Mitch Fox/The Hoya Facing economic and political reform, Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada emphasized the need for cooperation between his nation and the United States during a speech Monday in Gaston Hall.

Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada addressed nearly 500 students and faculty in Gaston Hall Monday evening on overcoming Bolivia’s four-year economic recession and maintaining a stable democratic government.

Sanchez de Lozada was raised and educated in the United States after a military dictatorship exiled his father, who was a Bolivian diplomat in Washington, D.C. He began his second term in office in August following a presidential race in which none of the candidates won a majority, forcing Congress to select the country’s leader. The former mine-owner served as President from 1993-97 and had previously served as Finance Minister throughout the 1980s.

“At this point in time as far as Bolivia is concerned, I’m very optimistic,” he said. “You can’t be a president of Bolivia without being optimistic.”

Sanchez de Lozada received only 22 percent of the vote, leading right-wing populist Manfred Reyes Villa and left-wing populist Evo orales, an Andean Indian. Morales had previously led violent demonstrations against U.S.-sponsored coca eradication programs.

“I’m optimistic because the opposition is in Congress and it is not in the hills. You have to find a way the system can meet the needs of all members of society,” Sanchez de Lozada said. “When the election was over, we faced two grave crises,” he said. “One crisis was the crisis of governability . In our country we have very proportional participation in elections and we are very diverse ideologically, regionally and ethnically. The big challenge is to have governability.”

Sanchez de Lozada emphasized the importance of building a consensus in Bolivia to ensure that democratic institutions remain in place. “Our two parties recognize that there was a last chance for traditional parties, for a system of politics that has been very questioned by a neo-populist radical movements that are on the way,” he said.

“I now have to go out and talk with these new forces and help them identify with where we are at and our positions and questioning the existence of the country and democracy, and obviously the presence of the United States on the world scene,” he said.

Sanchez de Lozada is widely known for the economic policies he implemented throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including the “shock therapy” used on hyperinflation in 1985, where inflation increased by one percent every 10 minutes in addition to numerous free market reforms.

“The second crisis that we face is how we are going to get away from economic catastrophe,” he said. “[I]n the four years of recession, … unemployment … has tripled. Fifty percent of the unemployed are finding ways to survive outside of the legalized or formal economy. So it is not a good time to be president of Bolivia, but it’s a great challenge and a good job.”

In addition to restoring economic stability and creating jobs, Sanchez de Lozada said he aims to reduce corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency. “The system is corrupt and it really makes people indignant that the power is accompanied by those who become more wealthy at the same time that others become poorer,” he said.

Sanchez de Lozada stressed the importance of social inclusion, noting that nearly 50 percent of the rural population does not have an identification card necessary to vote. He said, “Once you can get people to vote, you listen to them very easily, which is what is happening today in more rural areas.”

Sanchez de Lozada visited Washington this week to attend meetings with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and President George W. Bush. His speech emphasized his request for economic aid from the U.S.

“In a recession you have to recover confidence. You have to remember the famous phrase of the doctor’s oath, `First do no harm.’ You need to … assure people you will not do precipitous things that will put in jeopardy their savings or the stability of the country,” he said. “We’re working very hard to do that, and although God helps those who helps themselves, it’s a good idea if God can be helped by the American government. While we’re making our best efforts to succeed, it’s always better to prevent that to lament.”

The Bolivian president warned against complacency in allowing the Colombian cartel to operate from the Yungas, the coca-growing region of Bolivia. “There are on the horizon some very important things,” he said. “We cannot run the risk of having drug-financed guerrillas operating in our country. Bolivia is too weak to sustain infighting.”

Sanchez de Lozada remained hopeful for the future of Bolivia. “As far as I can see, the challenge of the future is to be a productive society,” he said. “You need to have a [society] that permits people to operate and achieve the great paradigm of democracy, which is change with order and order with change.”

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