Evo Morales

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Juan Evo Morales Ayma
Evo Morales

Assumed office 
January 22, 2006
Vice President(s)   Álvaro García Linera
Preceded by Eduardo Rodríguez

Born October 26, 1959 (age 47)
Isallavi, Orinoca, Oruro
Political party Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS)
Spouse single

Juan Evo Morales Ayma (born October 26, 1959 in Orinoca, Oruro), popularly known as Evo (IPA: [ˈeβ̞o]), is the President of Bolivia, and the country's first indigenous head of state since the Spanish Conquest over 470 years ago.

Morales is the leader of Bolivia's cocalero movement – a loose federation of coca leaf-growing campesinos who are resisting the efforts of the United States government to eradicate coca in the province of Chapare in southeastern Bolivia. Morales is also leader of the Movement for Socialism political party (Movimiento al Socialismo, with the Spanish acronym MAS, meaning "more"), which was involved in the recent Gas Wars, along with many other groups, commonly referred to as 'social movements'.


[edit] Background

Morales was born in the highlands of Orinco; he is of indigenous Bolivian (Aymara) descent. He was one of seven children born to Dionisio Morales Choque and Maria Mamani (of which only three survived into adulthood).[1] He grew up in an adobe house with a straw roof that was "no more than three by four meters."[1] At age six he traveled with his father to Argentina to work in the sugar cane harvest.[1] His parents worshipped the Aymaran earth goddess Pachamama, often with offerings of coca leaves and alcohol.[1] At the age of 12 he accompanied his father in herding llamas from Oruru to the province of Independencia de Cochabamba.[1] At 14 Morales showed his organizational skills by forming a soccer team with other youths and continued to work with llamas to pay the bills.[2]

At the age of 16, the three ayllus (network of families) within the community elected him Technical Director of the whole canton.[2] That same year, in order to attend high school, he moved to Oruro. There he worked as a bricklayer, a baker, and a trumpet player for the Royal Imperial Band (which allowed him to travel across Bolivia).[2][3][4] Because of a lack of money, he dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and fulfilled his mandatory military service at La Paz.[2][5]

[edit] Farming in the lowlands

In 1980, while Morales was in his 20s, the effects of El Niño caused a decline of 70% of the agriculture and killed 50% of the animals in his home region. Evo joined the Morales family when they left Orinoca to participate in the colonization of the tropics of Cochabamba in the eastern Bolivian lowlands.[2][4] Working on his family's land he grew crops of oranges, grapefruit, papaya, bananas, and coca.[6] Morales soon joined a union of coca growers. By 1981 he became motivated to defend his fellow coca farmers on learning that one of them had been beaten, covered in gasoline, and burnt alive by drunken soldiers of the government of Luis García Meza Tejada who were torturing him to confess to drug trafficking.[6] While in 1981 he was made the head of his local soccer organization, he had to give this up with the death of his father in 1983 as the farm demanded all of his time.[6]

[edit] Union activity

By 1985 Morales was elected general secretary in his union of coca farmers and by 1988 was elected executive secretary of the Tropics Federation.[6] Around this time the Bolivian government encouraged by the USA began a program to eradicate most coca production (see below). By 1996 Morales was made president of the Coordinating Committee of the Six Federations of the Tropics of Cochabamba.[6] Evo was among those opposing the governments position on coca and lobbied for a different policy. This opposition often resulted in him being jailed and in an incident in 1989, beaten near to death by UMOPAR forces (who assuming he had been slain dumped his unconscious body in the bushes where it was discovered by his supporters).[6]

Morales soon lead a 600 kilometer march from Cochabamba to the capital of La Paz. While they were often attacked by law enforcement, they managed to proceed by sneaking around their control posts.[6] They were often greeted by supporters who gave the marchers drink, food, clothes and shoes. They were greeted with cheers by the citizens of La Paz and the government was forced to negotiate an accord with them.[6] After the marchers returned the government reneged on the deal and sent forces to harass them.[6] Morales claims that during this time in 1997 a United States Drug Enforcement Agency helicopter strafed farmers with automatic rifle fire killing five of his supporters.[6] He was grazed by assassins bullets in Villa Tunari in 2000.[6] His actions gained international attention and he was nominated as a 'Drugs Pacifist' for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 and 1996 by an international coalition against the “War on Drugs”.[6] Morales then found an audience in Europe for his positions and traveled there to gain support and to educate people on the differences between coca leaves and cocaine.[6] In a speech on this issue, he told reporters “I am not a drug trafficker. I am a coca grower. I cultivate coca leaf, which is a natural product. I do not refine (it into) cocaine, and neither cocaine nor drugs have ever been part of the Andean culture.”[3]

[edit] 1995 election, formation of MAS

On March 27th, 1995, Morales was among a united organization of farmers, colonizers and indigenous people who founded the Assembly for the Sovereignty of the Common People (ASP) and the Political Tool for the Sovereignty of the Common People (IPSP).[7] Morales and others decided to run for political office in Bolivia under this party. Since the National Electoral Court did not recognize the new organization they were forced to run under the banner of the United Left (IU), “a coalition of leftist parties that was headed by the Communist Party of Bolivia (PCB).”[7] On June 1st, 1997, Morales (who carried 70% of the votes) was one of four IU candidates that won a seat in Parliament. The area he represented included the provinces of Chapare and Carrasco and Morales received the most votes of any candidate in Bolivia.[7] Facing continual legal problems because the Bolivian Supreme Court continued to refuse to recognize IPSP,[5] for the local elections of December 5th, 1999 Morales came to an agreement with the leader of MAS-U, David Añez Pedraza, to assume the acronym, name and colors of that inactive organization. So the IPSP became the Movimiento al Socialismo or Movement Towards Socialism (MAS).[7]

