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Castro urged ballots, not guns, for Bolivia's populist revolution, Morales says

Castro urged ballots, not guns, for Bolivia's populist revolution, Morales says

President Evo Morales said Friday that his close ally Fidel Castro advised him to shun arms for his populist cause and to instead change Bolivia through a democratic revolution similar to that led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
The Cuban president, who once tried to spread armed revolt throughout South America, "never told me that you have to take up arms, never," Morales said in an interview Friday with Bolivian radio network Fides.
"At the beginning of 2003, when I was invited to a big conference in Cuba, he said, 'Don't do what I did; don't have an armed uprising,'" Morales recalled. "'Lead a democratic revolution, like Chavez's, with a constitutional assembly.'"
Morales is trying to use an assembly to rewrite Bolivia's constitution, giving more power to its long-downtrodden Indian majority, following the example of Chavez, who presided over a 1999 redrafting of the constitution that lengthened presidential terms and allowed presidents a second consecutive term.
Morales also said he first told Castro _ not Chavez _ of his plans for the surprise May 1 nationalization of Bolivia's oil and gas industry _ and that the Cuban leader had advised him to wait.
Castro "didn't agree" with the hurry to nationalize the country's petroleum reserves, Morales said. "He said I should suspend the nationalization, that it should be after the Constituent Assembly," the body convened in August and given a year to draw up a new Bolivian constitution.
Castro supported Marxist guerrilla groups across much of Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s and a hero of the Cuban revolution, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, died while leading an unsuccessful revolt in Bolivia in 1967. But for more than a decade, the Cuban leader in public comments has urged political rather than military struggle in Latin America.
Morales said he was not trying to apply a Cuban communist model on Bolivia. He said he preferred to see his nation as the "South Africa of South America," where, an oppressed majority rose up to take power after overcoming centuries of racial discrimination. South Africa's white-minority government gave way to majority rule in 1994.
Morales' conservative opposition often accuses his government of taking orders from both Venezuela and Cuba, while Morales maintains that his government's relationship with the two allies is merely one of friendship and cooperation.
"I love Fidel," Morales said. "I have nothing to hide."
The opposition intensified its criticism this week as Bolivian authorities prepared to deport a Cuban dissident for publicly denouncing the president's close ties to Havana.
Cuban doctor Amauris Sanmartino holds permanent residency status in Bolivia but was arrested last weekend under a 1996 law forbidding immigrants to be involved in politics
Sanmartino and 11 fellow dissidents fled Cuba in 2000 on a boat bound for Florida. Picked up by U.S. immigration authorities, the group was taken to Guantanamo Bay before U.S. officials helped find them a home in Bolivia.
The Cuban embassy in La Paz called Sanmartino a "criminal" who left behind "unpaid debts" in Cuba, but has refused to accept the doctor following his deportation.
Sanmartino has expressed a desire to be sent to Miami, but both U.S. and Bolivian officials have expressed doubts that the United States would accept him and say they are seeking a neutral third country to take him in.


Updated : 2021-07-30 16:28 GMT+08:00