Bolivian President Evo Morales vowed to continue what he called his ''peaceful, democratic revolution'' and insisted that his job is to take care of the poor.
In a long interview with The Miami Herald published Sunday Morales rejected he has shifted to the left, ''I'm here to resolve problems'' adding that ''those who say I've moved left or I've moved right have it wrong. My job is to take care of the poor.'' One of the poorest countries in South America, Bolivia's economy is highly dependent on mineral exports and President Morales warned that foreign mining companies should expect to begin paying higher taxes. His remarks follow the recent nationalization of a Swiss mining company which caused dismay in Europe. ''We'll respect private investment,'' he said ''but we have private mining companies that don't pay any taxes. They'll have to begin to pay.'' Morales the first Indian elected to Bolivia's presidency, has filled his cabinet and senior posts with fellow Indians, union leaders and independents. Since taking office a year ago he begun expropriating unproductive land from large landowners to distribute among landless peasants and implemented the nationalization of the oil and gas sector plus forcing higher taxes on foreign energy corporations. But President Morales also pointed out to the positive side of his orthodox policies (limiting government spending and building reserves): Bolivia has record foreign reserves of 3 billion US dollars and had a budget surplus in 2006 of 5.9%, the first time since records were kept in 1970. ''We're no longer a beggar nation'' underlined Morales who has a rock solid support of over 50% mainly from the Indian and outcast population that identify him as one of them. The Bolivian president had kind words for Cuba's Fidel Castro. "In all the meetings we've had, he never talks to me about socialism, communism or ideology. He only talks about healthcare, education and natural resources. I'm convinced that Fidel is the No. 1 doctor in the world, the No. 1 humanist in the world", according to The Miami Herald interview. Cuba has sent dozens of doctors to Bolivia to treat people free of charge and flown nearly 70,000 Bolivians to Cuba for eye treatments. Venezuela has also spent millions of dollars in aid in Bolivia and Morales says he shares Chavéz's dreams of a unified South America, ''we have a lot of the same ideas".