Statement by


58 th Session
of the United Nations


New York, September 24, 2002

Mr. Chairman
Heads of State and Government

Permit me Mr. Chairman to congratulate you on your election to preside over the sessions of this General Assembly.

We wish you the greatest success.

At the same time, it is a pleasure to extend my greetings to the Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Anan, whose efforts in favour of peace and cooperation between nations we value very highly. Today, I take this opportunity to express on behalf of the people of Bolivia and my Government, our sorrow and solidarity in the face of the terrorist attack against the Office of the United Nations in Baghdad, that once again demonstrates the intolerance and lack of understanding of a peacekeeping mission, that is the only possible path in search of the solution of conflicts. This attempt strengthens our resolve to fight ceaselessly against terrorism in any of its forms, and at the same time shows us the need to support the joint efforts of the nations of the world with policies debated and approved at the United Nations; inasmuch as this organization and related organisms are a fundamental forum where our voice and that of all countries can be heard. For this reason, we believe that reforms are required to give the Security Council more flexibility and balance to guarantee greater participation in the decision-making process.

The terrible episodes we have witnessed in recent times force us, once again, to reconsider the path many nations have drawn in their vision towards development. It is a dangerous mistake to believe that we can coexist in a world of isolated and closed compartments. It is not possible to generate growth and well-being for a privileged few and expect that the excluded great majority will look on silently and from the fringes of that reality. In our opinion, the only possible path to face the future is the paradigm of equity.

Bolivia has, for over a half century, opened democratic and participative spaces for its people. A nation such as ours, where 62% of its citizens identify themselves as indigenous, must do away with the social, economic and ethnic exclusion that has been a historic millstone that the elite of our country refused to overcome. The process initiated with the Revolution of 1952, which in the mist of successes and set-backs of higher or lower magnitude, has continued to evolve, is part of the challenge we face today. This view is also essential for the defence of human rights of those citizens marginalised throughout the course of our history.

The present administration headed by President Sanchez de Lozada, after one year in office, has to work in a scenario of a pluralistic Congress, with a very significant percentage of indigenous representatives and in the framework of very different ideological positions. We are working to overcome great levels of poverty that are threatening to break down the barriers of order and the population's faith in democracy, achieved with great sacrifice by the people of Bolivia. Our administration has broadened its political base by integrating another political party, "Nueva Fuerza Republicana" into the alliance between the "Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario" and the "Movimiento de la Izquierda Revolucionaria" in an effort to overcome an acute economic crisis, expressed through persistent recession that fortunately is beginning to revert itself. We have implemented a programme that combines efforts to increase the revenues of the State through increase in public investment in order to stimulate the economy and improve private contribution, create jobs and decrease social inequalities. We have given priority to the most vulnerable sectors of our society with measures such as an annual solidarity bonus for all citizens over age 65 and with the consolidation of free medical insurance covering mothers and children less than five years of age. This task is linked to the fulfilment of the objectives for the millennium, a commitment of major importance for the administration and people I represent.

In February of this year and a few days ago, my country lived through a serious situation of violence which forced us to reflect profoundly. We are aware that the last twenty-one years of democracy are at stake in the face of legitimate pressure exercised by the marginalised sectors of our society, who deserve our attention. Unfortunately, in spite of the new democratic congressional participation we have not been able to sustain a real and enriching dialogue regarding our deepest problems. I am fully convinced that one of our principal tasks is to generate a fundamental change in the behaviour of political parties, and in every politician, but a less radical and more rational attitude of the social sectors in their relationship with the State is also indispensable. We are going through very difficult times where compliance with the law and respect to the authorities of the State threaten to collapse. The loss of trust in these essential elements of democracy is one of the major dangers for a society that will only achieve its goals if it has a credible and legitimate administration that can wield its authority. We are assuming our responsibility in this area, only then will we be able to recognise and respect our differences of opinion, be tolerant and respectful of each other. Our aim is the urgent search for a true national encounter through national dialogue, an issue we are deeply committed to in spite of the many difficulties that must be overcome.

