Evo Morales

Juan Evo Morales Ayma, popularly known as Evo, is a Bolivian politician and activist, serving as President of Bolivia, a position that he has held since 2006.

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Juan Evo Morales Ayma (born October 26, 1959), popularly known as Evo (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈeβo]), is a Bolivian politician and activist, serving as President of Bolivia, a position that he has held since 2006. He is also the leader of both the Movement for Socialism party (MAS) and the Cocalero trade union. Politically a socialist leader, the cornerstone of his presidency has been a focus on implementing new policies in the country, introducing a new constitution, land reforms, nationalizing various key industries, opposing United States involvement in the country's politics, and reducing poverty.[1]

Born into a working class Aymara family in Isallawi, Orinoca Canton, Evo grew up aiding his parents as a subsistence farmer. He did not obtain a high school degree. Morales underwent mandatory military service for a year until 1978, when he returned to the family profession of farming, moving with them to Chapare Province. He eventually settled into growing coca, becoming actively involved in the coca growers' trade union, the cocalero movement. Becoming a well known activist amongst the campesinos (rural laborers), he was known for leading the resistance against the U.S. government's attempts to eradicate coca crops grown to produce cocaine as a part of their wider "War on Drugs".

His activism led him into the political arena. He eventually became the leader of the MAS, through which he got involved in social protests like the gas conflict and the Cochabamba protests of 2000. The MAS aimed at giving more power to the country's indigenous and poor communities by means of land reforms and redistribution of gas wealth, and gradually increased its electoral support.

Morales was first elected President of Bolivia on December 18, 2005, with 53.7% of the popular vote. Two and a half years later he substantially increased this majority; in a recall referendum on August 14, 2008, more than two-thirds of voters voted to keep him in office.[2][3] Morales won presidential elections again in December 2009 with 63% and continued to his second term of presidency.[4]

A critic of the United States' foreign policy and the involvement of transnational corporations in Latin America, he has been a firm ally of the socialist governments of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Fidel Castro in Cuba. In October 2009, Morales was named "World Hero of Mother Earth" by the General Assembly of the United Nations.[5]

Early life and activism

Childhood and education: 1959-1977

A traditional Aymara ceremony (left); Poopó Lake was the dominant geographical feature around Evo's home village of Isallawi (right).[6]

Morales was born in Isallawi village, a rural community of around thirty houses scattered over an area of 4 square kilometres in Orinoca Canton, a part of the Oruro Department in western Bolivia, on 26 October 1959.[6] He was one of seven children born to Dionisio Morales Choque and Maria Mamani; however, only Morales and two of his siblings, Esther and Hugo, survived past childhood.[6][7][8] Indeed, his mother suffered a postpartum haemorrhage after giving birth to him, almost dying due to the absence of any doctors or midwives in the village.[6] Ethnically a mestizo and thereby being of American Indian heritage, much of his ancestry came from the indigenous Aymara people, and in keeping with Aymara custom, his father buried the placenta produced after his birth in a place specially chosen for the occasion.[6] He grew up speaking the Aymara language, although later commentators would remark that by the time he had become president he was no longer an entirely fluent speaker, something some critics would use against him.[9][10]

Morales' family were farmers and from an early age he took part in his parents' work, aiding in planting and harvesting crops and guarding their herd of llamas and sheep, always taking a homemade soccer ball with him to amuse himself.[6][7] His home was an adobe house with a dirt floor and straw roof, in keeping with Aymara cultural style.[10] As a toddler, he briefly attended the preparatory school in Orinoca, although aged five he began schooling at the primary school in his home village, which consisted of a single room in which children of all ages were taught.[11][12] Aged six, he travelled with his sister and father to northern Argentina for six months where his father worked harvesting sugar cane, and Evo himself sold ice cream as well as briefly attending school, but speaking only Aymara he had difficulty understanding the lessons, which were taught in Spanish, and he was forced to leave.[11][13] As a child, he would also regularly travel by foot to Arani province in Cochabamba with his father and their llamas, a journey lasting up to two weeks, in order to exchange their salt and potatoes for maize and coca.[10][14] A big fan of soccer, aged 13 he organised a community soccer team, 'The Fraternity', with himself as team captain. Within two years, he had been elected to the position of training coach for the whole region, gaining early experience with leadership.[13][15]

