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Bolivia's vice president on indigenous rights, coca crops, and relations with the US

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There is no single model for socialism; every country has to find its own internal post-capitalist forces. In Bolivia, I think post-capitalism will be grounded in the medium or long run in two forces: in the force of modern industry and in the nonmodern, communal tradition. For Bolivia, and perhaps Peru, perhaps Ecuador, perhaps Guatemala, it's unimaginable to envision postcapitalism without taking into account the communal strength of the indigenous communities. This is what makes us different from other parts of the world.

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One criticism by opposition parties has been that the government of Hugo Chávez has too much influence on [Bolivia's] government, citing Venezuela's economic and military cooperation. What's your view on the matter?

Look, the most important business dealings we've had as a government have been with Brazil and Argentina, not with Venezuela. We have excellent relations with Venezuela. The impact of Venezuelan aid is felt in many areas, and we are very grateful for it, and we want to maintain it. But this doesn't mean we can't do business and have friends in other parts of the world.

You mentioned the military issue, and it's very important to clarify that Venezuela has not sold us planes or weapons and hasn't brought us missiles or bullets. Ninety-five percent of Venezuelan aid is aimed at production: hydrocarbons, microcredit, agriculture, and the military sector. But Venezuela has not and will not sell us weapons.

Can you say how many Venezuelans are currently working for the government?

Venezuelans, Argentinians, Cubans, Brazilians, and Americans are present in the social area. American pediatricians are coming, we have Cuban eye specialists, Cuban and Venezuelan teachers are working on the literacy issue, computer technicians are helping to prepare ID cards, and Argentine officials are working on reconstruction and providing civil support for the flood victims. The number varies, because they do a job and then they go. We don't have any advisers or collaborators in political areas or in areas that aren't social.

There is a possibility that the US Congress will not renew the Andean Trade Preference Act [known in Spanish as the ATDPEA]. How is the government preparing for this?

We started to fight for our own ATDPEA because Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru, which also benefit from this treaty currently, were moving forward in their free-trade negotiations. We said that a free-trade agreement would be problematic for our economy, that it didn't take into account the asymmetries [in relation to the US]. We're talking about a country with a 16th-century level of agricultural development and another one with a 21st-century level. This is why we don't think a free trade agreement is convenient. But we clearly wanted, still want, and are working to try to link ourselves in a lasting way to the most important economy in the world, which is the US. While these countries negotiate free-trade agreements, we will negotiate the ATDPEA because it takes into account these asymmetries. It doesn't provide for the unlimited opening of our borders, in which case we would have to compete in everything.

So the government of Evo Morales would never sign a free-trade agreement with the USA?

A free trade agreement, no. But a just and lasting trade agreement, yes. We need to move ahead on that and we want to move ahead. And we hope that the authorities responsible for international commerce in the US understand.

The international press has asserted on various occasions that your political ideology is more leftist than Evo's. Is this true?

We are here to collaborate with President Morales. I have a Marxist/Indigenous intellectual and academic background, and I don't know if it's more or less radical [than his]. But because my background is very rationalist, with a strong Hegelian influence – according to which all that is real is rational, and all that is rational is real – this allows me to have a very realistic view of the world rather than a utopian one. I don't have a utopian reading of the world today, as a part of this government. I have a more realistic reading of the possibilities, and in this sense I try to collaborate with President Morales. That's all I can say.