Saturday, June 18, 2011

How come some people become leaders of a country?

How can some people become leaders of a country?

All primates, including humans, live in groups and those groups are organized in terms of dominance hierarchies. However, humans have evolved beyond the simple hierarchical groups that characterize, for example ants, lions or our closest relatives, chimpanzees.

As humans, we have been able to develop formal social organizations that have allowed us to accomplish sophisticated goals, such as landing on the moon, building incredible structures, curing most of our diseases or at least getting closer to finding the cure.

And yet, we often allow men and women, mostly men I should say, to reach power and permit them to destroy what we have built with so much effort.

I got the idea of writing this article when I read some excerpts of a book recently published in La Paz, Bolivia titled:” Evadas: cien frases de Juan Evo Morales Ayma para la historia” which translates, I think, to “Evanisms: one hundred phrases from Evo Morales Ayma for history” by a journalist Alfredo Rodriguez.

Let me tell you some of the phrases that are attributed to the President of Bolivia. Before, I should note that President Morales has ten honorary Doctorates from universities all over the world.

For example, he said that the chicken that we eat is full of feminine hormones which means that men that eat it them will have sexual deviations such as homosexuality.

He also said “ something very interesting about baldness and I ask forgiveness from our European brothers, since baldness is a sickness in Europe where almost everyone is bald and that is because of what they eat while in indigenous populations there are is no baldness, because we don’t eat what they eat. Look at my hair just in case”. Yes, we must admit that President Morales does have lots of hair. He thinks it is his diet, not his DNA.

Another interesting one:

“When our bathrooms get clogged, what do we do? We call the plumber. Yet, the plumber with all his tools can’t fix it and yet he says” give me five or eight Bolivians” (Bolivia is the only country where the currency is named just like its citizens), for what? To go and buy Coca Cola and he then pours that Coke inside the toilet and a few minutes later it unclogs it. Imagine the chemicals that Coke has?”

Speaking about other Presidents he said “Alan Garcia’s (President of Peru) lack of popularity made him sue Chile. Maybe being so fat is affecting his brain and besides he is not well informed”.

“Fidel Castro is not sick. He is in a state of repair and he will live 80 more years”. Yeah, right!

“Our grandparents historically fought against all empires: The English empire, the Roman Empire, against all empires and now we have to fight against the North American empire”

“In countries such as Puerto Rico and Cuba, the Indians preferred to self- kill themselves (auto suicidarse) so as not to become slaves to the Spaniards”

Now look at what the President of Bolivia said about politics and law:

“Above the judicial is the political. When a jurist says to me: Evo, you are wrong from a judicial standpoint, what you are doing is illegal, well, I will do it even if it is illegal. Then I tell lawyers, well, if it is illegal, you guys make it legal. What did you go to school for?”

“To be subjected to laws hurts us. Even if they say my decrees are unconstitutional, my actions are unconstitutional, it doesn’t matter. We don’t have to continue waiting for laws, we have to keep working with political decisions and if our supreme decrees are challenged, the people will be the ones that will judge.”

And regarding Ecology and the future of Bolivia he said: “In this millennium it is more important to defend the rights of mother earth than to defend human rights. We will be better off than Switzerland in ten or twenty years.”

The obvious question is how can someone like Mr. Morales be elected to be the President of a country?

I have been to La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz and I have met brilliant Bolivians who could easily lead Bolivia into a bright and prosperous future. And yet, someone that is obviously not qualified to be President was elected President of Bolivia on December 18, 2005 with 53.7% of the popular vote. Two and a half years later he substantially increased this majority; in a recall referendum on August 14, 2008, more than two thirds of voters voted to keep him in office. He again won presidential elections in December 2009 by 63% and is now serving his second term of presidency.

I have always heard a popular phrase that says, “Every country has the leader it deserves”. I fight against believing that, but sometimes it sure looks like it.

When leaders are judged, four themes regularly come up. In order of importance they are:

Integrity, decisiveness, competence and vision.

I only have space to discuss integrity.

The first and most important theme concerns credibility as a leader, and this mainly depends on perceived integrity—keeping one’s word, fulfilling one’s promises, not playing favorites, not taking advantage of one’s position and not claiming special privileges.

The first question asked of potential leaders is can they be trusted not to abuse the privilege of authority?

Look at different countries in Latin America and other regions of the world. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to guess in which Presidents I am thinking now, but I don’t see a need to mention them in this article.

How in the world can citizens of some of these countries allow for someone to be elected democratically and then little by little dismantle the democratic system?

I guess that only a great effort by the educated members of society can save the future of many of these countries under these types of leaders. Otherwise they will be left behind in this rapidly evolving world.

In the meantime, let’s see if Bolivia will be better off than Switzerland in ten years. What would be your bet?