And in case you wonder why, let Deborah James and Medea Benjamin explain it to you:
While other heads of state were meeting with bankers and billionaires, Morales asked his staff to set up a meeting with U.S. grassroots leaders so he could learn about our struggles and how we could work together. The meeting included high-ranking labor leaders, immigrant organizers, Indigenous leaders, peace activists and environmentalists. "I’ve lived in New York during a lot of UN meetings, and I’ve never seen a president reach out to the labor community like Evo did today," remarked Ed Ott, Executive Director of the New York City Central Labor Council.
The President listened patiently while U.S. organizers talked about efforts to stop the war in Iraq, injustices in the prison system, organizing efforts of low-wage immigrant workers, struggles for Indigenous rights and the difficulties of getting the Bush administration to seriously address the crisis of climate change. "For a farmer to become President, that is a dream come true!" commented Niel Ritchie, president of the League of Rural Voters. "Listening to President Morales, it’s so easy to see how our current trade model has wreaked havoc on farmers in the U.S. as well as in Bolivia."
His most widespread outreach, however, was on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, who also seemed captivated by this Indigenous farmer-turned-president. Speaking through an interpreter, Morales told millions of Americans how his government’s policies have brought hundreds of millions of dollars for the nation’s poor – that would have gone to foreign corporate coffers – through the nationalization of oil and gas. Revenues from hydrocarbons, mostly natural gas, have increased from $440 million in 2004 to over $1.5 billion in 2006 – a significant amount in Bolivia’s economy, as it is an increase from 5 percent of GDP to over 13 percent of GDP. This year revenues will likely top $2 billion, he said. With a twinkle in his eye as he made a measured critique of the Bush administration’s policies, he said that in this new century, armies should save lives through humanitarian aid, not take lives.
Throughout Morales’ media appearances (including a lengthy segment on Democracy Now!), official speeches at the United Nations, and public meetings, he focused on three main points. The most salient was on the urgency of the need for comprehensive solutions to climate change while simultaneously improving the lives of the poor. "We have to be honest about the causes of this global warming. Overconsumption in the developed countries. Overpollution in the developed countries." At the same time, he argued that the poor still need more access to energy: "Just like we fought to make water a human right, we need an international campaign to make access to energy a human right."
Humble, smart, down-to-earth, to-the-point. In a nutshell, this is why I love him, too.
(Well, that, and he’s cute as a bug–especially in his soccer shorts.)