The MAS is described as "an indigenous-based political party that calls for the nationalization of industry, legalization of the coca leaf...and fairer distribution of national resources."[8] The party's main influence is "Trotskyism in the only country in Latin America in which this variant of Marxism was dominant".[8]

[edit] Water Wars in 2000

In 2000 when the Bolivian government of Hugo Banzer under pressure by the World Bank moved to privatize public water systems, mass protests over a price increase erupted. Violent clashes led to mass arrest, injuries, and deaths. Congressman Morales became a leading figure of the opposition demanding Banzer resign and coca growers be given a right to grow for legitimate uses.

For more details on this topic, see Bolivian Water Wars of 2000.

[edit] Expulsion from Parliament

While Morales was a Member of Parliament the governments of Hugo Banzer and Jorge Quiroga, broadened the eradication campaign, through Plan Dignidad (see below). The coca producing region of Chapare which Morales represented was beset with hundreds of police and military officers who were seen as “committing an innumerable amount of abuses and assassinations which violated the most basic human rights and liberties.”[7] Morales denounced the militarization and said that the government was committing a massacre in the Chapare, he declared that the peasants had a right to resist militarily against the troops who were said to be shooting at protesters.[7] Then three police officers were slain when they attempted to close a coca market.[5] In light of Morales' comments about armed resistance on January 24, 2002 a 104 member majority of the Parliament voted him expelled from the Legislature. The Parliamentary Ethics Commission declared that Morales had committed “serious inadequacies in the execution of his duties.”[7] With his popularity rising for standing up to an unpopular government, on March 5, 2002, he submitted an objection to the Constitutional Tribune saying his rights had been violated. He said his right to defend himself, to the presumption of innocence, and to parliamentary immunity had all been unjustly ignored.[7]

In an interview in November 2002 with the Ecologist, Morales spoke about the expulsion saying “I was the congressman with the highest proportion of votes for his area and ‘obeying an order from the US’ they voted to expel me from congress. It is only recently that the constitutional court finally declared the whole farce illegal, and now they are having to pay compensation for what they did.”[5]

[edit] The 2002 elections

Evo Morales with French union leader José Bové, in 2002.
Evo Morales with French union leader José Bové, in 2002.

The same day he petitioned the Constitutional Tribune, Morales resigned from the Confederation of Coca Producers of Cochabamba and was endorsed by the Six Federations of the Tropics as the MAS 2002 presidential candidate.[7] The supportive crowd cheered him on saying “Kausachum coca!” (Long live coca!) and “Huaiñuchum yanquis!” (Down with Yankees!), they also “hoisted the wipala, the multi-colored checkered flag that is the emblem of the Andean cultures, along with the standard tri-colored Bolivian flag.”[7]

In the 2002 presidential election, Morales came in second place, a surprising upset for Bolivia's traditional parties. This made the indigenous activist an instant celebrity throughout the continent. Morales credited his near victory in part to comments made by then U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia Manuel Rocha, who warned, "As a representative of the United States, I want to remind the Bolivian electorate that if you elect those who want Bolivia to become a major cocaine exporter again, this will endanger the future of U.S. assistance to Bolivia."[9] Morales said that these remarks helped to "awaken the conscience of the people."

[edit] The 2005 elections

As a result of growing discontent and popular unrest, and the resignation under pressure of President Carlos Mesa Gisbert, Congress and President Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé decided to move up the 2007 elections to December 2005. Both popular uprisings had Morales' leadership as a key factor. At a gathering of farmers celebrating the 10th anniversary of the founding of MAS in March 2005, Morales declared, "MAS is ready to rule Bolivia", having "consolidated its position as the [prime] political force in the country". He also said, "the problem is not winning the elections anymore but knowing how to rule the country."[10]

 Schafik Hándal, Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro and Evo Morales in Havana, 2004.
Schafik Hándal, Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro and Evo Morales in Havana, 2004.

Preliminary polls placed Morales and the Movement Toward Socialism in an uncomfortable three-way tie with center and right wing forces and urban majority leaders Jorge Quiroga, from the party Social and Democratic Power (PODEMOS), and Samuel Doria Medina, with only a few points' difference. By August 21, Morales had chosen his running mate for the presidential elections, left-wing ideologist, sociologist, mathematician, and political analyst Alvaro García Linera, who fought alongside of Felipe Quispe as part of the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army (EGTK).

By December 4, Morales had moved ahead in the polls to around 32% of the vote. Quiroga hovered around 27% with Samuel Doria Medina coming in at less than 15%. All of the parties promised national solidarity, nationalization (in some form) of the hydrocarbons, and wealth for the people.

On December 14, the Wall Street Journal reported, "Most polls give the 46-year-old Mr. Morales a lead of about 34% to 29% over his nearest rival, conservative former President Jorge Quiroga." Over 100,000 election judges were sworn in as the country prepared for the elections on December 18.

