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  • Bolivian President Evo Morales marches with labor unions on Wednesday, May 1, 2019.

    Bolivian President Evo Morales marches with labor unions on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. | Photo: ABI

Published 1 May 2019

“This ratifies that this is a government of the workers. This is the power of unity"

“Evo YES, Yankees NO” was the chant at Bolivia’s May Day rally in the city of Cochabamba. The leftist president led the march, along with the leaders of the country’s largest unions. The show of support will be important for Morales ahead of the country’s elections in October 2019.

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The Bolivian Workers Center (COB), the country’s largest trade union federation, invited Morales to the march yesterday after the government agreed to their demands for a new 3 percent rise in the minimum wage. Speaking on Tuesday, COB General Secretary Juan Carlos Guarachi said, “We are happy to have arrived at a consensus that will especially benefit those who are paid minimum wages. That's the most important thing: to benefit those who earn less.”

The COB national conference officially endorsed Evo Morales and his Movement Towards Socialism party in November 2018 and reiterated their endorsement by officially inviting Morales to the official May Day march on Wednesday. The invitation has not always been extended, during the rule of the previous COB secretary, Guido Mitma, Morales was shunned. However, new leftist leadership in the union was elected in February 2018 that were supporters of Morales’ party. Mitma, the former leader was expelled for allying the unions to right-wing groups, for the upcoming elections he has endorsed former neoliberal president Carlos Mesa.

The COB has played a leading role in the ‘National Coordinator For Change,’ an alternative cabinet, where Morales meets social movement leaders once a month and discusses issues such as wages, health and wider problems affecting the country. In March, Morales proposed making it an official council of state, with powers to implement laws.

Bolivia’s minister for social movements Alfredo Rada said on Wednesday, “This ratifies that this is a government of the workers. This is the power of unity, when the people see their leaders and the government are united in a revolutionary project, well then there is an overwhelmingly positive response in the streets.”

In commemoration of May Day, Evo Morales said, “On International Workers' Day, we pay homage to the union leaders that throughout history have won workers rights and benefits for the people.” 

He closed with the words, “Glory to the martyrs of Chicago” in reference to origins of May Day, at the ‘Haymarket massacre.’

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