Evo Morales Ayma (born October 26, 1959), popularly known as Evo
(Spanish pronunciation: [ˈeβo moˈɾales]), is a Bolivian
politician and cocalero activist who has served as President of
Bolivia since 2006. Widely regarded as the country's first president
to come from the indigenous population,[a] his administration has
focused on the implementation of leftist policies, poverty reduction,
and combating the influence of the United States and multinational
corporations in Bolivia. A socialist, he is the head of the Movement
Socialism (MAS) party.
Born to an Aymara family of subsistence farmers in Isallawi, Orinoca
Canton, Morales undertook a basic education before mandatory military
service, in 1978 moving to Chapare Province. Growing coca and becoming
a trade unionist, he rose to prominence in the campesino ("rural
laborers") union. In that capacity he campaigned against U.S. and
Bolivian attempts to eradicate coca as part of the War on Drugs,
denouncing these as an imperialist violation of indigenous Andean
culture. His involvement in anti-government direct action protests
resulted in multiple arrests. Morales entered electoral politics in
1995, became the leader of the MAS and was elected to Congress.
Coupled with populist rhetoric, his campaign focused on issues
affecting indigenous and poor communities, advocating land reform and
the redistribution of gas wealth. He gained increased visibility
Cochabamba protests and gas conflict. In 2002 he was
expelled from Congress for encouraging protesters, although he came
second in that year's presidential election.
Once elected in 2005, Morales increased taxation on the hydrocarbon
industry to bolster social spending, emphasising projects to combat
illiteracy, poverty, racism, and sexism. Vocally criticizing
neoliberalism and reducing Bolivia's dependence on the
World Bank and
International Monetary Fund, his administration oversaw strong
economic growth while following a policy termed "Evonomics" which
sought to move from a liberal economic approach to a mixed economy.
Scaling back U.S. influence in the country, he built relationships
with leftist governments in the Latin American pink tide and signed
Bolivia into the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas. Attempting to
moderate the left-indigenous activist community, his administration
also opposed the right-wing autonomist demands of Bolivia's eastern
provinces. Winning a recall referendum in 2008, he instituted a new
constitution that established
Bolivia as a plurinational state and was
re-elected in 2009. His second term witnessed the continuation of
leftist policies and Bolivia's joining of the
Bank of the South
Bank of the South and
Community of Latin American and Caribbean States; he was again
reelected in the 2014 general election.
Morales has been praised for significantly reducing poverty and
Bolivia and has been internationally decorated with
various awards. His supporters have lauded him as a champion of
indigenous rights, anti-imperialism, and environmentalism.
Alternately, a number of leftist, indigenous, and environmentalist
critics have accused him of failing to live up to many of his espoused
values, while right-wing opponents have accused him of being
excessively radical and authoritarian and claimed that his defence of
coca contributes to illegal cocaine production.
1 Early life and activism
1.1 Childhood, education and military service: 1959–78
1.2 Early cocalero activism: 1978–83
1.3 General Secretary of the
Cocalero Union: 1984–94
2 Political rise
2.1 The ASP, IPSP and MAS: 1995–99
Cochabamba protests: 2000–02
2.3 Rise to power: 2003–05
3.1 First presidential term: 2006–09
3.1.1 Economic program
3.1.2 ALBA and international appearances
3.1.3 Social reform
3.1.4 Domestic unrest and the new constitution
3.2 Second presidential term: 2009–14
3.2.1 Domestic protests
3.3 Third presidential term: 2014–present
4 Political ideology
5 Personal life
6 Influence and legacy
7 See also
9 External links
Early life and activism
Childhood, education and military service: 1959–78
Aymara in traditional dress (left);
Poopó Lake was the dominant
geographical feature around Evo's home village of Isallawi (right).
Morales was born in the small rural village of Isallawi in Orinoca
Canton, part of western Bolivia's Oruro Department, on 26 October
1959. One of seven children born to Dionisio Morales Choque wife
María Ayma Mamani, only he and two siblings, Esther and Hugo,
survived past childhood. His mother almost died from a postpartum
haemorrhage following his birth. Ethnically identifying as a member
of the indigenous Aymara people, in keeping with Aymara custom, his
father buried the placenta produced after his birth in a place
specially chosen for the occasion. His childhood home was a
traditional adobe house, and 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.
Morales's family were farmers; from an early age, he helped them to
plant and harvest crops and guard their herd of llamas and sheep,
taking a homemade soccer ball to amuse himself. As a toddler, he
briefly attended Orinoca's preparatory school, and at five began
schooling at the single-room primary school in Isallawi. Aged 6,
he spent six months in northern
Argentina with his sister and father.
There, Dionisio harvested sugar cane while Evo sold ice cream and
briefly attended a Spanish-language school. As a child, he
regularly traveled on foot to
Arani province in
Cochabamba with his
father and their llamas, a journey lasting up to two weeks, in order
to exchange salt and potatoes for maize and coca.  A big fan of
soccer, at age 13 he organised a community soccer team with himself as
team captain. Within two years, he was elected training coach for the
whole region, and thus gained early experience in leadership.
After finishing primary education, Morales attended the Agrarian
Humanistic Technical Institute of Orinoca (ITAHO), completing all but
the final year. His parents then sent him to study for a degree in
Oruro; although he did poorly academically, he finished all of his
courses and exams by 1977, earning money on the side as a brick-maker,
day labourer, baker and a trumpet player for the Royal Imperial Band.
The latter position allowed him to travel across Bolivia. At the
end of his higher education he failed to collect his degree
certificate. Although interested in studying journalism, he did
not pursue it as a profession. Morales served his mandatory
military service in the Bolivian army from 1977 to 1978. Initially
signed up at the Centre for Instruction of
Special Troops (CITE) in
Cochabamba, he was sent into the Fourth Ingavi Cavalry Regiment and
stationed at the army headquarters in the Bolivian capital La Paz.
These two years were 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; under the latter's
regime, Morales was stationed as a guard at the Palacio Quemado
Early cocalero activism: 1978–83
Following his military service, Evo returned to his family, who had
escaped the agricultural devastation of 1980's El Niño storm cycle by
relocating to the Tropics of
Cochabamba in the eastern lowlands.
Setting up home in the town of Villa 14 de Septiembre, El Chapare,
using a loan from Evo's maternal uncle, the family cleared a plot of
land in the forest to grow rice, oranges, grapefruit, papaya, bananas
and later on coca. It was here that Morales learned to speak
Quechua, the indigenous local language. The arrival of the Morales
family was a part of a much wider migration to the region; in 1981 El
Chapare's population was 40,000 but by 1988 it had risen to 215,000.
Many Bolivians hoped to set up farms where they could earn a living
growing coca, which was experiencing a steady rise in price and which
could be cultivated up to four times a year; a traditional medicinal
and ritual substance in Andean culture, it was also sold abroad as the
key ingredient in cocaine. Evo joined the local soccer team,
before founding his own team, New Horizon, which proved victorious at
the August 2nd Central Tournament. The El Chapare region remained
special to Morales for many years to come; during his presidency he
often talked of it in speeches and regularly visited.
A Bolivian man holding a coca leaf.
In El Chapare, Morales joined a trade union of cocaleros (coca
growers), being appointed local Secretary of Sports. Organizing soccer
tournaments, among union members he earned the nickname of "the young
ball player" because of his tendency to organize matches during
meeting recesses. Influenced in joining the union by wider events,
in 1980 the far-right General
Luis García Meza had seized power in a
military coup, banning other political parties and declaring himself
president; for Morales, a "foundational event in his relationship with
politics" occurred in 1981, when a campesino (coca grower) was accused
of cocaine trafficking by soldiers, beaten up, and burned to
death. In 1982 the leftist
Hernán Siles Zuazo and the Democratic
and Popular Union (Unidad Democrática y Popular – UDP) took power
in representative democratic elections, before implementing neoliberal
capitalist reforms and privatizing much of the state sector with US
support; hyperinflation came under control, but unemployment rose to
25%. Becoming increasingly active in the union, from 1982 to 1983,
Morales served as the General Secretary of his local San Francisco
syndicate. However, in 1983, Morales's father Dionisio died, and
although he missed the funeral he temporarily retreated from his union
work to organize his father's affairs.