Exit polls were published almost as soon as voting closed, with Morales expected to win 42-45% of the vote and Qurioga 33-37%. Quiroga conceded defeat within a few hours.

By December 22, the official count was at 53.899% of the vote, with 98.697% of the ballots tallied, and no congressional vote was necessary to determine the winner.

[edit] Domestic Policy

[edit] Politics

Morales has articulated the driving force behind MAS in the following terms:

The worst enemy of humanity is U.S. capitalism. That is what provokes uprisings like our own, a rebellion against a system, against a neoliberal model, which is the representation of a savage capitalism. If the entire world doesn't acknowledge this reality, that the national states are not providing even minimally for health, education and nourishment, then each day the most fundamental human rights are being violated.

He has also stated:

… the ideological principles of the organization, anti-imperialist and contrary to neoliberalism, are clear and firm but its members have yet to turn them into a programmatic reality.[10]

Morales has argued for the establishment of a constituent assembly to transform the country. He also proposes the creation of a new hydrocarbon law to guarantee at least 50% of revenue to Bolivia, although MAS has also shown interest in complete nationalization of the gas and oil industries. Morales has taken a middle ground: supporting the nationalization of natural gas companies, but supporting foreign cooperation in the industry.

Morales has referred to the U.S.-driven Free Trade Area of the Americas as "an agreement to legalize the colonization of the Americas" and has supported the stated desire of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to form an "Axis of Good" between Bolivia, Cuba, and Venezuela, in contrast to the "Axis of Evil" comprising the United States and its allies.[11]

In March 2006, President Evo Morales announced in Santa Cruz an increase in the minimum wage of 50%. As it is currently set at 440 bolivianos (45 euros), it would then increase to 660 bolivianos (67 euros). Morales had earlier stated that it should be increased by 100%.[12] However, 6 out of 10 workers are part of the informal economy, thus limiting the impact of this increase.[13]

Fulfilling a campaign promise, Morales opened on August 6, 2006 an assembly to begin writing a new constitution aimed at giving more power to the indigenous majority.[1]

[edit] Education reform

[edit] Indigenous languages in schools

Morales supports a movement to teach indigenous languages such as Aymara, Quechua, and Guaraní which are spoken mainly in the rural highlands of Bolivia. His government estimates that only 37% of the population speaks a native language that predates the introduction of Spanish in the 16th century. Morale's Education Ministry has declared the drive to increase this percentage as part of a broad effort "to decolonize the mindset and the Bolivian state."[14] The program is seen as "emblematic of his government's indigenous-based social agenda".[14] In 2006 Morales' minister of education and culture Felix Patzi announced that he would be requiring all government employees to take indigenous language training. The Morales government's proposal to require state schools to teach the languages has angered many urban Bolivians who see it as a move to replace Spanish. This is denied by the Morales government who point out that over half of Bolivians claim indigenous heritage and that it should not be shameful to speak an indigenous language outside of the home or local community. Morales' minister Felix Patzi brought further controversy to the movement by calling Bolivians who can't speak an indigenous language "an embarrassment" and by issuing a letter stating that no school would be recognized unless they guaranteed indigenous language instruction in the 2007 academic year.[14]

[edit] Reform of religious classes in state schools

In June of 2005 Minister Felix Patzi brought organizational opposition against the Morales governments' ideas when he declared that "Catholicism would no longer be ‘the official’ religion taught at schools."[15] After mass protests led by the Catholic hierarchy this proposal was shelved by Morales.

For more details on this topic, see Evo Morales and the Roman Catholic Church.

[edit] Aftermath

Evo Morales and members of his cabinet before the "reshuffling".
Evo Morales and members of his cabinet before the "reshuffling".

Morales, initially supportive of Patzi and his policies, faced with the opposition of the Catholic hierarchy dropped the proposal to change the religion classes in state schools. Morales also relaxed the language requirement, no longer requiring it to be obligatory in 2007.[14] In late January 2007 Morales replaced several members of his cabinet including Patzi whose suggestions had "got Morales in hot water with the Roman Catholic Church".[16] The Bolivian media, reported that this cabinet shuffle “reduced the number of ministers of indigenous descent, and incorporated more middle-class politicians from the radical left to his cabinet.”[17]


[edit] Economy

[edit] Nationalization of natural gas industry

Further information: Bolivian Gas War

In 2005, following popular protests and president Gonzalo Sánchez "Goni" de Lozada's resignation, Congress passed an energy law that added a 32% tax on production to an already-existing 18% royalty. It also required that companies renegotiate their contracts with the state.

As of May 1, 2006, President Morales signed a decree stating that all natural gas reserves were to be nationalized: "the state recovers ownership, possession and total and absolute control" of hydrocarbons (Bolivia has the second largest resources of natural gas in South America — 1.38 trillion cubic meters — after Venezuela). He thus put to some effect his electoral promises made during the various Gas Wars, declaring that "We are not a government of mere promises: We follow through on what we propose and what the people demand."

