LA in the News: Bolivian leader wants five more years in power

Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, has held his position for almost fourteen years. As Bolivia’s first indigenous president, he has expanded protections given to indigenous groups, most notably by backing a new constitution, which declared Bolivia to be plurinational and secular. He has also sought to reduce poverty, and has done so relatively successfully. At the start of Morales’ presidency, in 2006, the extreme poverty rate was 38%, and it has since been reduced to 17% in 2018 (BBC 2019). Due to Morales’ policies, the Bolivian economy has rapidly grown, with GDP per capita over tripling from $1,000 in 2006 to $3,600 in 2018 (Farthing 2019).

However, the presidency of Evo Morales has not gone without issue. The government debt is one such issue, with about 8% of the budget being deficit spending (Farthing 2019). Wildfires in the Bolivian Amazon have also hurt support for Morales. The slow response of the Bolivian government has resulted in large protests (Farthing 2019). Many critics also view Morales as autocratic, and point to his campaign for a fourth term as evidence.

A large part of why Morales’ campaign is so controversial is because it contradicts a 2016 referendum asking voters whether or not they wanted to keep a limit on the number of terms a president can serve. Most voters said the limit should stay, but a later court case ruled that such a limit is contrary to human rights. It’s worth noting that the tribunal in the case was appointed by a legislative body consisting largely of members of Morales’ political party (Farthing 2019). Many voters worry about Morales’ especially long occupation of the presidency potentially being authoritarian in nature. Despite this, he still has lots of support due to his reforms that have been beneficial to much of Bolivian society (Farthing 2019).

Both of the articles do well at keeping a neutral tone. The Guardian article focuses more on how he is viewed by the Bolivian public. People from multiple parts of society are interviewed in the article, but it seems that most of the interviews are from people who benefit from Morales’ policies. Of the two articles, The Guardian seems to take more of an anti-morales stance, but the bias is very slight. The BBC article, meanwhile, takes a lot of time to review the history of Morales’ administration. It does not use any interviews, unlike The Guardian article. Interestingly, the BBC article briefly focuses specifically on Morales’ relationship with the US, despite not being an American company.

The controversy over Evo Morales’ campaign for a fourth presidential term relates to our discussions over the successes and failures of the revolutions we’ve been studying. While Morales is not a revolutionary figure – his policies are more reformist – his simultaneous expansion of democracy and social change, especially to indigenous groups and the poor, and his rejection of the democratic referendum that would limit his own power presents a contradiction that is similar to the sometimes contradictory changes occurring after the Mexican and Cuban revolutions.

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