Fighting their War on Drugs, the U.S. government hoped to stem the
cocaine trade by preventing the production of coca; they pressured the
Bolivian government to eradicate it, sending troops to
Bolivia to aid
the operation. Bolivian troops would burn coca crops and in many
cases beat up coca growers who challenged them. Angered by this,
Evo returned to cocalero campaigning; like many comrades, he refused
the US$2,500 compensation offered by the government for each acre of
coca he eradicated. Deeply embedded in Bolivian culture, the
campesinos had an ancestral relationship with coca and did not want to
lose their most profitable means of subsistence. For them, it was an
issue of national sovereignty, with the U.S. viewed as imperalists;
activists regularly proclaimed "Long live coca! Death to the Yankees!"
("Causachun coca! Wañuchun yanquis!").
General Secretary of the
Cocalero Union: 1984–94
The Wiphala, flag of the Aymara.
From 1984 to 1985 Morales served as Secretary of Records for the
movement, and in 1985 he became General Secretary of the August
Second Headquarters. From 1984 to 1991 the sindicatos embarked on
a series of protests against the forced eradication of coca by
occupying local government offices, setting up roadblocks, going on
hunger strike, and organizing mass marches and demonstrations.
Morales was personally involved in this direct activism and in 1984
was present at a roadblock where 3 campesinos were killed. In
1988, Morales was elected to the position of Executive Secretary of
the Federation of the Tropics. In 1989 he spoke at a one-year
commemoratory event of the
Villa Tunari massacre in which 11 coca
farmers had been killed by agents of the Rural Area Mobile Patrol Unit
(Unidad Móvil Policial para Áreas Rurales – UMOPAR). The
UMOPAR agents beat Morales up, leaving him in the
mountains to die, but he was rescued by other union members. To
combat this violence, Morales concluded that an armed cocalero militia
could launch a guerrilla war against the government, but he was soon
persuaded on an electoral path to change instead. In 1992, he made
various international trips to champion the cocalero cause, speaking
at a conference in Cuba, and also traveling to Canada, during
which he learned of his mother's death.
In his speeches, Morales presented the coca leaf as a symbol of Andean
culture that was under threat from the imperialist oppression of the
U.S. In his view, the U.S. should deal with their domestic cocaine
abuse problems without interfering in Bolivia, arguing that they had
no right trying to eliminate coca, a legitimate product with many uses
which played a rich role in Andean culture. In a speech on this
issue, Morales 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." On another, he asserted that "We
produce our coca, we bring it to the main markets, we sell it and
that's where our responsibility ends."
Morales presented the coca growers as victims of a wealthy, urban
social elite who had bowed to U.S. pressure by implementing neoliberal
economic reforms. He argued that these reforms were to the
detriment of Bolivia's majority, and thus the country's representative
democratic system of governance failed to reflect the true democratic
will of the majority. This situation was exacerbated following the
1993 general election when the centrist Revolutionary Nationalist
Movement (Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario – MNR) won the
Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada
Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada became President. He adopted a
policy of "shock therapy", implementing economic liberalization and
widescale privatization of state-owned assets. Sánchez also
agreed with the U.S. DEA to relaunch its offensive against the
Bolivian coca growers, committing
Bolivia to eradicating 12,500 acres
(5,100 ha) of coca by March 1994 in exchange for $20 million
worth of US aid, something Morales claimed would be opposed by the
In August 1994 Morales was arrested; reporters present at the scene
witnessed him being beaten and accosted with racial slurs by civil
agents. Accused of sedition, in jail he began a dry hunger strike to
protest his arrest. The following day, 3000 campesinos began a
360-mile (580 km) march from
Villa Tunari to La Paz. Morales
would be freed on September 7, and soon joined the march, which
arrived at its destination on 19 September, where they covered the
city with political graffiti. He was again arrested in April 1995
during a sting operation that rounded up those at a meeting of the
Andean Council of
Coca Producers that he was chairing on the shores of
Lake Titicaca. Accusing the group of plotting a coup with the aid of
FARC and Peru's Shining Path, a number of his comrades were
tortured, although no evidence of a coup was brought forth and he was
freed within a week. He proceeded to
Argentina to attend a seminar
on liberation struggles.
The ASP, IPSP and MAS: 1995–99
Members of the sindicato social movement first suggested a move into
the political arena in 1986. This was controversial, with many fearing
that politicians would co-opt the movement for personal gain.
Morales began supporting the formation of a political wing in 1989,
although a consensus in favor of its formation only emerged in
1993. On March 27, 1995, at the 7th Congress of the Unique
Confederation of Rural Laborers of
Bolivia (Confederación Sindical
Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de
Bolivia – CSUTCB), a "political
instrument" (a term employed over "political party") was formed, named
Assembly for the Sovereignty of the Peoples (Asamblea por la
Sobernía de los Pueblos – ASP). At the ASP's 1st Congress, the
CSUTCB participated alongside three other Bolivian unions,
representing miners, peasants and indigenous peoples. In 1996,
Morales was appointed chairman of the Committee of the Six Federations
of the Tropics of Cochabamba, a position that he retained until
Bolivia's National Electoral Court (Corte Nacional Electoral – CNE)
refused to recognize the ASP, citing minor procedural
infringements. The coca activists circumvented this problem by
running under the banner of the United Left (IU), a coalition of
leftist parties headed by the Communist Party of
Boliviano – PCB). They won landslide victories in
those areas which were local strongholds of the movement, producing 11
mayors and 49 municipal councilors. Morales was elected to the
National Congress as a representative for El Chapare, having secured
70.1% of the local vote. In the 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.
The election resulted in the establishment of a coalition government
led by the right-wing
Nationalist Democratic Action
Nationalist Democratic Action (Acción
Democrática Nacionalista – ADN), with
Hugo Banzer as President;
Morales lambasted him as "the worst politician in Bolivian
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 Morales, who had the electoral backing of the social
movement's bases. The conflict led to a schism, with Morales and
his supporters splitting to form their own party, the Political
Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples (Instrumento Político
por la Soberanía de los Pueblos – IPSP). The movement's bases
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 to
the cocalero cause. Continuing his activism, in 1998 Morales led
another cocalero march from El Chapare to la Paz, and came under
increasing criticism from the government, who repeatedly accused him
of being involved in the cocaine trade and mocked him for how he spoke
and his lack of education.
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. The MAS would come
to be 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." The party lacked the
finance available to the mainstream parties, and so relied largely on
the work of volunteers in order to operate. It was not structured
like other political parties, instead operating as the political wing
of the social movement, with all tiers in the movement involved in
decision making; this form of organisation would continue until
2004. In the December 1999 municipal elections, the MAS secured 79
municipal council seats and 10 mayoral positions, gaining 3.27% of the
national vote, although 70% of the vote in Cochabamba.
Cochabamba protests: 2000–02
In 2000, the Tunari Waters corporation doubled the price at which they
sold water to Bolivian consumers, resulting in a backlash from leftist
activist groups, including the cocaleros. Activists clashed with
police and armed forces, in what was dubbed "the Water War", resulting
in 6 dead and 175 wounded. Responding to the violence, the government
removed the contract from Tunari and placed the utility under
cooperative control. In ensuing years further violent protests
broke out over a range of issues, resulting in more deaths both among
activists and law enforcement. Much of this unrest was connected with
the widespread opposition to economic liberalization across Bolivian
society, with a common perception that it only benefited a small
In the Andean High Plateau, a cocalero group launched a guerrilla
uprising under the leadership of Felipe Quispe; an ethnic separatist,
he and Morales disliked each other, with Quispe considering Morales to
be a traitor and an opportunist for his willingness to cooperate with
White Bolivians. Morales had not taken a leading role in these
protests, but did use them to get across his message that the MAS was
not a single-issue party, and that rather than simply fighting for the
rights of the cocalero it was arguing for structural change to the
political system and a redefinition of citizenship in Bolivia.