The announcement was timed to coincide with Labor Day on May 1. Ordering the military and engineers of YPFB, the state firm, to occupy and secure energy installations, he gave foreign companies a six-month "transition period" to re-negotiate contracts, or face expulsion. Nevertheless, Morales stated that the nationalization would not take the form of expropriations or confiscations. Vice President Álvaro García said in La Paz's main plaza that the government's energy-related revenue will jump to $780 million next year, expanding nearly sixfold from 2002.[18]

Among the 53 installations affected by the measure are those of Brazil's Petrobras, one of the largest foreign investors in Bolivia, which controls 14% of the country's gas reserves.[19] Brazil's Energy Minister, Silas Rondeau, reacted by condemning the move as "unfriendly" and contrary to previous understandings between his country and Bolivia.[20]

US Exxon Mobil Corporation, Petrobras, Spain's Repsol YPF, UK gas and oil producer BG Group Plc, and France's Total are the main gas companies present in the country. According to Reuters, "Bolivia's actions echo what Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, possibly Morales' biggest ally, did in the world's fifth-largest oil exporter with forced contract migrations and retroactive tax hikes — conditions that major oil companies largely agreed to accept." YPFB will pay foreign companies for their services, offering about 50% of the value of production, although the decree indicated that companies exploiting the country's two largest gas fields would get just 18%.

[edit] Nationalization of mineral resources

On Feb. 8, 2007 Morales announced that a processing plant outside of the city of Oruro owned by the Swiss mining company Glencore International AG would be nationalized. The plant processes tin, lead, and silver. Morales said that there had been “a lack of transparency in its financial dealings” and that corporations that abide by Bolivian law had nothing to fear. He said “Companies that respect Bolivian laws, that do not steal money from the Bolivian people, will be respected. But if the companies do not respect the laws, I have no other alternative than to recover those companies." This particular plant has special symbolic value in Bolivia because it was privatized in 1996 and bought by Comsur whose biggest share owner was former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. Lozada fled to the US in Oct. 2003 during anti-government riots and is wanted by the current government on charges concerning a police crackdown on the demonstrators that left 60 dead. Glencore purchased the plant from Comsur in 2004.[21]

[edit] Coca

Further information: Coca eradication

[edit] Licit and illicit uses

Coca is the raw material for cocaine but is prized by many Bolivians (especially among those of Amero-Indian descent) for its traditional uses in medicines and herbal teas. Long before coca was used to make cocaine, the indigenous people of the Andean region, the Aymara and Quechua, chewed coca leaves as a dietary supplement, a means to ease pangs of hunger and thirst and an antidote for altitude sickness.[22] Many Amero-Indians continue to view the plant as sacred. In modern Bolivia coca leaves may be legally consumed and are most often prepared in teas like mate de coca. The legal sale and consumption of coca leaves is part of daily life for some groups of Bolivian peasants, especially those in mining and other fields of heavy labor. Noted celebrities who have consumed coca tea include the late Pope John Paul II and Princess Anne. While a limited market exists for coca leaves, since the early 1990s the United States of America has put pressure on the Bolivian government to reduce the amount of coca leaves produced for refinement by the international drug trade.

[edit] Plan Dignidad

In 1995 at the height of coca production the livelihood of one out of every eight Bolivians was dependent on coca.[22] It was the world’s third largest grower of coca after Peru and Colombia.[22] In 1997 45,800 hectares of land were being used to produce coca leaves, with only 12,000 hectares of that being grown for the licit market.[23] With strong support of the American government Bolivian President Hugo Banzer in August of 1997 developed “Plan Dignidad” (Spanish for "The Dignity Plan") to counter the “scourge” of drugs. The plan focused on eradication, interdiction (through lab destruction), efforts to counter money laundering, and also social programs for drug addiction and prevention. The plan’s heavy emphasis on plant eradication and noticeable lack of focus on trafficking organizations was noted by its critics at the time. The US Embassy in Bolivia defended the aggressive focus on crops, maintaining that Bolivia was devoid of significant trafficking organizations and claiming that the bulk of illegally exported coca went through small ‘mom-and-pop’ operations. This claim continues to be rejected by scholars of Bolivian society who say “Bolivia is very vulnerable to the influence of international trafficking organizations and that it is very likely that the participation of Bolivian entrepreneurs in the illegal business has increased.” During the initial years of the operation hectares of coca production dropped. While in 1997 it had been 45,800 hectares, by 1998 it was down to 38,000; in 1999 it fell to 21,800, and in 2000 it reached its lowest point at 14,600 hectares.[23] Since the 1990s the US has been funding the Bolivian governments eradication program by an average of $150 million a year.[24]

[edit] Opposition to eradication, rise of Morales
Coca farmers manned barricades during eradication protests in 2000.
Coca farmers manned barricades during eradication protests in 2000.
Riot police patrol La Paz during the coca farmer's protests in 2000.
Riot police patrol La Paz during the coca farmer's protests in 2000.

