Bolivian President Evo Morales said during a speech at the United Nations Tuesday that respect for Mother Nature as promoted by traditional knowledge and culture of Indigenous people can be key in spurring progress around the world and defeating inequality created by capitalism.
“We are building a real, concrete and successful alternative to capitalism,” Morales said of changes in Bolivia in recent years.
Morales, from the Aymara Indigenous group, spoke at the General Assembly on the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and explained how Bolivia has been a leader in enshrining and protecting the rights of Indigenous people.
The Bolivian president, who took office in 2006, highlighted the fact that the country has incorporated the substance of the declaration into Bolivia laws to defend how Indigenous people live in harmony with Mother Nature. The country enshrined its multi-ethnic character in its constitution in 2009, officially renaming the country the Plurinational State of Bolivia in recognition of the important position of its Indigenous peoples.
Underlining his government's advances in tackling in equality, Morales said Bolivia is free of illiteracy, domination of the International Monetary Fund, U.S. military bases and Washington's doctrines.
“We have recovered our dignity and sovereignty,” he said. “We have moved from a colonial state to a sovereign state, from a submissive state to a liberated state."
The president added that the world financial crisis was created by bankers and that capitalism is responsible for inequality across the globe, but that Indigenous worldviews offer valuable alternatives to the destructive economic model.
Among other accomplishments by the government, Morales said that before he took office, Bolivia had the worst economy in the region, 10 percent of the richest people earned 37 times more wealth than the 10 percent of the poorest and the state only spent US$500 million a year in social development.
Now, Bolivia has been the fastest growing economy in the region for the past two years, the second in women's representation in Congress and invests US$3.5 billion in development.
Morales also rejected any type of violence against Latin American people, national sovereignty and territorial integrity, which he exemplified with a strong rejection against what he called an attempted "coup against Venezuela."
He also called on all the U.N. member countries to reject the U.S. blockade against Cuba.
Bolivia's minister of foreign affairs, Fernando Huanacuni, said this week that if poverty in Latin America still has an Indigenous face "it isn't because of the incapability of the Indigenous peoples, but because of the colonial structure that has been maintained for decades."
Meanwhile, Canada's Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, praised Bolivia on Monday for its progress in defending Indigenous rights and promoting education in Indigenous languages as an example of a constant struggle the rest of the world should follow.
Morales also said Bolivia is organizing the People's Summit for a World Without Walls in the city of Cochabamba on June 20 and 21 to promote the idea of worldwide citizenship.