Evo Morales (right) with French labor union leader
José Bové in 2002
In August 2001, Banzer resigned due to terminal illness, and Jorge
Quiroga took over as President. Under U.S. pressure, Quiroga
sought to have Morales expelled from Congress. To do so, he claimed
that Morales' inflammatory language had caused the deaths of two
police officers in
Sacaba near Cochabamba, however was unable to
provide any evidence of Morales' culpability. 140 deputies voted for
Morales' expulsion, which came about in 2002. Morales asserted that it
"was a trial against Aymara and Quechas",  while MAS activists
interpreted it as evidence of the pseudo-democratic credentials of the
The MAS gained increasing popularity as a protest party, relying
largely on widespread dissatisfaction with the existing mainstream
political parties among Bolivians living in rural and poor urban
areas. Morales recognized this, and much of his discourse focused
on differentiating the MAS from the traditional political class.
Their campaign was successful, and in the 2002 presidential election
the MAS gained 20.94% of the national vote, becoming Bolivia's second
largest party, being only 1.5% behind the victorious MNR, whose
candidate, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, became President. They won
8 seats in the Senate and 27 in the Chamber of Deputies. Now the
leader of the political opposition, Morales focused on criticising
government policies rather than outlining alternatives. He had several
unconstructive meetings with Lozada, but met with Venezuela's Hugo
Chávez for the first time.
Bolivia's U.S. embassy had become publicly highly critical of Morales;
just prior to the election, the U.S. ambassador to
Rocha issued a statement declaring that U.S. aid to
Bolivia would be
cut if MAS won the election. However, exit polls revealed that Rocha's
comments had served to increase support for Morales. Following the
election, the U.S. embassy maintained this critical stance,
characterising Morales as a criminal and encouraging Bolivia's
traditional parties to sign a broad agreement to oppose the MAS;
Morales himself began alleging that the U.S. Central Intelligence
Agency was plotting to assassinate him.
Rise to power: 2003–05
Graffiti roughly translating into "The Gas is not for sale, dammit!",
with an indigenous woman in the foreground.
In 2003, the
Bolivian gas conflict
Bolivian gas conflict broke out as activists –
including coca growers – protested against the privatization of the
country's natural gas supply and its sale to U.S. companies below the
market value. Activists blocked off the road into La Paz, resulting in
clashes with police. 80 were killed and 411 injured, among them
officers, activists, and civilians, including children. Morales
did not take an active role in the conflict, instead traveling to
Libya and Switzerland, there describing the uprising as a "peaceful
revolution in progress." The government accused Morales and the
MAS of using the protests to overthrow Bolivia's parliamentary
democracy with the aid of organised crime, FARC, and the far left
governments of Venezuela, Cuba, and Libya.
Morales led calls for President Sánchez de Lozada to step down over
the death toll, gaining widespread support from the MAS, other
activist groups, and the middle classes; with pressure building,
Sánchez resigned and fled to Miami, Florida. He was replaced by
Carlos Mesa, who tried to strike a balance between U.S. and cocalero
demands, but whom Morales mistrusted. In November, Morales spent
24 hours with Cuban President
Fidel Castro in Havana, and then met
Argentinian President Nestor Kirchner. In the 2004 municipal
election, the MAS became the country's largest national party, with
28.6% of all councilors in Bolivia. However, they had failed to win
the mayoralty in any big cities, reflecting their inability to gain
widespread support among the urban middle-classes. In Bolivia's
wealthy Santa Cruz region, a strong movement for autonomy had
developed under the leadership of the Pro Santa Cruz Committee (Comite
Pro Santa Cruz). Favorable to neoliberal economics and strongly
critical of the cocaleros, they considered armed insurrection to
Bolivia should MAS take power.
In March 2005, Mesa resigned, citing the pressure of Morales and the
cocalero road blocks and riots. Amid fears of civil war,
Eduardo Rodríguez became President of a transitional government,
Bolivia for a general election in December 2005. Hiring
the Peruvian Walter Chávez as its campaign manager, the MAS electoral
campaign was based on Salvador Allende's successful campaign in the
Chilean presidential election, 1970. Measures were implemented to
institutionalize the party structure, giving it greater independence
from the social movement; this was done to allow Morales and other MAS
leaders to respond quickly to new developments without the lengthy
process of consulting the bases, and to present a more moderate image
away from the bases' radicalism. Although he had initially hoped
for a female running mate, Morales eventually chose Marxist
Álvaro García Linera
Álvaro García Linera as his Vice Presidential
candidate, with some Bolivian press speculating as to a romantic
relationship between the two. MAS' primary opponent was Jorge
Quiroga and his center-right Social and Democratic Power, whose
campaign was centered in Santa Cruz and which advocated continued
neo-liberal reform; Quiroga accused Morales of promoting the
legalization of cocaine and being a puppet for Venezuela.
With a turnout of 84.5%, the election saw Morales gain 53.7% of the
vote, while Quiroga came second with 28.6%; Morales' was the first
victory with an absolute majority in
Bolivia for 40 years. Given
that he was the sixth self-described leftist president to be elected
in Latin America since 1998, his victory was identified as part of the
broader regional pink tide. Becoming president elect, Morales was
widely described as Bolivia's first indigenous leader, at a time when
around 62% of the population identified as indigenous; political
analysts therefore drew comparisons with the election of Nelson
Mandela to the South African Presidency in 1994. This resulted in
widespread excitement among the approximately 40 million indigenous
people in the Americas, particularly those of Bolivia. However,
his election caused concern among the country's wealthy and landowning
classes, who feared state expropriation and nationalisation of their
property, as well as far-right groups, who claimed it would spark a
race war. He traveled to
Cuba to spend time with Castro, before
going to Venezuela, and then on tour to Europe, China, and South
Africa; significantly, he avoided the U.S. In January 2006,
Morales attended an indigenous spiritual ceremony at
Tiwanaku where he
Apu Mallku (Supreme Leader) of the Aymara, receiving gifts
from indigenous peoples across Latin America. He thanked the goddess
Pachamama for his victory and proclaimed that "With the unity of the
people, we're going to end the colonial state and the neo-liberal
Main article: Presidency of Evo Morales
First presidential term: 2006–09
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.
— Evo Morales, Inaugural Speech, 22 January 2006.
Morales' inauguration took place on January 22 in La Paz. It was
attended by various heads of state, including Kirchner, Chávez,
Brazil's Lula da Silva, and Chile's Ricardo Lagos. Morales wore
an Andeanized suit designed by fashion designer Beatriz Canedo
Patiño, and gave a speech that included a minute silence in
memory of cocaleros and indigenous activists killed in the
struggle. He condemned Bolivia's former "colonial" regimes,
likening them to
South Africa under apartheid
South Africa under apartheid and stating that the
MAS' election would lead to a "refoundation" of the country, a term
that the MAS consistently used over "revolution". Morales
repeated these views in his convocation of the Constituent
In taking office, Morales emphasized nationalism, anti-imperialism,
and anti-neoliberalism, although did not initially refer to his
administration as socialist. In what was widely termed a populist
act, he immediately reduced both his own presidential wage and that of
his ministers by 57% to $1,875 a month, also urging members of
Congress to do the same. Morales gathered together a
largely inexperienced cabinet made up of indigenous activists and
leftist intellectuals, although over the first three years of
government there was a rapid turnover in the cabinet as Morales
replaced many of the indigenous members with trained middle-class
leftist politicians. By 2012 only 3 of the 20 cabinet members
identified as indigenous.