Critics of the aggressive focus on farmers and the programs lack of effort against traffickers argued against the claims that Bolivia’s traffickers were only “mom-and-pop organizations”. They pointed out the increase in prices offered to Peruvian coca farmers during 1998 as proof that international trafficking organizations were going to Peru to make up for the Bolivian shortfall caused by the program. They also pointed to the 1999 indictment for drug trafficking of Marino Diodato who was married to the niece of President Banzer, and was an Italian believed to have Mafia and Camorra ties. By 2001 coca planting in Bolivia moved outside of the traditional growing areas of Chapare and Yungas and the number of hectares in production began to climb ever since.[23]

Along with an increase in world wide coca production, the program contributed to a decline in the real standard of living of Chapare peasants leading to protests and violent social unrest (where both demonstrators and police were slain). The Bolivian governments use of the military in coca-growing regions during the unrest brought criticism from NGOs such as Human Rights Watch.[25] Promises of alternative development for farmers stagnated because of worsening external economic conditions. These conditions caused social mobilization among coca farmers like Evo Morales who called for an end to forced eradication and other measures enacted with the intent of countering narcotics. From 2000 forward the Bolivian government made several agreements with coca grower federations to end confrontations, but they failed to follow through on their promises causing further opposition to these governments. Morales rose to national attention by leading the political opposition to eradication and this position is a central reason for his election to the Bolivian Congress. His association with anti-eradication forces caused his expulsion from Congress in 2002 which led to his Presidential campaign with its surprising showing that same year.[23]

[edit] Morales coalition prevails

Pressures from the Morales led coalition caused president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to stop forced eradication. To address some of his opponents concerns in 2003 he initially proposed allowing families to cultivate small plots of coca but in the face of strong pressure from the US Embassy he withdrew the idea.[23] Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada resigned the presidency due to the Bolivian Gas War. When his successor Carlos Mesa was unable to stem the increasing conflict over distribution of wealth from fossil fuel production he also resigned. Morales’ support from coca farmers was seen as a large reason for his victory to the open presidential office in the 2005 election.[26]

Morales (with confetti in his hair) carries a coca plant with him as he goes to vote at the end of his 2005 campaign.
Morales (with confetti in his hair) carries a coca plant with him as he goes to vote at the end of his 2005 campaign.

On his way to vote during the 2005 election Morales carried a coca plant. After it was declared that he was the front runner in the election he called for a referendum on how the plant should be controlled. Countering US fears that he would ignore cultivation expressly done for narcotic purposes Morales said, "There won't be the free cultivation of the coca leaf.” He also called on America to enter into an agreement to “truly” fight drug trafficking. He repeated his position calling for “zero cocaine and zero drug trafficking, but not zero coca or zero cocaleros [coca growers]." He announced his government would study whether the amount of coca allowed for legal traditional consumption should be increased. At the time coca growing was legal on 29,000 acres of the Yungas valley with lesser acreage in the Chapare region.[4]

Evo Morales is adorned with a wreath of coca leaves at a political rally in 2006.
Evo Morales is adorned with a wreath of coca leaves at a political rally in 2006.

In early 2006, soon after taking office, Morales traveled to the tropical region of Chapare and met with a crowd of 20,000 consisting mainly cocaleros. A garland of coca leaves was placed around his neck and more leaves placed upon a straw hat he donned to shield him from the sun. He told the crowd, “The fight for coca symbolizes our fight for freedom. Coca growers will continue to grow coca. There will never be zero coca.”[24]

There is much disagreement between Morales's administration and the United States regarding anti-drug laws and cooperation between the countries, but officials from both countries have expressed a desire to work against drug trafficking, with Sean McCormack from the U.S. State Department reinforcing the support of Bolivian anti-drug policy, and Morales calling for zero cocaine and zero drug trafficking.[27]

[edit] Processing plant

In February 2007, Venezuela loaned Bolivia $250,000 to build two coca processing plants in Chapare and Las Yungas to turn coca into tea and trimate (a mixture of aniseed, chamomile and coca). The plants are set to be up and running in September or October 2007 and the products will likely to be sold in Venezuela.[28]

[edit] Foreign policy

[edit] World tour

Morales and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
Morales and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

From December 29, 2005, Evo Morales undertook an international tour described by Latin American media as exceptional.[29] For two weeks, Morales visited several countries in search of political and economic support for his agenda for the transformation of Bolivia. This tour is said to have constituted a break with decades of tradition in which the first international destination visited by a president-elect in Bolivia was the United States. His itinerary also reinforced the view that his election was part of a strengthening of "anti-imperialist" governments and movements in Latin America.[30]

Timeline of Morales World tour

  • December 30, 2005: Evo Morales visits Cuba after celebrating his democratic victory in his base town of Orinoca. In Havana Morales is extended the red carpet and receives full honors from Cuban president Fidel Castro. Morales signs a cooperation agreement between Bolivia and Cuba whereby Castro promises assistance to Bolivia in issues such as health and education. During his speech Morales describes Castro and Chávez as “the commanders of the forces for the liberation of the Americas and the world”.[31]
  • January 3, 2006: He meets Hugo Chávez in Caracas. Chávez offers Bolivia 150 000 barrels of diesel per month in order to substitute the current imports made from other countries. In exchange Bolivia will pay Venezuela with agriculture products from Bolivia.[32]
  • January 6, 2006: Morales meets French President Jacques Chirac in Paris. Chirac promises economic and political support as long as French investments in Bolivia are protected.[35] The same day he meets Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot who promises aid of €15 million a year.
Morales meets South African President Thabo Mbeki.
Morales meets South African President Thabo Mbeki.
  • January 9, 2006: Morales meets Hu Jintao and the Chinese Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai. Morales invites entrepreneurs and the government of China to invest in projects of exploration and exploitation of gas, and to participate in the construction of gas refineries in Bolivia.[37]

