Speech by Luis Arce on Assuming the Presidency of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, November 8, 2020:
Honor and glory to our ancestors who always accompany us!
Honor and glory to all the martyrs of liberation!
Honor and glory to the fallen at Senkata, Sacaba, el Pedregal!
Honor and glory to the heroes of the people who recovered democracy!
Greetings to the Vice President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia and President Nato of the Plurinational Assembly, brother Jilata David Choquehuanca, the brothers King Felipe VI of Spain, Felipe de Bourbon, the Second Vice President of Spain, Pablo Iglesias, the foreign ministers of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Uruguay, Republic of Venezuela, Republic of Chile, Muhammad Al Hashmi, delegate of His Highness Jalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan, President of the United Arab Emirates.
To the parliamentarians of brother countries, official delegates of other countries that today accompany us, secretaries general of the Comunidad Andina, Parlasur, Ibero-American General Secretariat, ALBA, IDB, representatives of international organizations, the diplomatic corps accredited in Bolivia, international observers, the President of the Chamber of Senators, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, all the senators, deputies, national and sub-national authorities of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.
Authorities of State bodies, authorities of the Military and Police High Command, former democratic presidents, religious and spiritual authorities, executives of social, peasant, indigenous and workers’ organizations, representatives of political parties.
To the leadership and militancy of the MAS-IPSP to the family of the Jilata David Choquehuanca, and a very special greeting to my family, my mother Olga, my wife Lourdes, my children Marcelo, Rafael and Camila, my grandchildren and all my family, whom today from this rostrum I thank for all your patience and support during the years that you were Minister of the Economy and Public Finance, I sacrificed many years with you to dedicate myself to serving our country, today I ask you for five more years of patience and tolerance.
I greet with great affection all the Bolivians who are with us on this historic day for the Bolivian people.
As of November 10, 2019, after 21 days of concealing the winner of the popular will expressed in the ballot boxes, Bolivia was the scene of an internal and systematic war against the people, especially against the most humble.
The two tasks that the de facto government imposed on itself for the pacification of the country and the immediate calling of elections were not fulfilled; on the contrary, death, fear and discrimination were sown, racism was intensified and the pandemic was used to extend an illegal and illegitimate government. The persecution and criminalization unleashed by the regime against leaders of the MAS-IPSP and of the social movements against humble women and men of the people resulted in deaths, injuries, imprisonment, persecution, isolation and exile.
Sacaba, Senkata and El Pedregal are irrefutable proof of the brutality of the regime, but they are also symbols of dignity and resistance. Together with men like Orlando Gutiérrez, a great mining leader who fought courageously for the recovery of democracy and who will always live in the heart of the Bolivian people. But as Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz, that socialist leader who was killed in another coup d’état in 1980, would say, it is not hatred that drives our actions, but a passion for justice.
This November 8, 2020 we begin a new stage in our history, and we want to do it with a government that is for everyone, without discrimination of any kind. Our government will seek at all times to rebuild our country in unity to live in peace. In this path, democracy is a fundamental value of the people and in which the will of the population is expressed in an unequivocal way and it is also an ordering axis of our institutionality and our society.
Democracy is not only the vote to elect authorities at all levels, but also open, fair elections, it is the participation of all without the exclusion of anyone, and even more so of the social and national cultural majorities. It is the protection of civil and political rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of organization that is political pluralism. All these requirements to qualify as a democratic system were mutilated in one year of a de facto government. For months the mouths of democracy were filled for some, while attempts were made to outlaw not only the MAS but the people as a whole.
Since the recovery of democracy in Bolivia in 1982, which was the product of the struggle of the Bolivian people, never before has there been evidence of a democracy mutilated in its central contents, an immense plurinational majority faced the danger of proscription, criminalization and persecution. The social movements were stigmatized as peasants, indigenous and workers, we were called savages, seditious, terrorists, the women in skirts were humiliated, our wiphala was burned, which is like burning ourselves, like burning our roots.
From minority sectors of the population, as was evident in the elections of last October, they wanted a democracy for only a few, in fact these minority sectors raise the flag of democracy only when it suits them. And when they do not, they resort to destabilization and violence, to coups d’état in order to take power. Unfortunately, some groups want to return to an exclusionary democracy, which mutilates our plurinationality and does not involve the majorities that, with the effort of their work, make everyday Bolivia possible.
