15th Dec 2019

Bolivian president addresses half-empty plenary

Bolivian president Evo Morales defended his policies on the nationalisation of the energy sector and support for coca farming in an address to MEPs on Monday (15 May), with the biggest centre-right group walking out in protest before his speech.

"This political moment is a moment of socialism," Mr Morales told the Strasbourg plenary, with only the left part of the forum filled with MEPs, who applauded as he spoke of his life-long fight to help the poor and discriminated in his home country.

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  • (Photo: Alain Bachellier)

"This is why I was elected. I was not able to go to university, but the greatest capital of the Evo Morales movement is honesty. Don't steal, don't lie, don't be weak are the three cosmic commandments which have brought me this far," he said.

But the centre-right EPP-ED group insisted that his decision to nationalise the country's gas and oil sector with insecure conditions for the companies which had invested in it - among them several European firms - was a violation of commonly accepted rules.

Asked by journalists how he felt about the protest, Mr Morales said it was their own choice not to come and listen, stressing that he himself comes from a culture of dialogue.

He pointed out Bolivia would keep negotiating the new conditions with the companies and compensate some of them for losses – if they had not already benefited more from the resources than they had invested.

"I understand that your companies need a return on their investments, but you cannot own the resources – the state will control them. Companies will be our partners but not owners of natural resources," he told MEPs.

Mr Morales noted he would like to use the money from the higher oil exports to "end Bolivia being a beggar nation," pointing out that some emigrants from his country tend to end up in Europe so it is in the interest of the union to help the Andean country.

He also defended his views on coca cultivation, pointing out Bolivia did not play a role in cocaine culture or drug smuggling and so the coca farmers should not be harmed by the international fight against drug cartels.

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