[edit] Inauguration

Evo Morales' presidential ceremony
Evo Morales' presidential ceremony

On January 21, 2006 Morales attended an indigenous spiritual ceremony at the pre-Colombian archaeological site and modern spiritual center of Tiwanaku where he was crowned as Apu Mallku or Supreme Leader of the Aymara, the indigenous group to which Morales belongs, and received gifts from many groups representing indigenous peoples from various parts of Latin America and the world. Morales claims this is the first time since the days of Tupac Amaru that a native American has held sovereign power in Bolivia. The ceremony was attended by the Slovenian president, Janez Drnovšek.[41]

On January 22 he officially received power in a ceremony in La Paz attended by multiple heads of state, including Argentine President Néstor Kirchner and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.[42] Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, whose country has had a history of diplomatic conflict with Bolivia (See: War of the Pacific), was also present and met with the dignitary in private. Morales described his presidency as marking a new era, and that the 500 years of colonialism were now at an end.

[edit] Style

Evo Morales and Bolivian vice-president Álvaro García Linera shining shoes: The Bolivian variant on baby kissing
Evo Morales and Bolivian vice-president Álvaro García Linera shining shoes: The Bolivian variant on baby kissing

His behavior contrasts with the usual manners of dignitaries in Latin America. For example, in January 28, 2006 he cut his salary by 57% to $1,875 a month.[43] He is single and, before the election, he shared a flat with other MAS officers. Consequently, his older sister Esther Morales Ayma fulfills the roles of First Lady. He does have two children, each from different women.[44]

He also aroused much interest in his choice of dress after being pictured often in his striped sweater with world leaders during his world tour. There was speculation that he would wear it to the official inauguration, where he actually dressed in a white shirt without tie (itself unheard of in Latin America in modern times for a head of state at their own inauguration) and a black jacket that was not a part of a conventional suit. The sweater (actually an alpaca-wool chompa, from the English word jumper) has become his unofficial symbol and is selling all across Bolivia.[45]

Evo Morales is a soccer enthusiast and plays the game frequently, often with local soccer teams.[46] Morales is also a big admirer of Che Guevara and in 2006 held a memorial on the anniversary of Guevara's killing by the Bolivian army in 1967.

[edit] Possible candidate for Nobel Peace Prize

A campaign to nominate Evo Morales for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was started in December 2006 by Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, himself a Nobel laureate.

[edit] Criticism

[edit] Movements for regional autonomy

Map of Departments of Bolivia with those in which Governors (Prefectural Authorities) are strongly pursuing economical and territorial autonomy in blue.
Map of Departments of Bolivia with those in which Governors (Prefectural Authorities) are strongly pursuing economical and territorial autonomy in blue.

Morales' socialist economic polices has generated opposition from several provinces including Santa Cruz province which has oil and agricultural resources. Political parties who oppose Morales along with pro market groups "have neutralized the workings of a Constitutional assembly, responsible for the founding of the 'new' Bolivia".[17] Six of the nine Bolivian governors are also demanding more autonomy from the central government and a larger share of government revenues. The six are the governors of La Paz, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Pando, Beni, and Tarija with the other three Bolivian governors being part of Morales' socialist Movimiento al Socialismo party.[47][48] They are among the first generation of popularly elected governors (before Dec. 2005 all governors were appointed by the President).[47] The call for autonomy comes mainly from the resource-rich, lowland regions of Bolivia which are centers of opposition to Morales. The autonomy question “as relatively little to do with language, culture, [and] religion… it is mostly about money and resources -- specifically, who controls Bolivia's valuable natural gas reserves, second largest in South America after Venezuela's.”[48] Morales sees the calls for autonomy as an attempt to breakup Bolivia and has vowed to fight it. He has “repeatedly charged that rich landowners and businesspeople from the eastern city of Santa Cruz, an anti-Morales stronghold, were fomenting and funding the autonomy movement in a bid to grab national resources.”[48]

[edit] Controversy

[edit] Conflict with Reyes Villa

Among Morales' most outspoken political opponents is Cochabamba Gov. Manfred Reyes Villa. In early 2007 his opposition to Morale's policies inspired many of the President's supporters to take to the streets and demand his resignation. As the group interacted with police and Reyes Villa's supporters events escalated into violence, leaving two dead and 100 injured before calm could be restored.

For more details on this topic, see Cochabamba social unrest of 2007.

[edit] Ponchos Rojos

Evo Morales wearing the outfit of the Ponchos Rojos at their January 2007 rally.
Evo Morales wearing the outfit of the Ponchos Rojos at their January 2007 rally.

On January 23, 2007 Morales and Bolivian military chiefs attended an indigenous peoples rally of the "Red Ponchos" (Ponchos Rojos) who support him in the Andean region of Omasuyos. At the rally Morales thanked the group, saying "I urge our Armed Forces along with the ‘Ponchos Rojos’ to defend our unity and our territorial integrity." Because the group is seen as armed and militant by Morales' opposition they accused him and the Armed Forces of supporting "illegal militias."[17] The rally was held in Achacachi which during the 1970s was the center of the leftist guerrilla movement MRTK (Tupac Katari Revolutionary Movement) which had Morales' vice president Alvaro Garcia Linera in their membership.[48] To the cheers of the crowd Morales chastised those calling for regional autonomy saying, "No caballero [a term for white colonizers] will be able to split apart Bolivia."[48]


[edit] Advisor faces terrorism charges in Peru

Walter Chávez discussing the charges with the Bolivian media.
Walter Chávez discussing the charges with the Bolivian media.