In this same forum, a year ago I said our Government would make the fight against corruption a State policy. Today I am proud to say that we have fulfilled this commitment, we have created a Secretariat for the Fight against Corruption, whose tasks are carried out from within the very core of the State, with great participation from all levels of society, through citizen networks and mobile brigades. During this year we have made public cases of corruption involving State authorities, (!) several corrupt civil servants have been given prison sentences and many others are currently on trial for illicit acts. Furthermore, we have improved the programmes for a better management of public entities and we are promoting the reform of the judiciary, strengthening a culture where the rule of law prevails providing justice for all, and we are also promoting a strategy that will transform political and productive institutions, especially those of the informal sector, and promoting governance that is compatible with fair human development opportunities.

Our commitment to fight illicit drug traffic remains unchanged. For our country this task has meant high social, political and economic costs, paid for with the blood of the Bolivian people. The support of the international community in this fight has been an incentive and a security factor. However, our efforts require further support, one that is proportional to the scope of its effect, in Bolivia as well as in those societies where drug consumption remains as a priority problem still to be solved. We shall continue to honour our commitments, but we shall also continue insisting that the international community must fully assume the concept of shared responsibility.

For Bolivia international assistance represents an invaluable support. From this podium I wish to thank the nations and organisations who provide their cooperation, but I emphasize the fact that the most effective international assistance is that which respects the decisions and plans of those countries that receive it. To impose rigid and unilateral prescriptions often generates more problems than it solves.

Our continent, Latin America, has seen its role in the international concert diminished. The continent faces several core problems, one of which is its own democracy under siege by poverty, corruption, inequality and a globalisation process of which it is part, but has not necessarily always generated positive results for the area. Integration is the only possible solution to face the future with optimism. Bolivia is working diligently in this direction, not only because it is a part of sub-regional blocks, such as the Andean Community and Mercosur, as an associate member, but also because it promotes the integration of both regional groups into one South American body that will provide greater benefits and influence in the region. As hosts for the Thirteenth Iberoamerican Summit of Nations, Bolivia is working for the real strengthening of this mechanism that gathers the Heads of State and Government of a group of countries whose cultural, political and economic importance is continuously growing.

In this context, the decisions that will be made to establish the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas must seek a still uncertain balance for the group of member countries, taking into account the enormous distance between the first power in the world and the poorest nations of the continent in a way that will truly benefit everybody. This will be possible if and when, aside of trade issues, we place priorities on road infrastructure, communications, science, the transfer of technology and education.

The difficulties emerging from the worldwide debate on international trade are once again proof of the gap that exists between rich and poor nations. If equity is the major demand of mankind, the only true and effective reply to achieve it is a fair trade agreement. Poor countries demand access for our products to wealthy countries under fair conditions. This urgent claim refers to a sustained policy of subsidies and protectionism to key production sectors on the part of the most developed nations. Herein lies one of the basic causes of poverty and social tensions in the least favoured societies.

The issue of anti-personal mines is a very sensitive one for Bolivia, not only due to mere principles inasmuch as these lethal artefacts continue ending or irreversibly damaging human lives all over the world, but also because such mines have been planted along our borders. We vehemently request the governments responsible for planting these mines to continue their destruction and prompt removal until the areas involved are totally free of mines.

Today, more than ever, I wish to confirm before this Assembly that Bolivia will never waive its just vindication for sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean, inasmuch as we were established as an independent Republic with a sea coast. This demand that is over a century old is not a product of stubbornness or caprice, but due to the lack of economic resources and huge geographic obstacles that undermine our ability to compete. Our landlocked condition is a deterrent to our growth and the well-being of our citizens, as proven by the analysis of the challenges faced by all landlocked countries. Reintegration of our condition as a maritime nation is a matter of justice and we cannot set it aside, therefore, we will continue to demand solidarity and support from the community of nations. Our vocation and our destiny to be integrated and economically complemented with our neighbours compels us to exhort the Government and the people of Chile to act with a view to the future and repair a historical damage which has anchored Bolivia to the past century.

We are living through difficult times, complex and full of uncertainty. It is our obligation to come to a standstill and to question ourselves regarding the validity of many of the premises in which we believed. No one question, no form of questioning are superfluous at a time such as this in which the search for a clearer and fair horizon is a life or death necessity for our planet.

Thank you.