Tarija, BOLIVIA - Former President
Interview made by Cyril Bruyelle in February 2017
Wikipedia can tell you more than I know about the exact life of Jaime Paz Zamora, former Bolivian President. What I can tell you is that I met an extraordinary warm and simple person. He welcomed me in his countryside house close to Tajira in the south of Bolivia. We had a great lunch outside, a tour of his gardens full of trees that he brought from his many travels around the world, and of course a quick interview. When he took me to the little chapel aside of the house, my eyes turned to a weird metal object. “It’s a piece of the plane that crashed when I was inside”. All other people present in this plane died that day, except Jaime Paz Zamora. We were amazed by his deep belief in human beings.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
Well, when I was very young, I wanted to be a pilot because I was curious each time a plane was flying over my head. Then, a little bit older, I wanted to become an engineer. And when I was a teenager, due to the strong religious presence at home, I had the idea to become a missionary priest. From that moment, I started to build the life I have lived… My initial desire was to dedicate myself to religion but after a long process, I realized that my vocation was political.
To you, what is the main characteristic that all human beings have in common?
Tenderness. I think that inside, sometimes very deep inside, there is always tenderness.
To you, who’s the happiest person on Earth?
Me! I consider myself as happy. Who else can be a happy person? Hmm… I think that a father is a happy person. Can’t you see that he is happy?
If you were President of the US, what would your first reform be?
I would establish the conditions for a caring leadership in the world. A leadership based on love and understanding. And the United States is able to do that! The US might even be the only country able to do that!
In this context, I think that after the Cold War, the US has lost its moment. I believe that President Clinton has not been able to manage his moment in an adequate manner, because after the tensions of the Cold War, the US being the big winner, Clinton could have established a new international order. A caring international order based on love and understanding. And since that moment, things have been drifting, and we arrive to the most grotesque illustration of that drifting with Trump government. But Trump marks the end. I believe the US will have the opportunity, once again, to build a caring leadership.
What do you need?
Illusion. I need illusion at every level because illusion brings you to hope.
What would you do if we gave you 1 million dollars now?
I would use it to organize a democratic alternative in Bolivia.
Which innovation, realistic or not, would greatly ease your day-to-day life?
A magic innovation that would prevent tiredness and feed optimism. This would truly help me in my daily life.
What’s the news that affects you the most in your country these days?
The news that affect me the most are those related to precariousness.
For example, the precariousness of drivers of vehicles in poor conditions, who are obliged to take very dangerous roads through the hills, as if they were obliged to take the road towards death… The number of accidents due to this precariousness in Bolivia is huge.
It is the same for the hunger and the malnutrition… Yes, precariousness in all of its forms.
If you had to create a company, what would it be?
A company producing a cutting-edge technology, which is, for me, love.
Love will become the cutting-edge technology by the end of our century. People will buy love, people will go to places where they would feel love, solidarity, peace… It will become the most expensive technology.
But what I am telling you is difficult, how to produce love? This is related to what I told you before, we produce love by producing caring, kind or positive behaviors, situations, relations, places… Therefore, I think that the company able to produce love will achieve a great success.
Cyril: The question I have is can we really create love?
I think so.
Cyril: We can probably create conditions for love…
…and therefore, from these conditions, love is produced. Life appears only when all the necessary conditions are met. Today we are looking for new planets where these necessary conditions would be able to meet in order to have life. It is exactly the same for love. But here is the question: which industry, which company will find the way to create the necessary conditions to produce love? This would be a wonderful company.
Can you draw something beautiful?
Mountains, different perspectives, different levels… I don’t want to add the light. Undoubtedly, at the bottom of the mountain, there is water. And if there is water, there is life, and there are happy people in the water. Everything is produced thanks to these mountains! Also, you can deeply feel the sunrise and the sunset…
But the answer I am giving is probably very conditioned by the place where I live.
Can you sing something beautiful?
What could it be? I love singing… I am going to sing a song from here, which is very good although it is a little bit sad and melancholic.
Singing ‘Dos Palomitas’
But you can also sing it faster!
Singing again ‘Dos Palomitas’, but faster
What are you afraid of?
Surprise. Yes, I fear what I don’t know, whatever the circumstances. If I know something, I won’t be afraid, because, in that case, I would immediately know how to react. What I fear is being defenseless. Even more at night at an isolated place. The lack of information produces fear.
Close your eyes, you’re in 2100, what do you see?
I am landing on Mars with the impression that I won’t find any form of life.
What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve seen in your life?
If you had to write a book about the current world, what would be the title?
The best is yet to come.
Who is God for you?
Which of your country's cultural specificities are you the proudest of?
Tenderness. Bolivia is a tender country.
There is a part of the national anthem which is not often sung but which probably is the most representative of what Bolivia is. It says: “This beautiful and innocent land, which has given his name to Bolivar, is the happy homeland where humans can enjoy peace.”[TC3]
And this definition of Bolivia as an innocent country in our anthem is a strong message. Men and women of Bolivia are innocent and tender.
This can also be seen in our language, in the way we use lots of diminutives… We don’t say ‘soldado’, we say ‘soldadito’. We don’t say ‘chico’, we say chiquito. The word mother, ‘mamita’, is sometimes pronounced ‘mamitay’ here.
All these diminutives express tenderness. The sentence is not the same if you say ‘paso por la calle un soldado’ (a soldier walked on the street) or ‘paso por la calle un soldadito’.
If you could do any job regardless of money, what would it be?
What I am doing. Something related to nature, ecology, environment, politics, arts and history.
Do you think your life is easier or more complicated than the life of your parents?
Easier, much easier… Yes, much easier, from all points of view.
If you had to explain our planet to an alien, what would you say?
laughing… I would say to this alien “Do you see this blue planet? Well, there we are living. On this planet, there is more water than land, but there is still a lot of place available for a lot of people.”
And you, which question would you like to ask to the world?
Are you willing to build something better?