Morales, Evo (1959–)
Morales, Evo (1959–)
Evo Morales was elected president of Bolivia in 2006, after an improbable and meteoric rise through the ranks of Bolivian politics. In some quarters his election to the presidency has been cited as an example of a turn to the left in Latin America and of the ascendancy of the indigenous majority in his own country.
Born in an obscure, Aymara-speaking village on the Altiplano, on October 26, 1959, "Evo," as he is known throughout Latin America, and his family lived as subsistence agropastoralists until they joined a drought-induced migration that led many campesinos to the Chapare region in the early 1980s. A gifted athlete, Morales used soccer as his calling card to enter local politics and was elected general secretary of the San Francisco peasant syndicate in 1985. His skill as an organizer and a negotiator propelled him into the national arena, first as head of the six Chapare Coca Federations in 1996 and then to a seat in the house of deputies a year later. As a deputy, Morales achieved notoriety in resisting attempts to eradicate coca production in the Chapare, a stance that would lead to his brief expulsion from the legislature. However, Morales's surprisingly strong showing in the 2002 presidential campaign, in which he deftly deflected criticism by the U.S. ambassador to establish himself as an anti-imperialist, resulted in his reinstatement and in establishing him and his Movimiento al Socialismo (Movement toward Socialism; MAS) party as viable contenders for national leadership.
In 2003 and 2004 Morales vigorously opposed the imposition of neoliberal economic policies in his country. This stance enhanced his credentials as a nationalist and set the stage for a second presidential campaign. In December 2005 Bolivians went to the polls in record numbers and gave Morales 53.7 percent of the vote, an unprecedented majority in a multiparty contest. In May, during the first year of his presidency, Morales gained notoriety by his move to nationalize Bolivia's gas reserves. However, his most enduring legacy may emerge from ongoing negotiations with Chile over extending Bolivian territory to the Pacific coast.
Evo Morales. Available from http://www.evomorales.org.
Stefanoni, Pablo, and Hervé Do Alto. Evo Morales, de la coca al palacio. La Paz, Bolivia: Malatesta, 2006.