Evo Morales today celebrated ten years as Bolivia’s President with an indigenous ceremony to thank Pachamama (Mother Earth).
The 45 minute ceremony, held before his official ten-year anniversary tomorrow, was in the historical city of Tiahuanaco, La Paz. There was an offering of thanks to Pachamama at sunrise and a ritual for a good harvest and personal success.
Morales wore a poncho and woollen cap, typical clothes of the Aymara people, to the ceremony.
“In this small but very important act, I take this opportunity to express all my gratitude for these 10 years serving the Bolivian people,” said Morales in a speech. “We never felt abandoned by social, indigenous, native peoples… that have always accompanied the cultural revolution.”
Around 2,000 people attended the ceremony, TeleSUR reported.
The 56-year-old came to power in 2006 with almost 54% of votes and is Bolivia’s first indigenous president. He began his first term with three principles: “do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy.”
The former leader of a coca-growers union is the longest serving president in office in Latin America and the longest serving president in Bolivian history. His rule has been praised for bringing political stability and economic development to Bolivia.
He has also pushed the country towards greater respect to the environment with tools like aggressive tree-planting campaigns, influenced in part by his Aymara culture. Under his leadership, his party, Movimiento al Socialismo, has also championed causes like indigenous rights, poverty reduction through land reform and gas wealth redistribution, and fighting the influence of Americanization and multinational corporations in the country.
Morales also created a new constitution in 2009 and granted greater rights and autonomy to the indigenous population, making Bolivia officially ‘multi-ethnic’ and ‘pluri-cultural.’
The president is seeking to change the constitution again this year via a national referendum due on 21st February. If approved, Morales will be able to run for re-election again when his current term ends in 2019.
The opposition claim the planned reform is just a tactic to extend Morales’ time in power indefinitely. The avowed socialist has also come under fire from some in Bolivia who claim that his ‘radical’ politics would hurt the economy.
Morales also has an icy relationship with the US because of his advocacy against the US-funded drug war in Bolivia, and expelling a US ambassador and the US Agency for International Development, which he accused of meddling in local political affairs.
And though Morales has made enormous gains, like reducing extreme poverty, increasing public spending on clinics, schools, gyms and other social benefits, and tripling the GDP between 2005 and 2013, Bolivia remains one of the poorest countries in the continent.