Formerly a coca farmer and llama herder, Moraleswho reportedly got more than 50 percent of votes castis the first indigenous president elected in 180 years. His closest opponentU.S.-backed Jorge Quirogahad around 33 percent of the vote. Morales campaigned against foreign domination of the oil and natural gas industry and for ending the U.S.-led war on drugs aimed at coca growers.
This is the new history of Bolivia, Morales said in his victory speech in Cochabamba. We, the indigenous people, have been called animals and savages…. That is not important anymore. Aymara- and Quechua-speaking Indians make up over half of the countrys 9 million people. Morales scored a sweeping victory in La Paz, Oruro, Cochabamba, Chuquisaca, and Potosíheavily indigenous areas.
Class polarization has been deepening in the country in recent years. In 2003 strikes and protests against the plunder of the nations patrimony by Washington and other imperialist powers were met by military might. Then-president Gonzálo Sánchez de Lozada deployed the army, which killed 80 demonstrators and injured hundreds. He was soon forced to resign.
Carlos Mesa picked up the baton as the next president. He posed as independent of the hated traditional parties that have ruled for decades, but continued the austerity measures of his predecessor, provoking resistance.
More than 75 percent of the Bolivian people lack running water, less than 1 percent have sewage service, and only 15 percent have access to electricity in a country with the second-largest gas reserves in South America.
Working people in Bolivia organized hundreds of protests under Mesa. Last May and June anti-government actions were as large as 80,000 peopleincluding highway blockades and strikes that paralyzed the countryleading to Mesas resignation.
Eduardo Rodríguez was dubbed caretaker president June 14. Pressed by protest actions, he promised formal elections within five months.
Over the past three years, the Bolivian Workers Federation, the Pachakuti Indigenous Movement, MAS, and other indigenous organizations have led demonstrations to demand substantial increases in royalties paid by foreign oil companies, from 18 percent to at least 50 percent.
Expectations are high among workers and peasants who are seeking a break with the policies of previous regimes with the election of Morales. Washington, on the other hand, sees the election as a destabilizing event in the Americas.
Morales has said his government will cooperate with other anti-imperialists on the continent, referring to the governments of Cuba and Venezuela. He also called on Washington to respect the sovereign decision of the people, and said he is open to cordial relations with the United States but not subordinate or submissive ones.
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