After finishing primary education, Morales attended the Agrarian Humanistic Technical Institute of Orinoca (ITAHO), completing all but the final year.[16] That year, his parents then sent him to study for a degree in Oruro, where although he did very poorly academically, he finished all of his courses and exams by 1977, meanwhile earning money on the side as a brick-maker, day labourer, baker and a trumpet player for the Royal Imperial Band, the latter of which allowed him to travel across Bolivia.[16][17][18][19] However, at the end of his higher education he failed to collect his degree certificate, probably because of the expense that this would have entailed; in Bolivia, obtaining a "certificate for completed studies" was "a very costly and time-consuming affair."[16] Although he had an interest in going on to study journalism at university, he didn't have the aptitude to pursue it as a profession.[16][20]

Military service and El Chapare: 1978-1981

At the time, the Bolivian government instituted mandatory conscription into the army, and so Morales had to serve in the armed forces between 1977 and 1978. He had initially signed up at the Centre for Instruction of Special Troops (CITE) in Cochabamba, but was instead sent into the 4th Ingavi Cavalry Regiment and stationed at the army headquarters in Bolivia's administrative capital La Paz to undertake his military service.[16][20][21] These two years saw "one of Bolivia's politically most unstable periods", with five presidents and two military coups, led by General Juan Pereda and General David Padilla respectively.[16] It was under the regime of the latter that Morales was stationed as a guard at the Palacio Quemado, or Presidential Palace.[22]

The Palacio Quemado in La Paz, where Morales was a guard during part of his military service. Many years later it would be the building from which he governed the country.

At the end of his military service, Evo returned to his family, who had decided to move from Isallawi, where they had lived for four generations, and set up a new home in the Tropics of Cochabamba, located in the eastern Bolivian lowlands; this was brought about after the Orinoca communities had been hit by the El Niño storm cycle in 1980, which decimated the region's agriculture.[19][20] In doing so, the Morales family were following in an Andean tradition that had been practiced since at least the time of the Inca Empire, that of moving between the different climatic zones in order to diversify their livelihoods; according to Andean tradition, the family ayllu, being a discontinuous territory, would move with them, but retain links to Isallawi.[23] Setting up a new home in the town of Villa 14 de Septiembre, El Chapare with the help of a loan from Evo's maternal uncle, the Morales family cleared a plot of land in the semi-tropical forest, and proceeded to grow such crops as rice, oranges, grapefruit, papaya, bananas and later on also coca.[24][25] The arrival of the Morales family was a part of a much wider migration to the region, with many Bolivians hoping to set up farms where they could earn a living growing coca, the plant from which cocaine is made, and was experiencing a steady rise in price and which could be cultivated up to four times a year; in 1981 El Chapare's population was 40,000 but by 1988 it had risen to 215,000.[26]

In his new home, Evo got to know the local community by joining their soccer team, before going on to found his own team, named New Horizon, who proved victorious at the August 2nd Central Tournament.[26] The El Chapare region would remain special to Evo for many years to come, for during his presidency he would often talk about it in public speeches and would return there whenever possible, frequenting one of three "locally renowned" fish restaurants for one of his favourite dishes, surubí.[24]