At Morales' election,
Bolivia was South America's poorest nation.
Morales' government did not initiate fundamental change to Bolivia's
economic structure, and in their National Development Plan (PDN)
for 2006–10, adhered largely to the country's previous liberal
economic model. Bolivia's economy was based largely on the
extraction of natural resources, with the nation having South
America's second largest reserves of natural gas. As per his
election pledge, Morales took increasing state control of this
hydrocarbon industry with Supreme Decree 2870; previously,
corporations paid 18% of their profits to the state, but Morales
symbolically reversed this, so that 82% of profits went to the state
and 18% to the companies. The oil companies threatened to take the
case to the international courts or cease operating in Bolivia, but
ultimately relented. Thus, where
Bolivia had received $173 million
from hydrocarbon extraction in 2002, by 2006 they received $1.3
billion. Although not technically a form of nationalization,
Morales and his government referred to it as such, resulting in
criticism from sectors of the Bolivian left. In June 2006,
Morales announced his desire to nationalize mining, electricity,
telephones, and railroads, and in February 2007 nationalized the Vinto
metallurgy plant, refusing to compensate Glencore, which the
government asserted had obtained the contract illegally. Although
the FSTMB miners' federation called for the government to nationalise
the mines, the government did not do so, instead stating that any
transnational corporations operating in
Bolivia legally would not be
Morales in 2007
Bolivia experienced unprecedented economic strength,
resulting in the increase in value of its currency, the
boliviano. His first year in office ended with no fiscal deficit;
the first time this had happened in
Bolivia for 30 years, while
during the global financial crisis of 2007–08 it maintained some of
the world's highest levels of economic growth. Such economic
strength led to a nationwide boom in construction, and allowed
the state to build up strong financial reserves. Although the
levels of social spending were increased, they remained relatively
conservative, with a major priority being placed on constructing paved
roads, as well as community spaces such as soccer fields and union
buildings. In particular, the government focused on rural
infrastructure improvement, to bring roads, running water, and
electricity to areas that lacked them.
The government's stated intention was to reduce Bolivia's most acute
poverty levels from 35% to 27% of the population, and moderate poverty
levels from 58.9% to 49% over five years. Welfare 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 grew (partly because of rising
public spending), accompanied by stronger public finances which
brought economic stability.
During Morales' first term,
Bolivia broke free of the domination of
World Bank and
International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund (IMF) which had
characterised previous regimes by refusing their financial aid and
connected regulations.[clarification needed] In May 2007, it
became the world's first country to withdraw from the International
Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, with Morales
asserting that the institution had consistently favored multinational
corporations in its judgments; Bolivia's lead was followed by other
Latin American nations. Despite being encouraged to do so by the
Bolivia refused to join the Free Trade Area of the Americas,
deeming it a form of U.S. imperialism.
A major dilemma faced by Morales' administration was between the
desire to expand extractive industries in order to fund social
programs and provide employment, and to protect the country's
environment from the pollution caused by those industries.
Although his government professed an environmentalist ethos, expanding
environmental monitoring and becoming a leader in the voluntary Forest
Bolivia continued to witness rapid deforestation
for agriculture and illegal logging. Economists on both the left
and right expressed concern over the government's lack of economic
diversification. Many Bolivians opined that Morales' government
had failed to bring about sufficient job creation.
ALBA and international appearances
Morales with regional allies, at the Fórum Social Mundial for Latin
Morales' administration sought strong links with the hard left
Cuba and Venezuela. In April 2005 Morales traveled
Havana for knee surgery, there meeting with the two nations'
presidents, Castro and Chávez. In April 2006,
Bolivia agreed to
Venezuela in founding the Bolivarian Alternative for the
Americas (ALBA), with Morales attending ALBA's conference in May, at
which they initiated with a Peoples' Trade Agreement (PTA).
Meanwhile, his administration became "the least US-friendly government
in Bolivian history". In September Morales visited the U.S. for
the first time to attend the UN General Assembly, where he gave a
speech condemning U.S. President
George W. Bush
George W. Bush as a terrorist for
launching the War in Afghanistan and Iraq War, and called for the UN
Headquarters to be moved out of the country. In the U.S., he met with
Bill Clinton and
Jimmy Carter and with Native
American groups. Relations were further strained between the two
nations when in December Morales issued a Supreme Decree requiring all
U.S. citizens visiting
Bolivia to have a visa. His government
also refused to grant legal immunity to U.S. soldiers in Bolivia;
hence the U.S. cut back their military support to the country by
In December 2006, he attended the first South-South conference in
Abuja, Nigeria, there meeting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, whose
government had recently awarded Morales the Al-Gaddafi International
Prize for Human Rights. Morales proceeded straight to
a conference celebrating Castro's life, where he gave a speech arguing
for stronger links between Latin America and the Middle East to combat
U.S. imperialism. Under his administration, diplomatic relations
were established with Iran, with Morales praising Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a revolutionary comrade. In April 2007 he
attended the first
South American Energy Summit
South American Energy Summit in Venezuela, arguing
with many allies over the issue of biofuel, which he opposed. He
had a particularly fierce argument with Brazilian President Lula over
Morales' desire to bring Bolivia's refineries – which were largely
owned by Brazil's
Petrobrás – under state control. In May, Bolivia
purchased the refineries and transferred them to the Bolivian State
Petroleum Company (YPFB).
Morales with Brazilian President Lula
Morales' government sought to encourage a model of development based
upon the premise of vivir bien, or "living well". This entailed
seeking social harmony, consensus, the elimination of discrimination,
and wealth redistribution; in doing so, it was rooted in communal
rather than individual values and owed more to indigenous Andean forms
of social organization than Western ones.
Upon Morales' election, Bolivia's illiteracy rate was at 16%, the
highest in South America. Attempting to rectify this with the aid
of far left allies,
Bolivia launched a literacy campaign with Cuban
Venezuela invited 5000 Bolivian high school
graduates to study in
Venezuela for free. By 2009, UNESCO
Bolivia free from illiteracy, although the World Bank
claimed that it had only declined by 5%.
Cuba also aided Bolivia
in the development of its medical care, opening ophthalmological
centres in the country to treat 100,000 Bolivians for free per year,
and offering 5000 free scholarships for Bolivian students to study
medicine in Cuba. The government sought to expand state medical
facilities, opening twenty hospitals by 2014, and increasing basic
medical coverage up to the age of 25. Their approach sought to
utilise and harmonise both mainstream Western medicine and Bolivia's
The 2006 Bono Juancito Pinto program provided US$29 per month to poor
families for every young child that they had, while 2008's Renta
Dignidad initiative provided around $344 per month to low-income
citizens over 60. 2009's Bono Juana Azurduy program offered cash
transfers to uninsured mothers to improve their likelihood of seeking
medical care. Conservative critics of Morales' regime claimed
that these measures were simply designed to buy off the poor and
ensure continued support for the government.
Morales announced that one of the top priorities of his government was
to eliminate racism against the country's indigenous population.
To do this, he announced that all civil servants were required to
learn one of Bolivia's three indigenous languages, Quechua, Aymara, or
Guaraní, within two years. His government encouraged the
development of indigenous cultural projects, and sought to
encourage more indigenous people to attend university; by 2008, it was
estimated that half of the students enrolled in Bolivia's 11 public
universities were indigenous, while three indigenous-specific
universities had been established, offering subsidized education.
In 2009, a Vice Ministry for Decolonization was established, which
proceeded to pass the 2010 Law against Racism and Discrimination
banning the espousal of racist views in private or public
institutions. Various commentators noted that there was a renewed
sense of pride among the country's indigenous population following
Morales' election. Conversely, the opposition accused Morales'
administration of aggravating racial tensions between indigenous,
white, and mestizo populations, with some non-indigenous
Bolivians feeling that they were now experiencing racism.
