Video: Evo Morales: Indigenous Rights

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The Video

Evo Morales, Bolivian President Evo Morales on Indigenous Rights, September 26, 2007by Democracy Now!


Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! talk to Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, on a number of issues, just before he attended the United Nations General Assembly in September 2007. This clip discusses indigenous rights.

Video Details

Bolivian President Evo Morales on Indigenous Rights
Running time
9m 54s
Bolivian Mission, New York, USA, September 26, 2007
Democracy Now!
About Evo Morales
President of Bolivia

An Aymara Indian, Evo Morales became the country’s first indigenous president when he was elected nearly two years ago with more popular support than any Bolivian leader in decades.


  1. President Evo Morales [translated]:

    Last year was our first experience, my first time at the United Nations, as well as my first time in the United States. And as the coca leaf stands for and is symbolic of the struggle of the peoples for land and for their sovereignty, so last time I was here, it was my responsibility to talk about how it is that I came to become president of Bolivia.

    But today, the most important thing is to talk about the changes that we’re forging in democracy through this cultural and democratic revolution in my country and at the same time share my enormous concern and to talk about things that are not just a regional or a local problem, but a global problem, and that’s the environment.

  2. Juan Gonzalez:

    One of the things that has happened, changes, obviously, is that just a few days ago, more than a week ago, the United Nations General Assembly passed an important declaration in terms of indigenous rights. Article 34, specifically, says that indigenous peoples have rights to promote, develop and maintain their institutional structures and their customs. How important is this to Bolivia in the current writing of the new constitution that you’re involved in now?

  3. President Evo Morales [translated]:

    First of all, we’d like to salute, thank and recognize the countries of the world that approved and voted for this Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, just as fifty, sixty years ago, the United Nations for the first time recognized the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And it’s only now, over 500 years later, that indigenous people’s rights are being recognized. Happily, there were only a few countries that didn’t support this declaration.

    And so, I want to say to the indigenous peoples, but also to the other peoples who live in the cities, that this is a very important thing that the struggle for indigenous people’s rights has not been in vain. And it was very important to get organized to mobilize. It took over twenty years, but, working together, people were able to do this, to approve this declaration and establish that we are people that have rights just like anyone else on earth.

    In some cases, it will be to recognize the rights of minorities in some countries, this declaration. In my country, it’s to make sure that the majority is respected, and it will be respect for their institutions, for their structures. And this is an important contribution to unity within our country, but not because we have a declaration behind us recognized by the United Nations. It’s important that, even though this declaration exists, that doesn’t mean that we, as the majority, are going to be vengeful or use this as the majority.

    I want you all to know, through the means of communication like yourself, I want the people of the United States and the people of the world to understand that the indigenous movement is not vengeful. We want to live together, respecting the difference and the diversity that we have. Some of the people in our country, when they saw that this declaration that came out that’s not just a declaration recognizing indigenous peoples, but also right to land, to self-determination, they think that we’re going to take a vengeful attitude, and I’m here to say never.

  4. Amy Goodman:

    What do you think the message was of the four countries that voted no: Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United States?

  5. President Evo Morales [translated]:

    It will be important for not the countries, but the people who lead those countries, their ambassadors, their leaders, to reflect and to embrace a recognition of indigenous people’s rights. I’m convinced that indigenous peoples are the moral reserve of humanity. So amongst indigenous peoples, there’s not a mentality of being individualist, personalist or egotistical, and therefore there’s not an attitude of trying to take over resources and control them for themselves. How nice it would be if those four countries, or better, for the presidents of those four countries, and along with the social forces, and especially the indigenous peoples, join together to save humanity.

  6. Juan Gonzalez:

    But in practical terms, implementing this in your country is obviously creating many issues. You have thirty-six different nationalities among the native people. And the battle now, the constitutional battle over whether you’re going to have provincial autonomy or autonomy for these indigenous nations, how will that work itself out?

  7. President Evo Morales [translated]:

    First of all, dialogue and concerting, coming together. You’re right, though, when you recognize that there are some small groups in my country that still don’t recognize exclusion and racism as it exists in our country. And that’s why I call on the countries that not only supported this declaration, but also the countries that didn’t support this declaration, to come together and move forward to recognizing indigenous people’s rights, but without excluding anyone.

    My government will guarantee departmental or state-level autonomies, but also local-level autonomies and indigenous people’s autonomies. A lot will depend on the specificities of these different regions. Sometimes there will be regional autonomies and local autonomies; sometimes there will be regional autonomies, as well as indigenous autonomies. And we’ll have to figure out how these different autonomies are going to work together. When we made our initial demands as indigenous, original peoples, there were people who reacted to and rejected our demands. But I want to tell these people now—and some people are originally from a place that dates back to a thousand years, some are much more contemporary, but we all have to learn how to live together.

Evo Morales

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