Entering the cocalero union: 1981-1983

It was in El Chapare that Evo joined a cocalero trade union of local coca growers, first getting involved in political activism. The local union syndicate had been responsible for building not only several roads and the local school, but also the soccer field, and Evo, known for his love of soccer, was appointed to be their Secretary of Sports, whose job it was to help organize tournaments. Amongst union members, he would even earn the nickname of "the young ball player" because of his tendency to bring a soccer ball to union meetings, organising a match during recess.[26] Despite entering the union through sport, he had been influenced in joining it by wider events; in 1980, the far-right General Luis García Meza seized power in a military coup, banned other political parties and subsequently declared himself president in what observers widely declared a dictatorship. With high levels of government corruption and involvement in illegal cocaine trafficking, the new president's administration was marked by human rights abuses, and for Evo, a "foundational event in his relationship with politics" occurred in 1981, when a campesino (coca grower) was accused of being a cocaine trafficker by drunken soldiers, who proceeded to beat him up, spray him with gasoline and then burn him to death.[27]

A Bolivian man holding a coca leaf; coca has been a staple crop in Bolivia and other parts of Andean South America for centuries, where it is chewed as a stimulant and has become an integral part of rural culture. In the 20th century however it was adopted as a key ingredient in the production of cocaine, a narcotic which has been declared illegal across much of the world, leading the U.S. government to try and prevent the plant's cultivation throughout South America.

Further political instability rocked the nation when Luis García Meza was forced to resign, and in 1982 the left wing Democratic and Popular Union (Unidad Democrática y Popular - UDP) took power in representative democratic elections, with Hernán Siles Zuazo becoming president. However, with the Bolivian economy in crises, the UDP bowed to U.S. government pressure and implemented a series of right wing neoliberal capitalist reforms to the economy, cutting back the state sector and opening the country up to foreign corporations who would privatise the state companies over the following years. The reforms brought hyperinflation under control, but led to rocketing unemployment which reached 25%.[28] The U.S. government then ordered further intervention in Bolivia as a part of their War on Drugs to destroy the illegal narcotics trade; as U.S. President George H.W. Bush proclaimed, "The fastest and cheapest way to eliminate narcotic trafficking is at its source ... We need to do away with the plantations where they grow". Because coca was one ingredient in the production of cocaine, the U.S. sent their own armed forces into El Chapare in order to aid the Bolivian authorities in halting its production.[29]

In 1983, Evo's father Dionisio died, and so he temporarily retreated from his work with the cocalero syndicate to focus on organising his father's affairs.[27] However, the increasing U.S. involvement in El Chapare with the tacit support of the Bolivian government angered Evo, who returned to campaigning on behalf of the coca growers. Like many of his comrades, he refused the $2,500 compensation offered by the government for each acre of coca that he eradicated; deeply embedded in Bolivian culture, the campesinos had an ancestral relationship with the coca leaf and did not want to lose their most profitable means of subsistence. For them, it was also an issue of national sovereignty, with the U.S. being viewed as invading imperalists who had no right to force Bolivian farmers to do their bidding, with activists regularly proclaiming "Long live coca! Death to the Yankees!" ("Causachun coca! Wañuchun yanquis!").[30] From 1982 to 1983, Evo served as the General Secretary of his local San Francisco syndicate, before serving as Secretary of Records from 1984 to 1985, and then General Secretary of the August 2nd Headquarters in 1985.[30]

General Secretary of the Cocalero Union: 1985-1994

By 1985, Morales was elected general secretary in a union of coca farmers and by 1988 was elected executive secretary of the Tropics Federation.[31] He retains this position to this day, even while serving as president of Bolivia. Around this time the Bolivian government, encouraged by the US, began a program to eradicate most coca production. By 1996 Morales was made president of the Coordinating Committee of the Six Federations of the Tropics of Cochabamba.[31] Morales was among those opposing the government's 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 colleagues).[31]

