Bolivia’s far-left leader Evo Morales lectured the United Nations General Assembly on the evils of capitalism on Tuesday, blaming an unspecified “global oligarchy” for the majority of the world’s ills.
The socialist strongman, who took power in 2006 and remains one of the region’s longest-lasting left-wing governments, argued that the world’s financial system “remains undemocratic, unequal, and unstable, all while supporting tax havens and banking cartels that force smaller countries to accept punitive measures to maintain their existence.”
“It fills us with sadness that these social inequalities still exist,” he said. “According to data from Oxfam, 1.3 billion people live in poverty, while one percent of the richest hold 82 percent of the world’s wealth.”
Morales went on to blame the capitalist system on the “global oligarchy,” in which a “handful of millionaires are defining the economic and political destiny of humanity.”
“That 26 people have the same wealth as 3.8 billion people is unfair, immoral, and unacceptable,” he declared. “The core issue lies within the model of production and consumerism, the private ownership of natural resources and in the unequal distribution of wealth. I say this with absolute clarity: the core of the issue is capitalism.”
Morales also addressed ongoing concerns over the Amazon rainforest, with both he and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro facing intense scrutiny for their responses to a spate of recent wildfires.
“Our house, mother Earth, is our only home, and it is irreplaceable,” he said. “In recent weeks we have seen focal points for heat [in the Amazon rainforest] … We are fighting these fires using our financial resources. To date, our country has spent over 15 million dollars in order to put out the fires.”
The 59-year-old strongman, who rose to power with the support of many of Bolivia’s indigenous peoples, has in recent years taken various steps to consolidate his power and turn the country into a socialist state.
Some of his measures include the scrapping of term limits, reforms to the judicial system, the imprisonment of political opponents, and the realignment of the country’s foreign policy towards closer relationships with Latin American leftist regimes such as Cuba and Venezuela, as well as authoritarian regimes further afield such as Iran, China, and Syria.
“The administration of President Evo Morales has created a hostile environment for human rights defenders that undermines their ability to work independently,” notes the human rights campaign group Human Rights Watch. “A judicial reform that began in 2016 risks seriously weakening the rule of law in the country.”
“Extensive and arbitrary use of pretrial detention—and long trial delays—undermine defendants’ rights and contribute to prison overcrowding,” adds the organization. “Impunity for past human rights abuses, violence against women, and child labor are other major concerns.”