Cocalero is a documentary film following Evo Morales and other members of the MAS party during the 2006 presidential elections in Bolivia. Morales became the first indigenous president in the Bolivian history. This film contrasts starkly with the previous film, Our Brand is Crisis which followed the 2002 elections in Bolivia. Morales’ approach is much more grass roots and appeared to have limited funding considering the MAS party was created out of a coca farmer’s union. His on the ground approach to campaigning most certainly led to his victory. The MAS struggle in Bolivia is in line with the many other indigenous groups found throughout Latin America.
The primary struggle which Morales and the coca growers union are engaged in revolves first and foremost around the coca eradication plan backed by the United States. One section of the film is dedicated to a look at the 1990 “attack” on the coca growers in El Chapare, where the crops were destroyed. The farmers reacted by blocking streets and marching to defend their right to grow coca as they had for many generations. This led to the indigenous group’s entrance into politics during the mid-nineties. A speech Morales gives in the documentary also explains how they have expanded from protecting coca to all natural resources, especially from privatization. In this, Morales expands his group of followers beyond indigenous people, as is evident through the scenes in Santa Cruz. The actions of the coca growers union can be paralleled with those of the CONAIE in Ecuador. They also utilized road blocks and marches to gain audience with the political leaders of the time (Field, 39). Just as Morales expanded his struggle beyond coca, so did CONAIE by expanding to include all of Ecuadorian society (Field, 44).
Morales and his followers were forced into action by “outsiders” moving into and destroying historically indigenous land. The 1990 “attack” was the catalyst for action and the creation of MAS. The OPIP encountered a similar issue. The historically indigenous land in this case is the Amazon. The government took over rainforest to clear cut for farming and pasture. The OPIP fought to reacquire their land from the government citing the right as indigenous populations to the land (Sawyer, 75).
Race certainly has a role in this situation also. As Morales is leaving Santa Cruz, he is verbally attacked by citizens in the airport. This clearly shows that the more white populations of Bolivia do not view the indigenous people as equal. Although he has clear opposition in Santa Cruz, it is interesting to see that he also has supporters.
The contrast between Morales and de Lozada is very interesting. The two presidents took very different paths in obtaining the office. Though de Lozada acquired had the financial and political backing of a larger party, his win was by a narrow margin and his term was very short, due in part to Morales and his followers. Morales managed to win a majority of the voting population’s favor in 2006 and has held the office to date. This speaks to the advances indigenous people have made in Bolivia.