In his speeches, Morales presented the coca leaf as a symbol of Andean culture that was under threat of extinction from the imperialist oppression of western culture, in particular that of the U.S. In his view, it was the problem of the U.S. to deal with their own domestic problem of drug abuse, and that they had no right trying to eliminate coca, a legitimate product with many uses and a rich role to play in Andean culture. Furthermore, he presented the coca growers themselves as victims of a wealthy, urban social elite, who had bowed to U.S. pressure in implementing neoliberal economic reforms to the detriment of the majority of Bolivians, in this way arguing that the representative democratic system in Bolivia failed to reflect the true democratic will of the majority.[32]

Morales soon led a 600 km march from Cochabamba to the Bolivian capital La Paz. While they were often attacked by law enforcement officers, they managed to proceed by sneaking around their control posts.[31] They were often greeted by supporters who gave the marchers drink, food, clothes and shoes. They were greeted with cheers by supporters in La Paz and the government was forced to negotiate an accord with them.[31] After the marchers returned home, the government reneged on the deal and sent forces to harass them.[31] According to Morales during this time in 1997 a United States Drug Enforcement Administration helicopter strafed farmers with automatic rifle fire, killing five of his supporters.[33] He has also recounted how he was grazed by assassins' bullets in Villa Tunari in 2000.[31] He was recognized in 1996 by an international coalition against the "War on Drugs".[31] 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.[31] 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."[18]

Early political activity

The ASP, IPSP and MAS: 1995-1999

Members of the sindicato social movement first began suggesting that they move into the political arena in 1986. This suggestion brought much disagreement, with many fearing that a move into politics would lead the social movement to be co-opted for personal gain by politicians, who were widely mistrusted by the activists.[34] Evo Morales began supporting the formation of a political wing in 1989, although a consensus in favor of its formation only emerged in 1993.[35] On March 27, 1995, at the seventh congress of the Unique Confederation of Rural Laborers of Bolivia (Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia - CSUTCB), such a "political instrument" - a term intentionally employed over "political party" - was finally founded, named the Assembly for the Sovereignty of the Peoples (Asamblea por la Sobernía de los Pueblos - ASP).[35][36] The ASP soon held its first congress, at which the CSUTCB participated along with three other Bolivian unions, the FNMB, CSCB and CIDOB, representing miners, peasants and indigenous peoples respectively.[35]

Nonetheless, the National Electoral Court (Corte Nacional Electoral - CNE) prevented Morales or any of his fellow activists running for political office under the ASP banner by refusing to recognize it, citing minor procedural infringements.[35] The coca activists circumvented this problem by instead running under the banner of the United Left (IU), a coalition of leftist parties that had been founded in 1988 and which was headed by the Communist Party of Bolivia (Partido Comunista Boliviano - PCB).[35][36] They went on to win landslide victories in those areas which were local strongholds of the movement, producing 11 mayors and 49 municipal councilors.[35] In the subsequent national elections of 1997, the IU/ASP gained four seats in Congress, obtaining 3.7% of the national vote, with this rising to 17.5% in the department of Cochabamba.[37] Morales was among the four activists elected to Congress, representing the provinces of Chapare and Carrasco, and carrying 70% of the votes in his electoral district.[36]

MAS-IPSP partisans celebrate the 16th anniversary of the IPSP party's founding in Sacaba, Cochabamba.

Rising electoral success was accompanied by factional in-fighting, with a leadership contest emerging in the ASP between the incumbent Alejo Véliz and Evo Morales, who had the electoral backing of the social movement's bases.[37] Morales and his supporters subsequently split from Véliz and the ASP and formed their own party, the Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples (Instrumento Político por la Soberanía de los Pueblos - IPSP).[37][38] The movement's bases soon defected en masse to the IPSP, leaving the ASP to crumble and Véliz to join the centre-right New Republican Force (Nueva Fuerza Republicana - NFR), for which Morales denounced him as a traitor.[39]

Morales came to an agreement with David Añez Pedraza, the leader of a defunct yet still registered party named the Movement for Socialism (MAS); under this agreement, Morales and the Six Federaciónes could take over the party name, with Pendraza stipulating the condition that they must maintain its own acronym, name and colors. Thus the defunct right wing MAS became the flourishing left wing vehicle for the coca activist movement known as the Movement for Socialism – Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples.[36][39] 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."[40]

Morales and the MAS went on to contest the local elections of December 5, 1999.