Walter Chávez (an advisor and occasional spokesman for Morales since his 2002 campaign for the presidency) resigned on February 1, 2007 amid charges of terrorism from his native country of Peru. Chávez who specialized in developing Morales’ public message, is accused by Peruvian authorities of “having been a member of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement guerrilla group that carried out bombings and kidnappings in the 1980s and 1990s.”[49] The specific charges against Chávez is that he was “a MRTA member who extorted two Peruvian businessmen on behalf of the group in 1990. …[that same year] Chávez was arrested after receiving $10,000 from one of the men, was released on bail a month later and in 1992 fled to Bolivia.”[49] He is also accused "of receiving $5,000 in another case."[50] Chávez has repeatedly denied the charges, saying "They accused me of being part of an MRTA cell but they never proved anything against me."[50]

The resignation came as the Bolivian Senate (which is led by an alliance of opposition parties) announced its intention to rapidly investigate the extent of "Chavez's duties and how he obtained residency in the country."[50] Peruvian television, Bolivian newspapers and the Miami Herald were also pursuing the story with ever more vigor, in the days leading to Chávez leaving the Morales government. He explained his resignation to the Miami Herald, saying that "A lot of things have been said that weren't true. This is beginning to hurt the government."[49] In 2006 Peru had quietly asked for the extradition of Chávez but was turned down as he had been granted political asylum by the Bolivian government and was therefor protected under international law. Peru announced that it would be re-filing its extradition request. Chávez said he has no plans to defend himself in court by going to Peru.[49]

[edit] Miners protest

In early February 2007, parts of the Bolivian region of La Paz were brought to a standstill as 20,000 miners took to the roads and streets to protest a tax hike to the Complementary Mining Tax (ICM) by the Morales government.[51][52] The protesting miners threw dynamite and clashed with those passing by. The Morales government had attempted to head-off the demonstration by announcing on Feb. 5, 2007 that the tax increase was not directed at the 50,000 miners who are co-op members but at larger private mining companies.[51] This did not dissuade the thousands of protestors who had already gathered nearby the capital in the less affluent city of El Alto.[53]

For more details on this topic, see Bolivian miners' protest of 2007.

