Ban Ki Moon’s Naive “Homeland or Death” Salute to Bolivia

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon saluted Boliva's armed forces with the infamous motto “Homeland or Death.”
Was Ban Ki Moon’s “homeland or death” salute just an innocent gesture or something more? (Aporrea)

EspañolOn October 10, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon arrived in Bolivia for the second World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Protection of Life (CMPCC).

Standing alongside Bolivian President Evo Morales, the secretary general saluted the Bolivian armed forces with the chant “homeland or death.” The response from the military was “we shall overcome.”

For many, this motto is harmless or irrelevant. Others, however, remember how Argentinean-Cuban guerrilla leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara used these very words at the UN Assembly during the 1960s. For critics, “homeland or death” is an expression of violent nationalism, and even of oppression against those who dared to resist communist rule.

Is nationalism bad? Is it a hurtful phrase?

Nationalism has led to most of the wars of the world; clear examples were Nazism and fascism. I’m not saying that having love of country is bad. I love Santa Cruz, the place where I was born.

But nationalism can be twisted into various forms, such as discrimination of other cultures and the belief that one race or culture is superior to the other.

The phrase, “homeland or death,” should not even exist, because it implies violence in the way Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Evo Morales intend it. For these men, the motto means “homeland (for those with us) or death (for those against us).”

Furthermore, the motto has a touch of war in its words, because the possible confrontation between two nations results in a constant state of war preparation, which we have seen over the years with acquisitions of military arms.

Ban Ki Moon saluted the Bolivian armed forces with this motto because that’s how President Morales has saluted his troops since 2009, the year his government, at the cost of political protests and the ensuing death of multiple Bolivians, imposed the new Political Constitution of the State.

The new Constitution named the president of the multinational state of Bolivia (Morales) as the commander in chief of the armed forces. Morales then modified the phrase to “pachamama or death,” which is “homeland” in the native tongue of Bolivia’s indigenous peoples.

We see how populism and nationalism expand throughout the world, gaining more and more support, but at the same time, more and more detractors. Yet, the more worrying aspect is that the United Nations — and, in particular, the secretary general — condones these ideas in environments like the Group of 77 (G77) plus China summit, which recently took place in Santa Cruz.

The salute was out of line, and required the military to shamefully respond in kind, according to retired General Eduardo Galindo.

So, was it simply a salute from the secretary general, or a subtle sign of support to Morales’s regime?

I’d like to think that it was an innocent salute, but each year we see Ban Ki Moon and the rest of the United Nations accepting populist and nationalist ideas, while doing nothing about Bolivia’s human-rights violations and attacks against democracy.

Translated by Scott Myers.

Subscribe free to our daily newsletter
Sign up here to get the latest news, updates and special reports delivered directly to your inbox.
You can unsubscribe at any time