Expulsion from Congress

While Morales was a Member of Congress, the governments of Hugo Banzer and Jorge Quiroga broadened the eradication campaign through Plan Dignidad. The cocaine producing region of Chapare which Morales represented was beset with hundreds of police and military officers who were seen by Morales as "committing an innumerable amount of abuses and assassinations which violated the most basic human rights and liberties."[36] 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.[36] Then three police officers were slain when they attempted to close a coca market.[21] In light of Morales' comments about armed resistance on January 24, 2002 a 104-member majority of Congress voted to have him expelled. The Congressional Ethics Commission declared that Morales had committed "serious inadequacies in the execution of his duties."[36] With his popularity rising for standing up to an unpopular government, on March 5, 2002, he submitted an objection to the Constitutional Tribunal 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.[36]

2002 presidential elections

Evo Morales (right) with French labor union leader José Bové, in 2002.

The same day he petitioned the Constitutional Tribunal, 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.[36] The supportive crowd cheered him on saying "Kausachum coca!" ("Long live coca!") and "Huaiñuchum yanquis!" ("Down with Yankees!"), they also "hoisted the wiphala, the multi-colored checkered flag that is the emblem of the Andean cultures, along with the standard tri-colored Bolivian flag."[36]

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."[41] Morales said that these remarks helped to "awaken the conscience of the people."

2005 presidential elections

In 2005, President Carlos Mesa resigned under pressure by MAS and their supporters, led by Morales, by means of road blocks and riots.[42][43] Because of this, and as a result of growing discontent and popular unrest, Congress and President Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé decided to move up the 2007 elections to December 2005.

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."[44]

Preliminary polls placed Morales and the Movement for 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 Álvaro 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.[citation needed]

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 Quiroga 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.


Evo Morales' inauguration as President.

First Presidential Term: 2006-2009


On January 21, 2006, Morales attended an indigenous spiritual ceremony at the 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.

In the world there are large and small countries, rich countries and poor countries, but we are equal in one thing, which is our right to dignity and sovereignty…


For his official inauguration, Morales had a suit designed by fashion designer Beatriz Canedo Patiño, but Andeanized it by refusing to wear a tie and having an indigenous pattern sewn on.[8] On January 22, he officially received power in a formal inauguration ceremony in La Paz attended by multiple heads of state, including Argentine President Néstor Kirchner and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.[46] 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. In his inaugural speech, Morales described his presidency as marking a new era in Bolivia, and also boasted that "500 years of colonialism were now at an end".[citation needed] Also, Morales criticized the former politics of Bolivia, condemning it as "colonial" and likening it to South Africa under apartheid. He went on to describe how the MAS' election would lead to a "refoundation" of the country, a term that the MAS had consistently chosen over "revolution".[47] He went on to further echo these viewpoints in his convocation of the Constituent Assembly, in which he proclaimed that "This is where the democratic and cultural revolution begins."[48]


The British academic James Dunkerley noted that Morales had gathered together a cabinet made up of indigenous activists and leftist intellectuals which was, on the whole, "extremely inexperienced" at governing.[49] Dunkerley went on to identify a wide range of philosophical influences upon the thinking of the intellectuals in the cabinet, ranging from post-structuralism to the works of Marxist thinkers Karl Marx, René Zavaleta Mercado and E.P. Thompson.[50]

Morales at an international conference in 2012.

