By Melvyn Kohn
April 20, 2010
A little known Latin American country is makings lots of news but we do not hear of it. Expect to soon though, as it is hosting an international summit for Earth Day and James Cameron is already there, in Cochabamba, the birthplace of that famous maths teacher, Jaime Escalante - known as the best teacher America ever had. His epic battle to improve education for inner city youths is documented in the film "Stand and Deliver". He used to wear a poncho in the classroom to express his solidarity with his homeland.
However, another son of the land has harsh words for Bolivia, and for the indigenous people in particular: Jose Brechner, a former politician. Did not Shakespeare say that hell hath no fury like a politician scorned? Maybe not, but he could have. This guy's rants about the Indians in Bolivia sound like they are right out of Mein Kampf...maybe I was thinking of that as today is Hitler's birthday...and he would be right alongside Herr Brechner with his opinions. But, ironically, Brechner is the son of Shoah survivor. He ought to know better, but politics can warp the mind, as birthday boy can attest. Sometimes innocent people suffer for these rants, and Brechner, who it turns out writes for Ha'aretz, needs to be reminded of this.
Back to Bolivia and their progress - they now have the highest GDP growth rate for the region and the World Bank has had to admit they are on the right track. Now led by one of the indigenous Indians, an Aymara named Evo Morales, they are making great strides. He reminds me of Ben Gurion, who had to make a coalition government if Israel was to last a day. Ben Gurion also had to kick out extremists, some of whom thought it was their right to kill those who did not agree with them. Similar people in Bolivia were out to put these tactics into practice with Senor Morales, but they got caught in April last year, about which I wrote on David Toube's site, www.hurryupharry.org on 20 May, 2009: "Spies, Lies and Journalists: 007 and a failed coup in Bolivia" - http://hurryupharry.org/2009/05/20/spies-lies-and-journalists-007-and-a-...
Glad the Aymara survived his would-be assassins. One notes, however, that Israel and Bolivia severed diplomatic relations in 2008 over what Morales perceives to be the plight of the Palestinians; that broiges is sad, but let it be noted there is no strain of anti-Semitism here, it is just a feeling on his part towards perceived injustice, and I hope that relations in the future will be patched up. Looks that way as many a former IDF soldier chooses to spend their days after the army backpacking this Andean nation; with 1450 species of birds to look at, 1200+ species of orchids, bromeliads, mountains, colonial architecture, waterfalls, golfing, fishing, you-name-it, they are smart to choose Bolivia as a destination and forget politics for the moment.
Some of our tribe in New York chose to be on board of the newly founded Amigos de Bolivia, which is looking to promote the country to the public with events in New York. Some of them have been attending lectures on Bolivia at NYU, which happens to be Brechner's alma mater. No one there seems to have heard of him, and I doubt if the NYU folks want such a racist on their campus stirring up hatred as Hitler did in his day...instead, expect to hear more of the culture, languages (Spanish is the official one now, but they are making Aymara, Guarani and Quechua official languages in the future), and beautiful scenery of this country.
For more on this nation, check out Carlos Reyes' site www.cuentasdebolivia.blogspot.com
And for your next holiday, you know where to go. You may run into some famous filmmakers and/or young people speaking Hebrew.