International Workers' Day
International Workers' Day 2006, Morales issued a presidential
decree undoing aspects of the informalization of labor which had been
implemented by previous neoliberal governments; this was seen as a
highly symbolic act for labor rights in Bolivia. In 2009 his
government put forward suggested reforms to the 1939 labor laws,
although lengthy discussions with trade unions hampered the reforms'
progress. Morales' government increased the legal minimum wage by
50%, and reduced the pension age from 65 to 60, and then in 2010
reduced it again to 58.
While policies were brought in to improve the living conditions of the
working classes, conversely many middle-class Bolivians felt that they
had seen their social standing decline, with Morales personally
mistrusting the middle-classes, deeming them fickle. A 2006 law
reallocated state-owned lands, with this agrarian reform
entailing distributing land to traditional communities rather than
individuals. In 2010, a law was introduced permitting the
formation of recognised indigenous territories, although the
implementation of this was hampered by bureaucracy and contesting
claims over ownership. Morales' regime also sought to improve
women's rights in Bolivia. In 2010, it founded a Unit of
Depatriarchalization to oversee this process. Further seeking to
provide legal recognition and support to LGBT rights, it declared June
28 to be Sexual Minority Rights Day in the country, and
encouraged the establishment of a gay-themed television show on the
Evo Morales in 2006
Adopting a policy known as "
Cocaine No", Morales'
administration ensured the legality of coca growing, but also
introduced measures to regulate the production and trade of the
crop. In 2007, they announced that they would permit the growing
of 50,000 acres of coca in the country, primarily for the purposes of
domestic consumption, with each family being restricted to the
growing of one cato (1600 metres squared) of coca.
A social control program was implemented whereby local unions took on
responsibility for ensuring that this quota was not exceeded; in doing
so, they hoped to remove the need for military and police
intervention, and thus stem the violence of previous decades.
Measures were implemented to ensure the industrialization of coca
production, with Morales inaugurating the first coca industrialization
plant in Chulumani, which produced and packaged coca and trimate tea;
the project was primarily funded through a $125,000 donation from
Venezuela under the PTA scheme.
These industrialization measures proved largely unsuccessful given
that coca remained illegal in most nations outside Bolivia, thus
depriving the growers of an international market. Campaigning
against this, in 2012
Bolivia withdrew from the UN 1961 Convention
which had called for global criminalisation of coca, and in 2013
successfully convinced the
UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs
UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to
declassify coca as a narcotic. The U.S. State Department
criticised Bolivia, asserting that it was regressing in its
counter-narcotics efforts, and dramatically reduced aid to
$34 million to fight the narcotics trade in 2007. Nevertheless,
the number of cocaine seizures in
Bolivia increased under Morales'
government, as they sought to encourage coca growers to report
and oppose cocaine producers and traffickers. However, high
levels of police corruption surrounding the illicit trade in cocaine
remained a continuing problem for Bolivia.
Morales' government also introduced measures to tackle Bolivia's
endemic corruption; in 2007, he used a presidential decree to create
the Ministry of Institutional Transparency and Fight Against
Corruption. However, critics highlighted that MAS members were
rarely prosecuted for the crime, the main exception being
Santos Ramírez, who was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment for
corruption in 2008. Conversely, a 2009 law that permitted the
retroactive prosecution for corruption led to legal cases being
brought against a number of opposition politicians for alleged
corruption in the pre-Morales period; many fled abroad to avoid
Domestic unrest and the new constitution
During his presidential campaign, Morales had supported calls for
regional autonomy for Bolivia's departments. As president, he changed
his position, viewing the calls for autonomy – which came from
Bolivia's four eastern departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, and
Tarija – as an attempt by the wealthy bourgeoisie living in these
regions to preserve their economic position. He nevertheless
agreed to a referendum on regional autonomy, held in July 2006; the
four eastern departments voted in favor of autonomy, but
Bolivia as a
whole voted against it by 57.6%. In September, autonomy activists
launched strikes and blockades across eastern Bolivia, resulting in
violent clashes with MAS activists. In January 2007, clashes in
Cochabamba between activist groups led to fatalities, with Morales'
government sending in troops to maintain the peace. The
left-indigenous activists formed a Revolutionary Departmental
Government, but Morales denounced it as illegal and continued to
recognise the legitimacy of right-wing departmental head Manfred Reyes
In July 2006, an election to form a Constitutional Assembly was held,
which saw the highest ever electoral turnout in the nation's history.
MAS won 137 of its 255 seats, after which the Assembly was inaugurated
in August. The Assembly was the first elected parliamentary body
Bolivia which features strong campesino and indigenous
representation. In November, the Assembly approved a new
constitution, which converted the Republic of
Bolivia into the
Plurinational State of Bolivia, describing it as a "plurinational
communal and social unified state". The constitution emphasized
Bolivian sovereignty of natural resources, separated church and state,
forbade foreign military bases in the country, implemented a two-term
limit for the presidency, and permitted limited regional autonomy. It
also enshrined every Bolivians' right to water, food, free health
care, education, and housing. In enshrining the concept of
plurinationalism, one commentator noted that it suggested "a profound
reconfiguration of the state itself" by recognising the rights to
self-determination of various nations within a single state.
Morales in 2008
In May 2008, the eastern departments pushed for greater autonomy, but
Morales' government rejected the legitimacy of their position.
They called for a referendum on recalling Morales, which saw an 83%
turnout and in which Morales was ratified with 67.4% of the vote.
Unified as the National Council for Democracy (CONALDE), these groups
– financed by the wealthy agro-industrialist, petroleum, and
financial elite – embarked on a series of destabilisation campaigns
to unseat Morales' government. Unrest then broke out across
eastern Bolivia, as radicalized autonomist activists established
blockades, occupied airports, clashing with pro-government
demonstrations, police, and armed forces. Some formed paramilitaries,
bombing state companies, indigenous NGOs, and human rights
organisations, also launching armed racist attacks on indigenous
communities, culminating in the Pando Massacre of MAS activists.
The autonomists gained support from some high-ranking politicians;
Santa Cruz Governor
Rubén Costas lambasted Morales and his supporters
with racist epithets, accusing the president of being an Aymara
fundamentalist and a totalitarian dictator responsible for state
terrorism. Amid the unrest, foreign commentators began
speculating on the possibility of civil war.
After it was revealed that USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives
had supplied $4.5 million to the pro-autonomist departmental
governments of the eastern provinces, in September 2008 Morales
accused the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg, of
"conspiring against democracy" and encouraging the civil unrest,
ordering him to leave the country. The U.S. government
responded by expelling Bolivian ambassador to the U.S., Gustavo
Bolivia subsequently expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA) from the country, while the U.S. responded by
withdrawing their Peace Corps. Chávez stood in solidarity with
Bolivia by ordering the U.S. ambassador
Patrick Duddy out of his
country and withdrawing the Venezuelan ambassador to the U.S. The
Union of South American Nations
Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) convened a special meeting to
discuss the Bolivian situation, expressing full support for Morales'
Morales meeting with Russian President
Dmitry Medvedev in 2009
Although unable to quell the autonomist violence, Morales' government
refused to declare a state of emergency, believing that the
autonomists were attempting to provoke them into doing so.
Instead, they decided to compromise, entering into talks with the
parliamentary opposition. As a result, 100 of the 411 elements of the
Constitution were changed, with both sides compromising on certain
issues. Nevertheless, the governors of the eastern provinces
rejected the changes, believing it gave them insufficient autonomy,
while various Indianist and leftist members of MAS felt that the
amendments conceded too much to the political right. The
constitution was put to a referendum in January 2009, in which it was
approved by 61.4% of voters.