However, despite these adverse conditions, despite the fact that the participation of the people was threatened by violence from the de facto government and paramilitary groups in the elections of October 18 we obtained a historic victory at the polls with more than 55%, we are the majority. That means that the Bolivian population voted for peace and stability, for hope and dignity, for the reunion of all Bolivians. That 55.10% vote is not Luis Arce’s or David Choquehuanca’s. That vote is the product of the conscience and the organization of a people that does not want freedom for a few but for all. It is the vote of a people who do not want welfare for a few but for all, who do not want joy for a few but for all.
We assume this mandate given to us by the population, the people, to work tirelessly and with humility for the reconstruction of our country, and we commit ourselves to rectify what was wrong and to deepen what was right.
In October 2020, democracy that allows for deliberation and organization from below triumphed, and democracy that translates that will and creative force through the vote. But democracy is also the materialization of the rights contained in our Political Constitution of the State.
There is no point in electing authorities by vote if at the same time the people to whom democracy is owed are deprived of fundamental rights such as access to health, education, work, income, housing. Democracy is having the right to enjoy the wealth that is for all and not for a few, and we did that in 14 years and we are going to deepen our government.
Income redistribution, bonuses, will always go hand in hand with our economic policy, we will work together to recover the levels of growth that the de facto government shattered and we will do it by reducing poverty, as well as economic and social inequalities. These are the principles that guide our productive community social economic model which we will take up again.
Today our country faces a triple crisis that began in November 2009 with the coup d’état and deepened with the pandemic. The political crisis generated by a government that did not respect the ballot nor the respect for the regulations of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly, much less its attachment to the Political Constitution of the State.
The health crisis that resulted from the appearance of the COVID-19 global pandemic in Bolivia, and to which the de facto government was unable to offer any adequate comprehensive response.
The economic crisis derived from the government’s inability to generate stability and growth with social justice, in one year it reversed all the conquests of the Bolivian people. There are those who have argued that the current situation is solely and exclusively the result of the action of that silent enemy called COVID-19, but to want to put all the blame on the pandemic for this situation is not correct. The crisis had been shaping up on the horizon since the coup d’état, following the abrupt change in economic policy, and it became more acute at the root of the effects of the health crisis.
Today our national economy is in the midst of a deep recession, at present there is a drop in the gross domestic product of 11.1% according to the data published by the INE to the second quarter of this year. Our country went from leading the economic growth of South America for six years in the period between 2006 and November 2019 to presenting the greatest fall in the economy in the last almost 40 years.
Likewise, the fiscal deficit programmed for the 2020 administration reaches 12.1% and is the highest since the period of the UPD, the deficit of the public financial sector as of September already reaches 5.6%. For its part, the General Treasury has a programmed deficit of 8.7%, mainly explained by the increase in current expenditure, as the current deficit of the Treasury reaches 8.1% in the current administration.
These figures show that in only one year of economic management by the de facto government, the economy has gone from one that privileged public investment and income redistribution to one that required contracting public debt to pay salaries and wages in the public sector.
There was also a drastic increase in public debt, between November 2019 and October 2020 the transitional government indebted the country by more than $4.2 billion, between internal and external debt. It is important to highlight the debt contraction with the Central Bank of Bolivia for approximately $1.9 billion and $800 million through public auctions of General Treasury bonds.
In the area of foreign debt, foreign loans of more than $1.5 billion were committed, to close the year they programmed a debt of 4.4 billion bolivianos additionally in the domestic market. Net international reserves decreased by 881 million dollars between November 2019 and October 2020, which represents a drop of approximately 13%.
As of November 2019, international reserves stood at $6.459 billion and as of October of this year they stand at only $5.578 billion, only the month of October the reserves decreased by 777 million dollars. The de facto government leaves an economy with figures that were not even seen in one of the worst crises that Bolivia suffered under the UPD government, in the 1980s
Unemployment, poverty and inequalities have increased, we have before us the great challenge of rebuilding our economy, of generating certainty, of generating growth with the distribution of income, of reducing economic and social inequalities, but we are sure that working together with the people we will manage once again to overcome the adversities.
Today we are here to send a message of hope to all the nations that make up Bolivia, to those brave women and men who go out every day to fight to overcome this difficult situation, they are an example for a political class that must turn this dark page in its history. To look at the present with responsibility and commitment, and at the future with optimism, focusing on a single objective: the good life of all Bolivians.
