Evo Morales, President of Bolivia

This is an historic moment for Bolivia and all of South America. The continent has elected its first-ever indigenous president, Evo Morales: coca legalization proponent, self-proclaimed “nightmare” of Washington, and pal of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. And he won convincingly. Here’s a good article providing some context from the NYT.

My quick take: Evo’s election symbolizes:

1) an oppressed ethnic majority finally saying enough is enough and giving the boot to the traditional (white) elite minority ruling class;

2) the rejection of neo-liberal economic policies;

3) an example of the unintended consequences of the Bush adminstration’s hardline foreign policy. Morales might not have been elected if anti-US sentiment weren’t so high in South America these days — indeed, his campaign slogan was “‘Causachun coca, wanuchun Yanquis’ (‘Long live coca, death to the Yankees’).

Evo, Evo+Morales, Morales

Published by Newley

Hi. I'm Newley Purnell. I cover technology and business for The Wall Street Journal, based in New Delhi. I use this site to share my stories and often blog about the books I read, tech trends, sports, travel, and our dog Ginger. Join the growing group of readers who get my weekly email newsletter.

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  1. Evo Morales keeps a picture of Che Guevara in his pocket. The picture is his talisman, and also his north. Bolivia is going the Cuban way, or at least that is what Morales plans.

    As a “cocalero” leader he is anti-American by definition. He has been mentored by Castro and Chavez. He wants a constitutional assembly to produce a socialist document. He also wants to nationalize all natural resources and get rid of foreign companies.

    You would probably think that he is leading Bolivia to an economic crisis but he has the money to finance any extravagance, courtesy of Venezuela’s oil. Plus coca leaf production may become a major source of windfall money.

    If Hugo Chavez is a headache for the US, Morales will be a migraine.

  2. This really is a big event for the whole continent. Morales is not the first indigenous president (Mexico had the Oaxacan Indian Benito Juarez in 1860), but the first 20th century one. I live in Mexico City and think that, given all the things that have happened in South America lately, if there is to be another clown/media figure in the government (such as Argentina’s Menem or Venezuelas’ Chavez), it is well worth it that that person should also be an Indian. They really deserve to have a country where they are substantially and formally their own leaders. Foreign policy is quite a comedy of errors these days, wouldn’t you say?