Grassroots Rising: The Story of Evo Morales

Although the rhetoric against the left-leaning governments in Latin America in the US media has calmed down since the Obama administration moved into the White House, it is safe to assume that the continuing popularity of these governments and their alliances with those Washington considers enemies concerns the foreign policy establishment. As Argentine journalist Martin Sivak’s biography of Bolivian president Evo Morales makes clear, that concern is justified. This book, titled Evo Morales: The Extraordinary Rise of the First Indigenous President of Bolivia, makes it clear that this new generation of leaders is intent on altering the historical relationship between Washington and its neighbors to the South.

Sivak, who is a friend of Morales, describes Morales’ rise from a campesino family to the first indigenous leader of Bolivia. Brief anecdotes are related about Morales’ youth that include beginning work at the age of seven, joining the Bolivian military as a teen and eventually involving himself in efforts to organize campesinos, coca growers and Bolivian workers in their struggle against the traditional power elites in the nation of Bolivia.

The reader is taken inside the planes carrying Morales from village to city in his native land as he meets with friends and occasional foes. They are also transported along with Sivak, Morales and his closest aides to Cuba, Europe and other parts of the world as Morales meets with other national leaders. Relationships with those leaders are discussed, especially the relationships Morales has with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. These journeys provide a catalyst for Sivak discuss Morales’ policies and the history behind those policies. It is a history that incorporates Morales’ personal political journey, the history of those Bolivians who support him, and the history of Bolivia.

As mentioned before, the history of Bolivia is a history whose essential elements revolve around the relationship between the indigenous peoples of the land and the descendants of the Spanish invaders. It is a study in discrimination based on ethnic origin and class; traditional religion and Catholicism; and the people of Bolivia and its northern neighbor. Today, it is a struggle between the campesinos and workers and the neoliberal corporate order and those elements of the Bolivian elite that support them. Evo Morales and his supporters understand this most recent manifestation of Bolivian history as a threat to not only their way of life but to the national integrity of Bolivia. His opponents in the traditional elites, on the other hand, see Morales and his government as a threat to their way of life–a life that depends on the elites delivering the resources of Bolivia to foreign interests and keeping whatever profit for themselves and their power structure.

The current manifestation of this historical conflict is the subject of the last couple sections of Sivak’s book. Most striking in the story he relates is that Morales, unlike some of his Latin American compatriots, refuses to compromise with those who would sell his nation to Washington and other points northward. Confident in his support and mostly untainted by the power he wields, Morales has proven over and over that he will not sell out his supporters nor his agenda. As a resident of the United States, I only wish we had political leaders with the conscience of Evo Morales. Hell, I wish we had political leaders with a conscience.

Martin Sivak has written a personal tale of a political man. In doing so, he has told the story of the man, the movement he helped build, the struggles of a people for justice and dignity and the struggles of a nation for economic and political independence.


Given that one of Morales’ mentors and allies is none other than Fidel Castro, this seems an appropriate place for a brief mention of a recently published biography of Castro. The book, titled Fidel: An Illustrated Biography of Fidel Castro is translated from the Spanish. Written by Nestor Kohan, this illustrated text presents a version of Fidel rarely seen in the United States. After a few pages discussing his youth and student years, Kohan presents the biography of a heroic individual dedicated to the people of Cuba and the struggle against imperialism. More than a comic book version of Fidel, but less than a full-fledged biography, this pocket-sized text is a friendly introduction to the Cuban revolution and the man synonymous with its continuing story.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

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  1. Don Hawkins said on August 2nd, 2010 at 3:18am #

    I wrote this this morning for the well dressed fool’s just on the off chance they read DV. Have a wonderful day and don’t work to hard.

