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Morales Loses ‘Dirty War,’ Agrees to Step Down at End of Term

Rick Kearns

Bolivian President Evo Morales (Aymara) accepted the results of a vote in late February that will not allow him, or any president, to run for a third term.

While he and some allies had been charged with corruption in the last year, Bolivia’s first indigenous president had high approval ratings going into the vote and vowed to continue with the efforts that had marked his presidency.

The constitutional reform referendum asked voters if a president should be allowed to serve three five-year terms instead of the current law that allows for two five-year terms. Tallies showed that 51.3 percent voted against the change while 48.7 percent voted for the three terms.

On February 24, President Morales said that he and his party, the Movement Towards Socialism (known as MAS in Spanish) would respect the voting results but asserted that the work they had done was not over, and he complained of “dirty tactics” on the part of the opposition.

“We are very respectful,” Morales said. “The Bolivian people, especially those in MAS and the social movements are very respectful of the results of any electoral process and democratic action. I commend the Bolivian people for this democratic vote.”

However, Morales asserted that the referendum campaign had become a “dirty war, with outside financing, discrimination and racism” and he also blamed certain people using social media, survey companies and others for the defeat of the proposed law. He pointed specifically at a survey that was released a week before the vote.

“[Recently], one communication medium, playing the role of a political party, said that the Yes vote had 28 perent support,” Morales continued. “Tell me: where is the Yes with 28 percent?”

In March, the Ipsos survey showed Morales had a 58 percent approval rating throughout the country even with charges of corruption against him and members of his administration.

Last September, the head of the Indigenous Fund (IF), an agency and initiative started by Morales, resigned after auditors discovered that millions of public funds for projects had disappeared.  The IF Director denied any wrongdoing. Another charge against Morales came just days before the vote. Local media reported that Morales had been romantically involved with a woman who worked for a large Chinese corporation that received million dollar contracts to do work for the country.

Despite those cases and again, a week before the vote, a violent protest by pro-MAS demonstrators that resulted in a large fire at an opposition mayor’s office and the death of six people, Morales and his allies pointed to numerous successes during his tenure.

According to a variety of studies, including some from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Bolivian economy showed steady improvement in the last decade; there was a significant drop in the poverty rate (some estimating it at up to 50 percent); increased access to healthcare and education for millions of low income people; increased revenues for these projects from gas and oil companies in Bolivia; and increased literacy rates.

“Even better, the struggle will return as before and with more strength…the rural, indigenous movements as we are anti-imperialists and this struggle will continue.”

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