Following the approval of the new Constitution, the 2009 general
election was called. The opposition sought to delay the election by
demanding a new biometric registry system, hoping that it would give
them time to form a united front against MAS. Many MAS activists
reacted violently against the demands, and attempting to prevent this.
Morales went on a five-day hunger strike in April 2009 to push the
opposition to rescind their demands. He also agreed to allow for the
introduction of a new voter registry, but insisted that it was rushed
through so as not to delay the election. Morales and the MAS won
with a landslide majority, polling 64.2%, while voter participation
had reached an all-time high of 90%. His primary opponent, Reyes
Villa, gained 27% of the vote. The MAS won a two-thirds majority in
both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Morales notably
increased his support in the east of the country, with MAS gaining a
majority in Tarija. In response to his victory, Morales
proclaimed that he was "obligated to accelerate the pace of change and
deepen socialism" in Bolivia, seeing his re-election as a mandate to
further his reforms.
Second presidential term: 2009–14
During his second term, Morales began to speak openly of
"communitarian socialism" as the ideology that he desired for
Bolivia's future. He assembled a new cabinet which was 50%
female, a first for Bolivia, although by 2012, that had dropped
to a third. One of the main tasks that faced his government
during this term was the aim of introducing legislation that would
cement the extension of rights featured in the new constitution.
In April 2010, the departmental elections saw further gains for
MAS. In 2013, the government passed a law to combat domestic
violence against women.
Morales at an international conference in 2012
In December 2009, Morales attended the 2009 United Nations Climate
Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he blamed climate
change on capitalism and called for a financial transactions tax to
fund climate change mitigation. Ultimately deeming the conference to
have been a failure, he oversaw the World's People Conference on
Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth outside of
Following the victories of
Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in
the 2008 U.S. presidential election, relations between
Bolivia and the
U.S. improved slightly, and in November 2009 the countries entered
negotiations to restore diplomatic relations. After the U.S.
2011 military intervention in Libya
2011 military intervention in Libya by
NATO forces, Morales
condemned Obama, calling for his
Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize to be revoked.
The two nations restored diplomatic relations in November 2011,
although Morales refused to allow the DEA back into the country.
In October 2012, the government passed a Law of Mother Earth that
banned genetically modified organisms (GMOs) being grown in Bolivia;
although praised by environmentalists, it was criticised by the
nation's soya growers, who claimed that it would make them less
competitive on the global market.
On 2 July 2013, Bolivia's foreign minister said that the diversion of
Morales's presidential plane (FAB-001, a Dassault Falcon 900EX), when
Portuguese, French, Spanish and Italian authorities denied access to
their airspace due to suspicions that
Edward Snowden was on board the
aircraft, had put the president's life at risk. Latin American
leaders describe the incident as a "stunning violation of national
sovereignty and disrespect for the region". Morales himself
described the incident as a "hostage" situation. France
apologized for the incident the next day. The presidents of
Argentina, Ecuador, Suriname,
Uruguay and Venezuela, Morales's
political allies in the region, gathered to demand an explanation of
In 2014, Morales became the oldest active professional soccer player
in the world after signing a contract for 200 dollars a month with
Sport Boys Warnes.
On 31 July 2014, Morales condemned the
2014 Israel–Gaza conflict
2014 Israel–Gaza conflict and
declared Israel a "terrorist state".
Morales addressing Bolivia's Parliament
Morales' second term was heavily affected by infighting and dissent
from within his support base, as indigenous and leftist activists
rejected several government reforms. In May 2010, his government
announced a 5% rise in the minimum wage. The Bolivian Workers' Central
(COB) felt this insufficient given the rising cost of living, calling
a general strike, while protesters clashed with police. The government
refused to increase the rise, accusing protesters of being pawns of
the right. In August 2010, violent protests broke out in southern
Potosí over widespread unemployment and a lack of infrastructure
investment. In December 2010, the government cut subsidies for
gasoline and diesel fuels, which raised fuel prices and transport
costs. Protests led Morales to nullify the decree, responding that he
"ruled by obeying". In June 2012, Bolivia's police launched
protests against anti-corruption reforms to the police service; they
burned disciplinary case records and demanded salary increases.
Morales' government relented, cancelling many of the proposed reforms
and agreeing to the wage rise.
In 2011, the government announced it had signed a contract with a
Brazilian company to construct a highway connecting Beni to
Cochabamba, which would pass through the Isiboro Sécure National Park
and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS). This would better integrate the
Beni and Pando departments with the rest of
Bolivia and facilitate
hydrocarbons exploration. The plan brought condemnation from
environmentalists and indigenous communities living in the TIPNIS, who
claimed that it would encourage deforestation and illegal settlement
and that it violated the constitution and United Nations Declaration
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The issue became an
international cause célèbre and cast doubt on the government's
environmentalist and indigenous rights credentials. In August,
800 protesters embarked on a protest march from Trinidad to La Paz;
many were injured in clashes with police and supporters of the
road. Two government ministers and other high-ranking officials
resigned in protest and Morales's government relented, announcing
suspension of the road. In October 2011, he passed Law 180,
prohibiting further road construction, although the government
proceeded with a consultation, eventually gaining the consent of 55 of
the 65 communities in TIPNIS to allow the highway to be built, albeit
with a variety of concessions; construction was scheduled to take
place after the 2014 general election. In May 2013, the
government announced that it would permit hydrocarbon exploration in
Bolivia's 22 national parks, to widespread condemnation from
Third presidential term: 2014–present
Morales with Iranian President
Hassan Rouhani during the Third GECF
In 2008, Morales had vowed that he would not stand for re-election in
the 2014 general election. However, he successfully did so and
after proclaiming victory in the election, Morales declared it "a
triumph of the anti-colonialists and anti-imperialists" and dedicated
his win to both Castro and Chávez.
On the basis of this victory, the
Financial Times remarked that
Morales represented "one of the world's most popular leaders". On
17 October 2015, Morales surpassed Andrés de Santa Cruz's nine years,
eight months, and twenty-four days in office and became Bolivia's
longest serving president. Writing in The Guardian, Ellie
Mae O'Hagan attributes his enduring popularity not to anti-imperialist
rhetoric but his "extraordinary socio-economic reforms," which
resulted in poverty and extreme poverty declining by 25% and 43%
In early February 2016 there were rumors that Morales had had a child
by a young woman, Gabriela Zapata Montaño, and had granted favors to
the Chinese company for which she worked. Morales admitted that they
had had a son (who had died in infancy), but denied vehemently any
granting of favors and said he had not been in contact with Zapata
Montaño since 2007.
In February 2016, a referendum was held on the question of whether
Morales should be allowed to run for a fourth term; he narrowly
lost. His approval rating had been damaged by the allegations
concerning his relationship with Gabriela Zapata Montaño. In
December 2016 the MAS nominated Morales as their candidate for the
2019 presidential election regardless, stating that they would seek
various avenues to ensure the legality of such a candidact. In
December 2017, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice of
that—in contrast to the constitution—all public offices would have
no term limits, blaming American imperialism for the nullification of
the referendum's decision, thus allowing Morales to run for a fourth
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
– Evo Morales
Figures in the Morales government have described the President's
approach to politics as "Evoism" (Spanish: Evismo). From 2009,
Morales has advocated "communitarian socialism", while political
scientist Sven Harten characterized Morales's ideology as "eclectic",
drawing ideas from "various ideological currents". Harten noted
that whilst Morales uses fierce anti-imperialist and leftist 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.
