser with rich supporters.
- Evo on TV answering silly questions from an anchor. Evo's pretty girl surrogate has to spin even less sensible questions.
- Evo meeting the real powers in the land, the generals, proclaiming his patriotism and loyalty to Bolivia.
- Evo's campaign workers teaching his supporters how to vote. The photo at the top is from such a scene.
The film would be well worth seeing by grassroots campaigners in the United States. We have a lot more technology -- and this makes it possible for us to work fast and at scale. But what needs to be done is not really very different.
For regular reports from Bolivia written by U.S. residents there who have a handle on both countries, see the Blog from Bolivia.