January 11, 2006

Bolivia’s Morales forgives US for “humiliations”

PRETORIA (Reuters) - Bolivia's President-elect Evo Morales
forgave the United States for past humiliations on Wednesday
and welcomed dialogue with Washington, which has criticized him
for rejecting U.S. anti-drug policies.

Morales, a former coca leaf farmer, told reporters during a
two-day trip to South Africa he hoped dialogue with the United
States would lead to peace and social justice.

"I want to say here from South Africa to the state
department of the U.S. ... any dialogue that is oriented to put
an end to discrimination and poverty is welcome," he told
reporters through an interpreter after meeting South African
President Thabo Mbeki in Pretoria.

"I also forgive those in the White House for so many
humiliations," said Morales according to Reuters TV footage.

The top U.S. policymaker for Latin America said on Tuesday
he would seek dialogue with Morales.

Thomas Shannon, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for
Western Hemisphere affairs, said he hoped U.S. officials would
sit down with Morales after his January 22 inauguration and
discuss issues such as a coca eradication programme, which the
Bolivian leader opposes.

Morales was elected in December as the first Indian
president of South America's poorest nation on a socialist
platform that comes amid rising opposition in Latin America to
the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush.

Washington has criticized Morales for pledging to reverse a
U.S.-funded plan to stamp out coca, the plant used to make

Morales has raised eyebrows with his informal dress during
a debut world tour that has included Venezuela, Cuba, France
and China. In Pretoria he wore casual slacks and a sweater.

He drew parallels between South Africa and Bolivia, which
he said were both fighting to reverse discrimination, and said
he hoped to learn from the governments of former President
Nelson Mandela and his successor Mbeki.