… Morales’ election heralded much more than the arrival of the first indigenous person to the presidential palace. It marked the onset of a political revolution that has gradually seen Bolivia’s old political elites dislodged from power and replaced by representatives from the country’s indigenous peoples and popular classes.For this majority, the MAS government represents a safeguard against a return to the Bolivia of yesteryear, run by corrupt white elites. More than that, for most indigenous people and social movements, the MAS government is “their” government.This does not mean that the people have handed the MAS a blank cheque. Already on several occasions the MAS government has been forced to back-down on certain policies due to popular pressure.However, none of these protests have posed a fundamental challenge to the MAS’ overall vision for Bolivia, precisely because this vision is largely informed by the struggles and demands of the people themselves.Instead, these conflicts have primarily been disputes over how best to make this vision a reality.The MAS response to date has been to follow an approach of seeking dialogue and consensus, retreating where necessary, but always attempting to continue to drive the process forward towards its goal.Morales constantly sums up this approach using the Zapatista slogan “to govern by obeying”.It was this approach that enabled the MAS to come into the elections with the backing of the country’s main indigenous, campesino, workers and urban poor organisations and ensured its thumping victory.The failure of opposition forces and critics to recognise or accept the fact that a political revolution that has taken place and important economic transformations are underway explain why they are so far out of touch with the majority of Bolivian society.
When Bolivian President Evo Morales arrived at the new Uyuni airport last August and found no water running from the tap, he publicly reprimanded and promptly dismissed his Minister of Water. As it happened, the pipes were merely frozen. The incident underscores the critical—and highly symbolic—role of water in the politics of this landlocked Andean nation.