Economically, Morales' policies have sometimes been termed "Evonomics"
and have focused on creating a mixed economy. Morales'
presidential discourse has revolved around distinguishing between "the
people", of whom he sees himself as a representative, and the
oppressive socio-economic elite and the old political class, whom he
believes have mistreated "the people" for centuries. Morales
sought to make Bolivia's representative democracy more direct and
communitarian, through the introduction of referendums and a
citizen-led legislative initiative. George Philip and Francisco
Panizza claimed that like his allies Correa and Chávez, Morales
should be categorized as a populist, because he appealed
"directly to the people against their countries' political and
economic order, divided the social field into antagonistic camps and
promised redistribution and recognition in a newly founded political
Various far left commentators have argued against categorizing the
Morales administration as socialist. Bolivia's Marxist Vice President
Álvaro García Linera
Álvaro García Linera asserts that
Bolivia lacks the sufficiently
large industrialized working class, or proletariat, to enable it to
convert into a socialist society in the Marxist understanding of the
word. Instead, he terms the government's approach "Andean and
Amazonian capitalism". Marxist American sociologist James Petras
has argued that Morales' government is neither socialist nor
anti-imperialist, instead describing Morales as a "radical
conservative" for utilizing socialist rhetoric while continuing to
support foreign investment and the economic status of Bolivia's
capitalist class, while British Trotskyist academic Jeffery R.
Webber asserted that Morales was no socialist but that his regime was
"reconstituting neoliberalism", thereby rejecting "neoliberal
orthdoxy" but retaining a "core faith in the capitalist market as the
principal engine of growth and industrialization." Similarly,
Felipe Quispe characterised Morales' government as
"neoliberalism with an Indian [i.e. indigenous] face".
Evo Morales and Bolivian vice-president
Álvaro García Linera
Álvaro García Linera shining
Morales identifies as ethnically Aymara, and has been widely described
as Bolivia's first democratically-elected President from the
indigenous majority. 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 Juárez, a
Mexican of the Zapotec ethnic group, who was elected President of
Mexico in 1858. Biographer
Martín Sivak described Morales as
"incorruptible, charismatic, and combative", also noting that he
had a "friendly style" and could develop a good rapport with
journalists and photographers, in part because he could "articulate
his opinions with simplicity". He places a great emphasis on
trust, and relies on his intuition, sometimes acting on what he
considers omens in his dreams. Harten noted that Morales "can be
a forceful leader, one who instills great respect and, sometimes, a
reluctance in others to contradict him, but he has also learnt to
listen and learn from other people." Farthing and Kohl
characterised Morales as a "charismatic populist" of a kind common in
Latin American history, who prioritized "a direct relationship"
between the population and the leader.
Morales is not married and upon becoming president selected his older
sister, Esther Morales Ayma, to adopt the role of First Lady. He has
three children from different mothers. They are Eva Liz Morales
Alvarado (born 1994), Álvaro Morales Paredes (born 1995), and Ernesto
Fidel Morales Zapata (born 2007 and allegedly died in
Juan del Granado
Juan del Granado is Eva Liz's
godfather. Morales' romantic relationship with Ernesto's mother
Gabriela Zapata Montaño, from 2005 to 2007, remained unknown publicly
Morales has commented that he is only a Roman Catholic in order "to go
to weddings", and when asked if he believed in God, responded that "I
believe in the land. In my father and my mother. And in
Cuchi-Cuchi" He lives an ascetic life, with little interest in
Morales is also an association football enthusiast and plays the game
frequently, often with local teams.
Morales's unorthodox behavior contrasts with the usual manners of
dignitaries and other political leaders in Latin America. During
speeches he made use of personal stories and anecdotes, and used
coca as "a potent political symbol", wearing a coca leaf garland
around his neck and a hat with coca leaves in it when speaking to
crowds of supporters. Following his election, he wore striped
jumpers rather than the suits typically worn by politicians. It became
a symbol of Morales, with copies of it selling widely in
Bolivia. Unlike his ally
Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, the MAS
does not revolve around his personality.
Influence and legacy
Morales in 2011, while on a visit to Caracas, Venezuela
Morales has been described as "the most famous Bolivian ever",
whose personality has become "fixed in the global imagination".
Morales' government has been seen as part of the pink tide of
left-leaning Latin American governments, becoming particularly
associated with the hard left current of
Venezuela and Cuba. It
has been praised for its pro-socialist stance among the international
left, who have taken an interest in
Bolivia under his leadership
as a "political laboratory" or "a living workshop" for the
development of an alternative to capitalism. Domestically,
Morales' support base has been among Bolivia's poor and indigenous
communities. For these communities, who had felt marginalized in
Bolivian politics for decades, Morales "invokes a sense of dignity and
destiny" in a way that no other contemporary politician has done.
He has received the support of many democratic socialists and social
democrats, as well as sectors of Bolivia's liberal movement, who have
been critical of Morales but favoured him over the right-wing
Based on interviews conducted among Bolivians in 2012, John Crabtree
and Ann Chaplin described the previous years of Morales' rule with the
observation that: "for many — perhaps most — Bolivians, this was a
period when ordinary people felt the benefits of policy in ways that
had not been the case for decades, if ever." Crabtree and Chaplin
added that Morales' administration had made "important changes... that
will probably be difficult to reverse", including poverty reduction,
the removal of some regional inequalities, and side-lining of some
previously dominant political actors in favor of others who had been
encouraged and enabled by his government.
Critics, particularly in the U.S. government, have varyingly termed
him "a left-wing radical, a partner of narco-traffickers and a
terrorist". Opposition to Morales' governance has centered in the
wealthy eastern lowland province of Santa Cruz. His policies often
antagonized middle-class Bolivians, who deemed them too radical and
argued that they threatened private property. His most vociferous
critics have been from Bolivia's conservative movement, although he
has also received criticism from the country's far left, who believe
his reformist policies have been insufficiently radical or
socialist. Many of these leftist critics were unhappy that
Morales' regime did not make a total break with global
capitalism. His regime has also faced many of the same complaints
directed at previous Bolivian administrations, revolving around such
issues as "concentration of power, corruption, incompetent
bureaucracies, and disrespect for civil liberties".
Crabtree and Chaplin's study led them to conclude that while Morales'
initial election had brought "huge expectations" from many Bolivians,
especially in the social movements, there had been "inevitable
frustrations" at his administration's inability to deliver on
everything that they had hoped. They thought that the "heady
optimism" that had characterized Morales' first term in office had
given way to "a climate of questioning and growing criticism of the
government and its policies". Although the Bolivian economy had
grown, the material benefits had not been as high as many Bolivians
had hoped. Crabtree and Chaplin argued that the experiences of
his administration had "drawn attention to the difficulties involved
in bringing change in the patterns of development in one of Latin
America's poorest and most unequal nations". Similarly, Harten
thought that Morales' discourse of "the people" against the
socio-economic elites has brought a spotlight on the deep social
polarization in Bolivia.
Domestic policy of Evo Morales
Foreign policy of Evo Morales
Evo Morales and the Roman Catholic Church
^ Morales is described as the first indigenous president of
academic studies of his presidency, such as those of
Muñoz-Pogossian, Webber, Philip and Panizza, and Farthing
and Kohl, as well as in press reports, such as those of BBC
News. However, there have been challenges to this claim by critics
who have asserted that Morales probably has some European ancestry,
and thus on genetic grounds is technically mestizo rather than solely
indigenous. Harten asserted that this argument was "misguided[,]
wrong[... and] above all irrelevant" because regardless of his genetic
makeup, the majority of Bolivians perceive Morales as being the first
indigenous president. In Bolivian society, indigeneity is a fluid
concept rooted in cultural identity; for instance, many indigenous
individuals that have settled in urban areas and abandoned their
traditional rural customs have come to identify as mestizo.
^ Muñoz-Pogossian 2008, p. 180.
^ Webber 2011, p. 1.
^ Philip & Panizza 2011, p. 57.
^ a b Farthing & Kohl 2014, p. 1.
^ a b c d e f "Profile: Bolivia's President Evo Morales". BBC News. 13
^ a b c d Harten 2011, p. 7.
^ Farthing & Kohl 2014, p. 22.
^ a b c Harten 2011, p. 35.
^ Harten 2011, p. 35; Webber 2011, p. 62.
