Ex-Morales Backer Decries Party Betrayal

Martin Arostegui, The Washington Times, June 13, 2006

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia—Adriana Gil braved death threats, public insults and social ostracism to campaign for Evo Morales in Bolivia’s conservative eastern region during the presidential election last year. She now feels “betrayed” by the ruling Movement Toward Socialism, which expelled her and invaded her family’s land.

Miss Gil had won a seat representing MAS on the city council, and her family contributed generously to Mr. Morales’ campaign. But none of that has protected her from the new government’s revolutionary land redistribution policies.

She cried before TV cameras earlier this month when truckloads of armed Quechua Indians occupied her farmland, burned down the homes of tenant farmers and seized their cattle.

“It’s a conspiracy and a vendetta against me,” said Miss Gil, a 24-year-old Santa Cruzheiress who described herself in an interview as a “social democrat.”

She said she is being persecuted for speaking out against the increasingly authoritarian policies of the new president. “The Bolivian people voted for change, not for a dictator,” she said.

Miss Gil this month announced the formation of her own political group, the Social Democratic Force, to oppose the radical program that Mr. Morales seeks to introduce through a national constitutional assembly to be held in August.

Only days later, her land was invaded by squatters, who have camped out along 2,500 acres of her 11,000-acre property. Miss Gil, who spends most of her time at a house in the city, said that the squatters have not taken over the farmhouse, but that more are arriving.

“They are Indians from the highlands sent by the government,” she told The Washington Times. “They show written permits to occupy our land signed by [Rural Development Minister] Hugo Salvatierra.”

She also accused Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera of inspiring the takeover of her and other farms, a charge he has repeatedly denied.

“We have a government of lies,” said Miss Gil, one of several intellectuals, professionals and businesspeople who supported MAS before the December elections but now feel ignored by the hard-line leftist leadership and its indigenous peasant base.

“They want to put us all in ponchos and chulos [traditional Indian wool caps] and make us chew coca,” she said, referring to the source of cocaine. “The president only seems to govern for the Quechuas and Aymaras.”

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“We are seeing the destruction of our productive apparatus,” Miss Gil said. “I was always hoping that MAS would turn toward democratic socialism. Sadly, I was wrong. The illusion of changing Bolivia made me delude myself.”

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