BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Bolivia’s president-elect gave a glimpse of his early life as an Indian migrant worker’s son on Sunday – frustrating days in a rural Argentine school where he could barely understand lessons in a foreign tongue, Spanish.
In an interview published Sunday in Buenos Aires newspaper Pagina 12, Morales also repeated statements made earlier last week that he was willing to have a dialogue with the United States despite past ill will.
“When I was 4 or 5, my father took me to the sugar fields in Argentina,” Pagina 12 quoted Morales as saying.
“I first attended school on the Galilea cane plantation in (the state of) Jujuy, but since I was a quiet Aymara (Indian) who understood almost no Spanish, I just sat and watched, and finally I had to abandon my studies.
“My first work was selling picole,” or frozen treats, Morales recalled, “and with that I earned a little money to help my family.
Fresh off a 10-day tour to meet world leaders on four continents, the president-elect made his comments ahead of a trip to the Argentine capital today to meet with President Néstor Kirchner.
Morales also said he was willing to forgive past disagreements with the United States, repeating comments he made during his trip.
U.S. officials have said they hope to work with Morales, though in the past, they had expressed wariness of Morales’ pro-coca policies and his friendship with leftist leaders like Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro.
“I have heard statements from the (U.S.) Department of State saying Evo was a coca criminal, a drug trafficker, that he received money from the FARC (Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia), and other false accusations,” Morales said.
“But if the White House now asks for dialogue, the resentment is gone and we can turn the page.”
Morales also said his Movement Toward Socialism party was planning three separate inaugural events: an official ceremony before Congress Jan. 22, plus a traditional Indian religious ritual and another celebration with the Bolivian people.
A week before he assumes power, Morales is basking in the glow of even greater popularity than he enjoyed last month, when he won election in convincing fashion.
In an opinion poll published Sunday, some 65 percent of respondents surveyed said they support Morales’ future government. AP