^ Gutsch 2006; Sivak 2010, p. 32; Harten 2011, p. 35.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 33.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 33; Harten 2011, p. 7; Webber 2011,
^ Sivak 2010, p. 32; Harten 2011, p. 35.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 33–34; Harten 2011, p. 36.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 34; Harten 2011, p. 36; Webber 2011,
^ Sivak 2010, p. 33; Harten 2011, pp. 36–37.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 34; Harten 2011, p. 40.
^ a b Harten 2011, p. 37.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 34–35; Harten 2011, p. 37; Webber 2011,
^ Sivak 2010, p. 35; Harten 2011, p. 37.
^ Blackwell 2002; Sivak 2010, p. 35; Harten 2011, p. 37.
^ Harten 2011, pp. 37–38.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 35.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 36; Harten 2011, p. 39.
^ Webber 2011, p. 63.
^ a b c Sivak 2010, p. 39.
^ Harten 2011, p. 39.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 40–41.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 40–41; Philip & Panizza 2011,
^ a b c d e Sivak 2010, p. 42.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 40–41, 57–58.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 41.
^ Harten 2011, p. 109.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 42; Harten 2011, p. 109.
^ a b Sivak 2010, p. 43.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 43, 65.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 43–44, 49.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 52.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 58.
^ a b c Harten 2011, pp. 74–77.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 44.
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^ a b Sivak 2010, p. 45.
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^ Sivak 2010, p. 47.
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^ a b c d Harten 2011, p. 84.
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^ a b Sivak 2010, p. 79.
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2011, p. 84; Webber 2011, p. 60.
^ a b Harten 2011, p. 85.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 79–80.
^ Harten 2011, p. 85; Webber 2011, p. 60.
^ Harten 2011, p. 86.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 81.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 81–82.
^ a b Harten 2011, p. 86; Webber 2011, p. 60.
^ America Vera-Zavala (December 18, 2005). "
Evo Morales Has Plans for
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Retrieved February 7, 2007.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 89–90; Harten 2011, p. 87.
^ Harten 2011, pp. 89–90.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 82–83; Harten 2011, pp. 112–118;
Farthing & Kohl 2014, p. 11.
^ Harten 2011, pp. 107, 117.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 83–84.
^ Harten 2011, p. 126.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 84.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 84–85.
^ Harten 2011, p. 117.
^ Harten 2011, pp. 95–96.
^ Harten 2011, p. 102.
^ Muñoz-Pogossian 2008, p. 149; Sivak 2010, p. 90; Harten
2011, p. 87; Webber 2011, p. 63; Farthing & Kohl 2014,
^ Harten 2011, p. 87.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 94-96.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 86–87; Sivak 2011, p. 158; Harten 2011,
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 95, 98; Sivak 2011, p. 159.
^ Muñoz-Pogossian 2008, pp. 164–167; Sivak 2010,
pp. 99–103; Harten 2011, pp. 118–124.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 100.
^ Harten 2011, pp. 122–123.
^ Muñoz-Pogossian 2008, p. 167; Sivak 2010, pp. 101–103;
Harten 2011, pp. 122–124.
^ Muñoz-Pogossian 2008, p. 167; Sivak 2010, pp. 137–139;
Webber 2011, p. 80.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 103–104.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 138.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 142; Harten 2011, p. 88.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 141–142.
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Farthing & Kohl 2014, p. 14.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 146.
^ Muñoz-Pogossian 2008, p. 175; Sivak 2010, p. 147.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 148–149.
^ Harten 2011, pp. 140, 151; Webber 2011, p. 68.
^ Muñoz-Pogossian 2008, pp. 179–180; Sivak 2010,
pp. 150–151; Harten 2011, p. 88; Webber 2011, p. 64.
^ Harten 2011, p. 139.
^ Muñoz-Pogossian 2008, p. 177; Sivak 2010, p. 152.
^ Muñoz-Pogossian 2008, p. 178; Sivak 2010, pp. 155–158;
Harten 2011, p. 88; Webber 2011, p. 50.
^ Muñoz-Pogossian 2008, p. 1; Farthing & Kohl 2014,
p. 2; Pearce 2011, p. xv.
^ Harten 2011, pp. 88–89; Webber 2011, p. 1, 70.
^ a b Farthing & Kohl 2014, pp. 1–2.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 156–157; Farthing & Kohl 2014, p. 1.
^ Kozloff 2008, pp. 117–118; Sivak 2010, p. 159; Farthing
& Kohl 2014, p. 35.
^ Dunkerley 2007, p. 133; Sivak 2011, p. 161.
^ a b Sivak 2010, p. 160.
^ Gutsch 2006; Sivak 2010, p. 158.
^ Dunkerley 2007, p. 146.
^ Dunkerley 2007, pp. 146–147.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 214–215.
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Kohl 2014, pp. 35–36.
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^ Farthing & Kohl 2014, p. 65.
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^ a b Farthing & Kohl 2014, p. 79.
^ Webber 2011, p. 192.
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Webber 2011, pp. 80–81.
^ Farthing & Kohl 2014, p. 39.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 203–204; Farthing & Kohl 2014,
^ Webber 2011, p. 107.
^ a b c Farthing & Kohl 2014, p. 85.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 107.
^ a b Farthing & Kohl 2014, p. 87.
^ Webber 2011, p. 198; Farthing & Kohl 2014, pp. 85, 87.
^ Farthing & Kohl 2014, p. 98.
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^ Farthing & Kohl 2014, p. 73.
^ a b Sivak 2011, p. 162.
^ Farthing & Kohl 2014, p. 91.
^ Farthing & Kohl 2014, pp. 91–92.
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2014, p. 75.
^ Sivak 2010, p. 70.
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2014, p. 75.
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^ Sivak 2011, p. 165.
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^ Farthing & Kohl 2014, pp. 109–110.
^ Farthing & Kohl 2014, p. 109.
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^ Crabtree & Chaplin 2013, pp. 23–24.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 213, 219; Harten 2011, pp. 182, 218–219;
Farthing & Kohl 2014, pp. 41–42.
^ Assies 2011, p. 93.
^ Sivak 2010, pp. 219–220.
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& Kohl 2014, p. 48.
^ Webber 2011, pp. 132–133.
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Current heads of state of the South American countries
Mauricio Macri (Argentina)
Evo Morales (Bolivia)
Michel Temer (Brazil)
Sebastián Piñera (Chile)
Juan Manuel Santos
Juan Manuel Santos (Colombia)
Lenín Moreno (Ecuador)
David Granger (Guyana)
Horacio Cartes (Paraguay)
Martín Vizcarra (Peru)
Dési Bouterse (Suriname)
Anthony Carmona (Trinidad and Tobago)
Tabaré Vázquez (Uruguay)
Nicolás Maduro (Venezuela)
Elizabeth II (Falkland Islands/South Georgia and the South Sandwich
Emmanuel Macron (French Guiana)
Presidents of Bolivia
Antonio José de Sucre
José María Pérez de Urdininea
Pedro Blanco Soto
Andrés de Santa Cruz
Mariano Enrique Calvo Cuellar
Eusebio Guilarte Vera
José Miguel de Velasco Franco
Manuel Isidoro Belzu
José María Linares
José María Achá
Tomás Frías Ametller
Pedro José Domingo de Guerra
José Manuel Pando
Felipe S. Guzmán
Hernando Siles Reyes
Carlos Blanco Galindo
Daniel Salamanca Urey
José Luis Tejada Sorzano
Luis Adolfo Siles Salinas
Alfredo Ovando Candía
Juan José Torres
Víctor González Fuentes
Lidia Gueiler Tejada
Luis García Meza Tejada
Hernán Siles Zuazo
Víctor Paz Estenssoro
Jaime Paz Zamora
Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada
Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada
Leaders of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas
Current leaders of the Union of South American Nations
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