It was the stated intention of the Morales government to reduce Bolivia's most acute poverty levels, which affected 35% of the population, to 27% over the period of five years.[51] During his first term in office, Morales improved the living standards of poor Bolivians,[52][53] reducing levels of extreme poverty and illiteracy[54] while significantly increasing state intervention on the economy by nationalizing oil, mines, gas, and communications. Welfare provision was expanded, as characterized by the introduction of non-contributory old-age pensions and payments to mothers provided their babies are taken for health checks and that their children attend school. Hundreds of free tractors were also handed out. The prices of gas and many foodstuffs were controlled, and local food producers were made to sell in the local market rather than export. A new state-owned body was also set up to distribute food at subsidized prices. All these measures helped to curb inflation, while the economy (partly because of rising public spending) grew strongly, accompanied by stronger public finances which brought economic stability.[55]

Soon after ascending to power, Morales traveled to Europe, where he chose to wear a traditional multicolored Andean jumper rather that a western suit, something that attracted the interest of western media.[8]

In September 2008, Morales accused the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg, of "conspiring against democracy" and encouraging civil unrest, and went on to order him to leave the country.[56] The U.S. government responded to Morales' action by ordering the Bolivian ambassador, Gustavo Guzman, out of their own country.[57] The following day Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez stood in solidarity with his Bolivian allies by ordering the U.S. ambassador Patrick Duddy out of his country, telling him to "go to hell 100 times" and withdrawing the Venezuelan ambassador to the U.S.[57]

New Constitution

A constituent assembly was convened in 2006, which produced a final text of a new Constitution of Bolivia in December 2007. It was approved in the Bolivian constitutional referendum, 2009. In the interim Morales faced an autonomy movement in the country's eastern departments, which after a failed referendum on recalling Morales culminated in the 2008 unrest in Bolivia, which the government accused the United States of supporting. Morales and the MAS government subsequently adopted autonomy as a government policy and departmental autonomies were recognized in the new Bolivian constitution, approved in a referendum in January 2009. As well as departmental autonomy, the new constitution recognizes municipal, provincial and indigenous autonomies.[citation needed]

Second Presidential Term: 2009-present

Morales in 2009.

Following the approval of the new Constitution of Bolivia in the January 2009 referendum, new elections were called. Morales won the 2009 general election with a landslide majority, polling 64%, an increase on his 54% victory four years previously. His primary opponent, former army officer Manfred Reyes Villa, gained 27% of the vote, whilst cement magnate Samuel Doria Medina gained about 8%. Morales' party, the Movement for Socialism, also won a two-thirds majority in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.[58][59][60] In response to his victory, Morales proclaimed that he was "obligated to accelerate the pace of change" in Bolivia, seeing his re-election as a mandate to further his socialist reforms.[58][60]

Following the victory of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, relations between Bolivia and the U.S. improved, although remained strained.[58] After the U.S. backed the 2011 military intervention in Libya by NATO forces, Morales condemned Obama, calling for his Nobel Peace Prize to be revoked; in this he was backed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.[61] In November 2011, the Bolivian and U.S. governments agreed to restore diplomatic relations,[62] although Morales refused to allow U.S. agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) back into the country.[63]

In May, 2011, Morales held a book up for the world press to photograph, citing it as providing justification for his expelling DEA from his country on the basis of DEA using the drug war to manipulate the Bolivian Government. The book, La Guerra Falsa was the Spanish translation of "The Big White Lie" by retired DEA Agent Michael Levine, who also authored New York Times Bestseller "Deep Cover." Levine fired back in numerous articles that, "if President Morales had read the book he would have welcomed DEA as heros and booted CIA from his country for betraying both the Bolivian and American people." http://narcosphere.narconews.com/notebook/bill-conroy/2011/03/bolivian-president-uses-former-dea-agent-s-book-send-message-world


Bolivia faced national protests after the announcement of a supreme decree to cut government subsidies for gasoline and diesel fuels, increasing the prices of those commodities on December 28, 2010. The measures triggered widespread protests throughout the country, among groups including Morales's own political base.[64] Following the protests, on 31 December 2010, Morales announced that the supreme decree would be annulled, saying that he was complying with his promise to "listen to the people". The protest measures were subsequently called off.[65] His approval ratings, consistently high in his first term, have declined according to one poll.[66]

He also faced protests in 2011 from indigenous groups for his plan to build a highway through the Amazon Basin that would encroach on the tribal lands of lowland indigenous tribes. He responded to the protests by initially calling them American lackeys, but later acceded to holding a referendum on the matter. A government crackdown later led to the resignation of his Defense Minister María Chacon.