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d e Evo Morales profile > childhood. Retrieved on Feb. 13, 2007
  2. ^ a b c d e Evo Morales - profile > youth. Retrieved on Feb. 13, 2007
  3. ^ a b "Profile: Evo Morales", BBC, 14 December 2005. Retrieved on Feb. 1, 2007
  4. ^ a b c "Bolivia’s Morales plans referendum on coca", MSNBC, Dec. 20, 2005. Retrieved on Feb. 6, 2007
  5. ^ a b c d Benjamin Blackwell. "From Coca To Congress", The Ecologist, November 11, 2002. Retrieved on Feb. 13, 2007
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Evo Morales - profile > coca farmer. Retrieved on Feb. 13, 2007
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Evo Morales: profile > member of parliament. Retrieved on Feb. 13, 2007
  8. ^ a b America Vera-Zavala. "Evo Morales Has Plans for Bolivia", In These Times, December 18, 2005. Retrieved on Feb. 7, 2007
  9. ^ Erin Ralston. "Evo Morales and opposition to the US in Bolivia", ZNet, July 15, 2002. Retrieved on Feb. 1, 2007
  10. ^ a b NO REGISTRADO. Presna Latina. Retrieved on 2006-09-10.
  11. ^ Gil, Alba (Jueves 5 de enero de 2006). Evo Morales hace amigos. AmericaEconomica. Retrieved on 2006-09-10.
  12. ^ "Bolivia: Expectations for Wage Raise", Prensa Latina, March 18, 2006.
  13. ^ (French) "En Bolivie, le président Evo Morales promet une hausse de 50% du salaire minimum", Le Monde, March 21, 2006.
  14. ^ a b c d Monte Reel. "In Bolivia, Speaking Up for Native Languages", The Washington Post, January 31, 2007. Retrieved on Jan. 31, 2007
  15. ^ "Bolivian president, education minister slam bishops", Catholic News Agency, Jul 26, 2006. Retrieved on Feb. 8, 2007
  16. ^ "Morales replaces nearly half of Bolivian ministers", USA Today, 1/23/2007. Retrieved on Jan. 31, 2007
  17. ^ a b c "Bolivia’s Morales reshuffles cabinet and ratifies reforms", MercoPress, January 25, 2007. Retrieved on Jan. 31, 2007
  18. ^ "Bolivia's military takes control of gas fields", Reuters, May 2, 2006. Retrieved on May 2, 2006.
  19. ^ "Bolivia gas under state control", BBC News, May 2, 2006. Retrieved on May 2, 2006.
  20. ^ (Portuguese) "Ministro de Minas e Energia classifica decreto boliviano de "inamistoso"", Folha de Sao Paulo, May 2, 2006. Retrieved on May 2, 2006.
  21. ^ Carlos Valdez. "Bolivia to Nationalize Mineral Plant", The Associated Press, Feb. 8, 2007. Retrieved on Feb. 8, 2007
  22. ^ a b c "Bolivian tension mounts as roadblock deadline looms", CNN, October 3, 2000. Retrieved on Feb. 14, 2007
  23. ^ a b c d e Dina Siegel (Editor), Henk Van de Bunt (Editor), D. Siegel (Editor) (2004). Global Organized Crime: Trends and Developments. AA Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 
  24. ^ a b "'Coca is a way of life'", The Guardian, February 9, 2006. Retrieved on Feb. 6, 2007
  25. ^ (May 1996) "Bolivia Under Pressure - Human Rights Violations and Coca Eradication". Human Rights Watch 8 (4). Retrieved on 2006-04-10. 
  26. ^ Lasso, María Amparo (Jan 28 2006). South America: The Business of Legal Coca. Inter Press News Service. Retrieved on 2006-04-10.
  27. ^ Emery, Alex (Dec. 18 2005). Bolivia's Morales Leads in Election Exit Polling. Bloomberg.com. Retrieved on 2006-04-10.
  28. ^ "Bolivia Gets Loans for Coca Processing", The Associated Press, Feb. 8, 2007. Retrieved on Feb. 8, 2007
  29. ^ (Spanish)"Empresarios consideran excepcional estrategia de Morales en gira", Actualidad, 09-01-2006. Retrieved on Feb. 3, 2007
  30. ^ O'Keefe, Derrick. "Bolivia and Venezuela offer an alternative to neo-liberalism". Counterpunch. Dec 29, 2005.
  31. ^ http://eltiempo.terra.com.co/inte/latin/noticias/ARTICULO-WEB-_NOTA_INTERIOR-2676419.html
  32. ^ (Spanish)"Morales recibió el apoyo de Chávez", Lanacion, Martes 3 de enero de 2006. Retrieved on Feb. 3, 2007
  33. ^ (Spanish)"La vestimenta de Evo Morales desata polémica", Prisa Internacional, Viernes , Enero 6 de 2006. Retrieved on Feb. 3, 2007
  34. ^ (Spanish) Pascual Serrano. "Aznar anuncia que utilizará su Fundación en España para combatir a Chávez, Castro y Evo Morales", Rebellion: Política internacional, 06-01-2006. Retrieved on Feb. 3, 2007
  35. ^ (Spanish)"Ofrece Jacques Chirac a Evo Morales el apoyo político y económico de Francia", LaJornada, Domingo 8 de enero de 2006. Retrieved on Feb. 3, 2007
  36. ^ (Spanish)"Solana reclama a Evo Morales «seguridad jurídica» para las inversiones en Bolivia", La Verdad, Viernes, 6 de enero de 2006. Retrieved on Feb. 3, 2007
  37. ^ (Spanish)"China, "aliado ideológico y político del pueblo boliviano": Evo Morales", LaJornada, Martes 10 de enero de 2006.Retrieved on Feb. 3, 2007
  38. ^ (Spanish)"Evo Morales llegó a Sudáfrica y se reunirá con Mandela", Clarín, 10.01.2006. Retrieved on Feb. 2, 2007
  39. ^ http://capeargus.co.za/index.php?fSectionId=49&fArticleId=3064651
  40. ^ (Spanish)"Evo Morales afirmó que no afectará los intereses de Brasil", lanacion, Sábado 14 de enero de 2006. Retrieved on Feb. 2, 2007
  41. ^ "President Drnovšek attends the inauguration of the new president of Bolivia", Ljubljana, 01/21/2006. Retrieved on Feb. 2, 2007
  42. ^ http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/americas/01/22/bolivia.list.ap/
  43. ^ "Bolivian president slashes salary for public schools", USA Today, 1/28/2006. Retrieved on Feb. 1, 2007
  44. ^ (Spanish)"Hermana de Evo Morales sera primera dama", Es Mas, Feb. 5, 2007.
  45. ^ "'Evo Fashion' arrives in Bolivia", BBC News, 20 January 2006. Retrieved on Feb. 1, 2007
  46. ^ "Footballing president breaks nose", BBC News, July 31, 2006. Retrieved on July 31, 2006.
  47. ^ a b David Mercado. "Morales allies vow to step up protests in Bolivia", Reuters, January 12, 2007. Retrieved on Jan. 31, 2007
  48. ^ a b c d e Patrick J. Mcdonnell. "Morales faces middle-class protests in Bolivia", Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2007. Retrieved on Jan. 31, 2007
  49. ^ a b c d Tyler Bridges. "Morales aide resigns over terror uproar", The Miami Herald, Fri, Feb. 02, 2007. Retrieved on Feb. 2, 2007
  50. ^ a b c Alvaro Zuazo. "Peru Wants Adviser of Bolivian President", The Associated Press, Tuesday, January 30, 2007. Retrieved on Feb. 2, 2007
  51. ^ a b "Clashes as Bolivia miners protest", BBC, Feb. 7, 2007. Retrieved on Feb. 7, 2007
  52. ^ Dorothy Kosich. "20,000 miners march against Bolivia's ICM tax hike, concession policies", 07-FEB-07. Retrieved on Feb. 7, 2007
  53. ^ Dan Keane. "Bolivian Miners Protest Tax Increase", Associated Press, February 6, 2007. Retrieved on Feb. 6, 2007

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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Preceded by
Eduardo Rodríguez
President of Bolivia
Succeeded by