    Ah ha,

    Our planet today is close to climate tipping points. Ice is melting in the Arctic, on Greenland and Antarctica, and on mountain glaciers worldwide. Many species are stressed by environmental destruction and climate change. Continuing fossil fuel emissions, if unabated, will cause sea level rise and species extinction accelerating out of humanity’s control. Increasing atmospheric water vapor is already magnifying climate extremes, increasing overall precipitation, causing greater floods and stronger storms.
    Stabilizing climate requires restoring our planet’s energy balance. The physics is straightforward. The effect of increasing carbon dioxide on Earth’s energy imbalance is confirmed by precise measurements of ocean heat gain. The principal implication is defined by the geophysics, by the size of fossil fuel reservoirs. Simply put, there is a limit on how much carbon dioxide we can pour into the atmosphere. We cannot burn all fossil fuels. Specifically, we must (1) phase out coal use rapidly, (2) leave tar sands in the ground, and (3) not go after the last drops of oil.
    Actions needed so that the world can move on to the clean energies of the future are possible and practical. The actions would restore clean air and water globally, assuring intergenerational equity by preserving creation – the natural world — thus also helping achieve north-south justice. But the needed actions will happen only if the public becomes forcefully involved.
    Citizens can help by blocking coal plants, tar sands, and mining the last drops of fossil fuels from public and pristine lands and the deep ocean. However, fossil fuel addiction can be solved only when we recognize an economic law as certain as the law of gravity: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy they will be used.
    Solution therefore requires a rising fee on oil, gas and coal – a carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies at the domestic mine or port of entry. All funds collected should be distributed to the public on a per capita basis to allow lifestyle adjustments and spur clean energy innovations. As the fee rises, fossil fuels will be phased out, replaced by carbon-free energy and efficiency.
    Governments today, instead, talk of “cap-and-trade-with-offsets”, a system rigged by big banks and fossil fuel interests. Cap-and-trade invites corruption. Worse, it is ineffectual, assuring continued fossil fuel addiction to the last drop and environmental catastrophe.
    We need a simple honest flat rising carbon fee across the board. It should be revenue neutral – all funds distributed to the public – “100 percent or fight”. It is the only realistic path to global action. China and India will not accept caps, but they need a carbon fee to spur clean energy and avoid fossil fuel addiction.
    But our governments have no intention of solving the fossil fuel and climate problem, as is easy to prove: the United States, Canadian and Norwegian governments are going right ahead developing the tar sands, which, if it is not halted, will make it impossible to stabilize climate. James Hansen

    So the decision has been made so far to not try. Who the hell are these people because if you want my honest opinion there not real bright. Wait are they the people we see on talk show’s and giving addresses to the nation having dinner in air conditioned tents and then go on vacation? Let’s see we could go back about 250 million years that should cover it and what happened to life on Earth any ideas on that one oh wise one’s. Well if you watch the learning channels not talk show’s you know where you see well dressed fool’s the other night was good for learning. 250 million years ago a number of things took place and almost wiped out life on Earth. One of those things is that coal yes there was coal then and it began to burn in large amounts. Well guess what we human’s are now burning coal faster than 250 million years ago. Another one of those things was CH 4 don’t know what that is well look it up and do we see a rise in CH 4 today yes we sure do. Those temperatures in Russia that today did cool a little any idea’s on what might be going on. The part that will be fascinating to see is how our so called leaders here in the States back up this decision to set up a fund for off shore drilling you know the big plan and make people believe that there head is not up in a very dark place. I’ll bet it will be loud and clear and kind of on the lines you will believe forget the asking part. Yes we all get to go down the drain in not such slow motion while listening to corrupt well dressed fool’s who after pitting one person against another go have dinner and then plan there next vacation. Viva Las Vegas.

  2. Don Hawkins said on August 2nd, 2010 at 3:47am #

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

    Ladies and gentleman I give you………………………

    What’s the pass word?

  3. Don Hawkins said on August 2nd, 2010 at 3:51am #

    At Xanadu, where Thompson is, Kane’s belongings are being cataloged, most of which are practically worth nothing. During this time, Thompson finds that he is unable to solve the mystery and concludes that “Rosebud” will forever remain an enigma. He theorizes that “Mr. Kane was a man who got everything he wanted, and then lost it: Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn’t get, or something he lost.” In the ending of the film, it is revealed to the audience that Rosebud was the name of the sled from Kane’s childhood, from the time before he was taken from his parents and gained his wealth – an allusion to the only time in his life when he was really happy. The sled, thought to be junk, is destroyed by Xanadu’s departing staff in a basement furnace. The film ends as it began, with a view of the “No Trespassing” sign posted on the fence of Xanadu. Wiki

  4. Josie Michel-Bruening said on August 2nd, 2010 at 6:32am #

    Thank you very much to Ron Jacobs for trying to inform US people about Evo Morales!!!
    As a resident of the Germany, I join your wish for having political leaders with the conscience of Evo Morales.