Political style

Political ideology

The worst enemy of humanity is capitalism. That is what provokes uprisings like our own, a rebellion against a system, against a neo-liberal 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.


Although often vocal in his support of socialism, many commentators have noted that Evo Morales' political ideology, and the policies which his government have implemented, are not entirely socialist in nature. In his biography of the Bolivian president, the academic Sven Harten characterised Morales' ideology as "eclectic", drawing ideas from "various ideological currents".[15] Harten also noted that whilst Morales uses fierce anti-imperialist and socialist rhetoric, he is neither "a hardcore anti-globalist nor a Marxist", not having argued for the violent and absolute overthrow of capitalism or U.S. involvement in Latin America.[68]

Morales is an outspoken supporter of the iconic Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara, who was killed by CIA-assisted Bolivian soldiers in 1967. On October 8, 2009, at a ceremony in Vallegrande, marking the 42nd anniversary of Che's death, Morales remarked that "Guevara is invincible in his ideals, and in all this history, after so many years, he inspires us to continue fighting, changing not only Bolivia, but all of Latin America and the world."[69] As an additional sign of admiration, Morales has had a coca leaf portrait of Guerrillero Heroico installed in the presidential palace.[70]

However, the Morales administrations' policies are not always thought of as socialist, instead being referred to as "Andean and Amazonian capitalism" by Vice President Álvaro García Linera. Being a Marxist, García has argued that as a predominantly agricultural society, Bolivia does not contain a sufficiently large industrialized working class, or proletariat, to enable it to convert into a socialist society in the Marxist understanding of the word.[71] For this reason García related that:

The MAS is in no sense seeking to form a socialist government. It is not viable because socialism is built on the basis of a strongly organised working class ... Socialism is not constructed on the basis of a family economy, which is what dominates in Bolivia, but on large industry ... What is the model for Bolivia? A strong state, and that is capitalism ... It isn't even a mixed system ... What I do as a Marxist is evaluate the actual potential for development in society.[72]

Writing in the Indian leftist magazine Economic and Political Weekly, the far left American academic James Petras (2007) argued that Morales' government during its first 15 months in office was neither socialist or anti-imperialist in nature, instead representing "an attempt to 'moralise' existing capitalist elites." He went on to argue that the Bolivian government had gained the support of Venezuela and Cuba, as well as socialists around the world, with Morales' rhetoric, but that the government's policies had failed to actually develop a socialist alternative.[73]


Evo Morales and Bolivian vice-president Álvaro García Linera shining shoes.

Morales' unorthodox behavior contrasts with the usual manners of dignitaries and other political leaders in Latin America. For example, on January 28, 2006 he cut his salary by 57% to $1,875 a month.[8][74] He is single and, before the election, he shared a flat with other MAS officers. Consequently, his older sister, Esther Morales Ayma, fulfills the role of First Lady. He has two children from different mothers, Eva Liz Morales Alvarado and Álvaro Morales Paredes; politician Juan del Granado is Eva Liz's godfather.[75] Morales is also an association football enthusiast and plays the game frequently, often with local teams.[76][77]

