Skip to comments.Deeply divided Bolivia to pick a new president
Posted on 12/18/2005 5:42:14 AM PST by cloud8
Bolivians have begun casting ballots in an election that could pick the country's first indigenous president and give South America another leftist, anti-US leader.
About 3.6 million voters will also renew the 130 deputies and 27 senators of the legislature and choose, for the first time, nine provincial governors.
Sale of alcohol has been banned in Bolivia since Friday and 50,000 police and soldiers have been deployed around the landlocked Andean country, roughly twice the size of France, to promote calm on polling day Sunday.
Outgoing President Eduardo Rodriguez said that "after the campaigning, the polls and the speeches in the media, it is time for the sovereign people to make its decision and make its choice."
The presidential race pits Evo Morales, 46, a socialist indigenous Aymara activist who gained prominence protesting coca-crop eradication, against former president Jorge Quiroga, 45, a US-educated advocate of market liberalization.
Recent polls have placed Morales in the lead with 35 percent of voter intentions to Quiroga's 29 percent. Industrialist Samuel Doria Medina trailed with nine percent support in the polls.
If none of the three contenders gains an absolute majority, as expected, the focus will be on Congress, which will have to choose between the two leading vote-getters in January.
That could create yet more political uncertainty in South America's poorest country, which has seen two presidents forced from power since 2002.
Morales and Quiroga offer radically different visions for Bolivia, with one representing the indigenous majority of Bolivia's Altiplano, or highland, and the other the comparitively prosperous eastern lowlands.
Morales, the leader of many protests in Bolivia's streets over social and economic policies during the past two years, is an ally of Venezuela's virulently anti-US leftist President Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro.
His pledges to increase state control over the key natural gas industry and to roll back coca eradication efforts have unnerved businessmen and provoked warnings over the narcotics trade from Washington.
Technocrat Quiroga, an interim president in 2001, wants to promote ties to the United States and attract more private investment.
The split in the polls is expected to leave the final decision on the next president in the hands of the 157-member legislature.
Criss-crossed by the myriad alliances in Bolivian politics, the legislature has in the past chosen the second-place candidate as president, contributing to political instability.
Despite the international attention the election has drawn to Morales' leftist talk, for Bolivians the polls are mainly about the deep divides in the country's social fabric: poor versus rich; indigenous people versus those of European ancestry; and mountain-dwelling Bolivians versus those on the plains.
Bolivia is South America's only majority indigenous country, home mainly to ethnic Aymara and Quechua people. Yet Morales would be the first indigenous president in a political system dominated for centuries by descendants of European immigrants.
Much of the turmoil that led to the resignations of the last two presidents was connected to the deep economic divisions among Bolivia's regions.
With voting mandatory, more than 3.6 million Bolivians were expected to cast their votes. About 200 observers from 24 countries were slated to watch over the polls.
Early results of the presidential race are expected about 0001 GMT (Monday).
With some nine million inhabitants, mostly arid Bolivia is the poorest country in South America and holds the dubious distinction of world record number of coups -- close to 200 since it broke away from Spanish rule in 1825.
Quiroga is the obvious choice, but it looks like yet another SA country is going to fall into the hands of a "populist."
The only country left...and it is a very key one at that is Paraguay.
Chavez is throwing oil money all over the region to influence "elections" he is the key in all of this.
> The only country left...and it is a very key one at that is Paraguay.
Montevideo is an important trading center, kind of a regional hub.
I read the other day that Argentina is pulling itself out of debt, so perhaps there is hope there too.
Where is the Bush administration in all of this?
communists get elected to office and then enact 'reforms' enabling them to establish a dictatorship...
Argentina pulling itself out of debt?
Hardly. Chavez bought out Argentinian debt at record levels.
If you look at the numbers Argentinia will not be able to pay off that buyout in twenty years.
> Argentina pulling itself out of debt?
Retiring its IMF loan a couple of years early and saving a billion in interest. It was in the WSJ Thursday I think.
> Chavez bought out Argentinian debt at record levels.
This guy is turning into a major problem.
Evo is a nut. Worse than Chavez and more socialisticaly coherent than Saddam. He believes he is a prophet of communism, as a form of both his Indian heritage and modernist progressism, down to Gaia worship and stopping oil business altogether there...except for furthering his "movement", or death and stoppage of movement, that is.
> he is a prophet of communism, as a form of both his Indian heritage and modernist progressism...
Is he hooked up with Mexico's Atlazan kooks?
Argentina's Kirchner (a Peronista) is paying off the IMF debt (with Chavez's approval)so he can get out from under IMF restrictions and have a free hand to print and spend money. In 1900, Argentina was one of the richest countries in the world per capita. Peron's form of militarized socialism (not unlike what Chavez is doing) destroyed the economy, and there is no recovery in sight.
It sure looks like he's part of the gang
He is going to get Daniel Ortega elected in Nicaragua, thanks to his oil money.
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