Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales met with two of South Africa's Nobel laureates Thursday and toured the notorious island prison of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, declaring that indigenous South Americans had much to learn from the liberation struggle of black Africans. On a visit heavy in symbolism at the end of a three-day trip, the revolutionary-minded Morales stood in the stark cell where Mandela spent 14 of his 27 years imprisonment and listened to tales of hardship recounted by former inmates of Robben Island.
"With deep admiration for the struggle of the South African people, especially of the black population for its liberation, the Bolivian people, in particular the indigenous movement, express the respect deserved for the resistance against oppression," Morales wrote in Spanish in the guest book at the end of his 45-minute visit to the wind-swept isle off the coast of Cape Town. He said the tour of the prison, now a museum, left him feeling both depressed by the injustices suffered and impressed by the commitment to freedom.
He described the trip to South Africa as "the most important one of my life." "It was a meeting of the struggle of two people, of two continents, and a symbol of the courage of the rebellion against discrimination, inequality and against oppression," he said in an interview on the ferry journey from Robben Island. "Together we look for peace with social justice. I am much more convinced after seeing the struggle of the South African people, our black brothers, in the power of the people," Morales said through an interpreter.
After meeting former President F.W. De Klerk and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, he said Bolivia should learn from South Africa's process of reconciliation after the racial oppression of the apartheid era, although he stressed the enormity of the problems in overcoming the legacy of "500 years of colonialism and oppression."
"The indigenous people of the Americas, especially Bolivia, do not look for revenge," he told journalists after meeting Tutu. "If we won the elections democratically after 500 years, it's not to look for revenge." Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his anti-apartheid leadership, declared himself impressed by the "remarkable humility and warmth" of Morales, reports the AP. N.U.