  5. Don Hawkins said on August 3rd, 2010 at 3:01am #

    In the beginning we had golf courses, Las Vegas, air conditioned tents,
    Vera Wang outfits and washing machines it was the best of times, it was the
    worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it
    was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season
    of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was
    the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before
    us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other
    way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of
    its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for
    evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. Then in the first part
    of the twenty first century and not in the superlative degree of comparison
    only we silly humans realized we were at the point of our very survival.
    So we went golfing and off to Las Vegas many party’s were held in air
    conditioned tents and yes we washed our clothes in a machine. Our so called
    leaders worldwide well the age of foolishness comes to mind and that’s being
    nice. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us so the decision
    was made to have nothing before us and why well because it was just better
    that way. Now what’s wrong with this story and let’s not forget a politically underprivileged group, who share a similar… identity different to the nation in power.

  6. Don Hawkins said on August 3rd, 2010 at 4:46am #

    Here’s one for the stuck on stupid crowd.

    You all started the day just like any other day like yesterday and probably tomorrow and how might we describe the start of the day? Stuck on stupid put’s it rather well. The big plan so far is what a shinning city on or in a secure location wonderful and if that is the thinking of a few please take the air conditioned tents,
    Vera Wang outfits and the golf clubs along to the shinning city please. Wait we are not talking about survival of life on Earth oh really why because Inhofe or Forbes tell’s us so. You all need to get out more see the World meet new people. The weather not the climate Worldwide any thought’s and here in the States just this summer does it seem to be adding up? It’s the economy stupid not really it’s the Earth stupid. When you talk about China why is it you seem to leave stuff out about what is really happen in that country? Here’s an interesting question who is in charge of the day ahead? Just maybe in reality no one in the superlative degree of comparison only. Did you find that shocking well there are a few of us who also find stuck on stupid shocking to say the least. I guess we can think of it as a difference of opinion and would that be in the superlative degree of comparison only yes from the stuck on stupid crowd.

  7. MichaelKenny said on August 3rd, 2010 at 5:18am #

    By way of an aside: why have Morales and others like him not gone the way of Salvador Allende? The thought is in my mind because the Wall St banksters have just failed in their second attempt to destabilise Greece by using the same tactic as was used against Allende: a strike of independent truck owners (they’re now threatning terrorism!). Conclusion: the US is no longer able to maintain full spectrum dominance and has quite simply lost control of Latin America. Why? Since Allende’s time, the American body politic has been hijacked by the Israel Lobby and Latin American leaders, whatever their politics, are no threat to Israel. In addition, the US doesn’t have the resources to prop Israel up economically, wage wars in the Middle East on its behalf and keep the vital European staging post under the American jackboot, while, at the same time, keeping Latin America in line. Priorities!

  8. shabnam said on August 3rd, 2010 at 5:57am #

    MK writes:

    {the US is no longer able to maintain full spectrum dominance and has quite simply lost control of Latin America. Why? Since Allende’s time, the American body politic has been hijacked by the Israel Lobby and Latin American leaders, whatever their politics, are no threat to Israel.}

    Gilad Atzmon said the same thing, believing that Zionist Lobby has managed to destroy American empire.

    {I actually think that the Zionist Lobby has managed to destroy the American empire. I argue that the Credit Crunch is in fact a Zio-Punch. I argue that Greenspan created an economy boom to divert attention from Wolfowitz’ wars. The Zionists in fact have managed to bring down every super power they cling to. Britain, France and now America. You have to allow yourself to admit that the ‘War on Terror’ was actually a Zionist led war against Islam, a battle that was there to serve Israeli interests.}