That is why we will continue to build a plural and diverse economy that recovers and strengthens and promotes all the potential we have, initiatives and capacities of Bolivia, from the community of native peoples and farmers, the state, private, cooperative and the wide natural and cultural diversity, for months we have planned a series of actions.
For months we have planned a series of actions to activate our economy and have taken the dynamization of internal demand, we have great projects that we will implement gradually in the coming months, thus fulfilling our campaign commitment to the people, because the day that passes without taking action is the day that the situation in Bolivia becomes more complicated.
Our country today more than ever requires effort and synchronized mobilization between civil society and all state bodies, between the public and private sectors, as well as between different political groupings. In spite of the differences, we are obliged to meet the demands of the people who demand from us unity, peace and certainty, unity and complementarity between east and west, between the countryside and the city, we are all Bolivia.
We must put an end to fear in Bolivia, I believe in justice, not in fostering an environment of resentment and revenge that does not respect the will of thought, where being from another party or political color makes you an object of hate. That must end.
I believe in and support the strengthening of the institutionality of the state and in generating a safe and stable environment where the only ones who have to fear are the offenders, the criminals, the violent and those who commit acts of corruption.
Our government will work towards the present and future, serving the Bolivian people, collective interests and not individual petty interests.
From this platform where the democratic will of our people is concentrated, I also want to address the international community, the sisters and brothers of other countries who are visiting us today. We are a sovereign nation with a government born at the ballot box and our will is to work for a multipolar world, where there is no supremacy of any power and where all states and human beings live without fear, without war, without hatred, without plundering of our natural resources, without exploitation, without racism or discrimination, without threats and without pressure of any kind.
We strongly assume, today more than ever, the principles of self-determination of peoples, non-intervention, non-alignment and full legal and political equality of all states.
We strongly assume, today more than ever, the principles of self-determination of peoples, non-intervention, non-alignment and full legal and political equality of all states in any form of subordination. We strive for an emancipatory integration and not a subordinated one that considers all the areas of life from health, education and even the commercial economy.
We demand the South-South integration in a globalized world where designs are not imposed from the North, we advocate the political unity of the diversity of Latin America and the Caribbean, the CELAC is the best way to conquer such a noble and historical cause. We return to make our CELAC resolution in 2014 when we declare Latin America and the Caribbean as a territory of peace, we raise the flag of the diplomacy of the peoples for life and of a world without walls, we must put an end to everything that prevents us from recognizing ourselves as equals, as brothers.
In the sub-region, we propose the recovery of Unasur as a space for integration and a mechanism for political agreement in which we all find ourselves independently of the political orientation of governments.
Dear people of Bolivia, I stand before you with much emotion, but with an enormous sense of responsibility born of my love for my country, our roots and the people. But also of the promises made during this political campaign, so I want to reaffirm from here my commitment to honor each of them.
I assume the presidency of the Plurinational State of Bolivia with much humility, with much honor, and with much gratitude for the trust placed in us. We will govern with responsibility and inclusion, representing all of you, facing the necessary changes with the objective of returning Bolivia to the path of stability as soon as possible.
Today we face the enormous challenge of having to write together with the letters that will define the next five years of our history, hoping to be remembered as the government in which the Bolivian people rose up to recover democracy, dignity, peace, growth and social justice.
We will work tirelessly serving the Bolivian people, we will defeat the pandemic, we will triumph over the crisis as we did in previous years because we are a fighting, persevering and brave people who look without fear and with optimism and with the strength of knowing that we are capable of achieving.
In my journey throughout Bolivia together with brother jilata David, I have felt the pain, but also the hope of millions of Bolivians, I will never forget the tears, the hugs, the smiles, the words of strength that they gave me at all times, and the personal stories they shared with me in every place I went through. We will not forget the wishes of those who have been so affected in this fateful year marked by the blow to democracy and by this cruel pandemic, their faces, their voices, their love and hope will always be present with me today and will accompany me at all times during the next five years.
By your mandate, dear brothers, I assume with much humility and responsibility the presidency of the Plurinational State, I look at the past, all that we lived and overcome, I raise my eyes and see that a better Bolivia is possible with the participation and work of all Bolivians.
Let’s walk in peace, side by side to achieve it, let’s get ahead.
Long live the Plurinational State of Bolivia!
Honor and glory to the Bolivian people!
Thank you very much.