He also aroused much interest in his casual choice of dress after being pictured often in his striped jacket with world leaders during his world tour. Some speculated that he would wear it to the official inauguration, where he actually dressed in a white collared dress shirt without a necktie (itself unheard of in Latin America in modern times for a head of state at their own inauguration) and a black suit jacket that was not a part of a conventional suit or tuxedo. He never dresses formally in any type of business suit. The jacket he often wears (in Bolivian Spanish, a chompa) became his unofficial symbol and copies of it sold widely throughout Bolivia.[78] Some accounts described Morales's signature jacket as alpaca-wool; others reported that it was actually made of common acrylic, because native materials had become too expensive for most Bolivians and were sold mostly in the tourist trade.[79]


Morales has declared himself Bolivia's first Aymara president. However, there is some Amerindian heritage among prior Bolivian presidents, such as Andrés de Santa Cruz (1829) —who claimed that through his mother he was descended from Inca rulers,[80] Mariano Melgarejo (1864), Carlos Quintanilla (1939), René Barrientos (1964), Juan José Torres (1976), Luis García Meza (1980), and Celso Torrelio (1981).[81] None of these presidents was democratically elected, with the exception of Barrientos, who had the full support of the Bolivian military establishment. While the claim is a potent symbol, it has been challenged publicly by novelist and erstwhile right-wing Peruvian presidential candidate Mario Vargas Llosa,[82] who accuses Morales of fomenting racial divisions in an increasingly mestizo[83] South America.

The Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano responded to Vargas Llosa saying: "I see what is happening in Bolivia as a very significant act of affirmation of diversity [which is opposite to] racism, elitism and militarism, which leave us blind to our marvellous existence, to that rainbow that we are".[84] Although Morales has sometimes been described as the first indigenous president to be democratically elected in Latin America, this description in fact goes to Benito Juarez, a Mexican of the Zapotec ethnic group, was elected President of Mexico in 1858.[9]


Since he took office in 2006, several analysts and human rights organizations have observed that many of the actions and policies of the Morales government have substantially eroded the rule of law and threaten to weaken the situation of human rights in Bolivia.[85][86] In August 2011, police violence on peaceful protesters became international news. Morales denied giving the police the order to attack the protesters, but the event tarnished his approval ratings. He issued a public apology and continued to claim the officers acted on their own.[87]

On August 2012, Morales was accused by the leader of the CN party of having raped the underage daughter of one of her Cabinet members. This accusation has been rebuffed by the cabinet member, mother of the underage daughter, as false and pretentious of the leader of the CN party. [88]



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  2. Bolivian President Evo Morales Wins Critical Referendum on His Presidency, Democracy Now!, August 12, 2008
  3. Zaa Nkweta, Morales wins referendum but opposition hits back, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, 26 Aug 2008
  4. Guardian.co.uk - Evo Morales wins landslide victory in Bolivian presidential elections Retrieved on 18 December 2009
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  6. Harten 2011. p. 35.
  7. Sivak 2008. p. 32.
  8. Gutsch 2006.
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  10. Sivak 2008. p. 33.
  11. Harten 2011. p. 36.
  12. Sivak 2008. pp. 33-34.
  13. Sivak 2008. p. 34.
  14. Harten 2011. pp. 36-37.
  15. Harten 2011. p. 40.
  16. Harten 2011. p. 37.
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  46. CNN. http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/americas/01/22/bolivia.list.ap/.[dead link]
  47. Dunkerley 2007. p. 146.
  48. Dunkerley 2007. pp. 146-147.
  49. Dunkerley 2007. p. 134.
  50. Dunkerley 2007. p. 145.
  51. Dunkerley 2007. pp. 133-134.
  52. http://upsidedownworld.org/main/bolivia-archives-31/2243-the-speed-of-change-bolivian-president-morales-empowered-by-re-election
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Academic articles

  • Dunkerley, James (2007). "Evo Morales, the 'Two Bolivias' and the Third Bolivian Revolution". Journal of Latin American Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) 39: 133–166.
  • Rochlin, James (2007). "Latin America's Left Turn and the New Strategic Landscape: The Case of Bolivia". Third World Quarterly (London: Routledge) 28 (7): 1327–1342.

News articles, reports and interviews