Bolivian voters reject letting Morales run for 4th term
LA PAZ, Bolivia – The Associated Press
AFP photoBolivian voters have informed President Evo Morales that they want his current term to be his last, narrowly rejecting a constitutional amendment that would have let him run again in 2019.
It was the native Aymara’s first direct electoral defeat in a decade in power. He had previously prevailed in nationwide elections, including a 2009 constitutional rewrite, with an average 61.5 percent of the vote.
After the outcome became clear on the night of Feb. 23, celebrants poured into the streets in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, where opposition to Morales is strong. But fireworks also sounded in La Paz, where there is also weariness of official corruption.
The Feb. 21 ballot question was voted down 51 percent to 49 percent, with 99.5 percent of polling stations reporting, a margin of 160,000 votes. The outcome also blocks Vice President Alvaro Garcia from running again.
There was no immediate reaction from the president.
Morales is Bolivia’s first indigenous president and has changed the ethnic complexion of the landlocked Andean nation’s politics during three terms in office.
He helped lift millions out of poverty by more equitably distributing natural gas revenues, spurring the creation of an ethnic Andean middle class. He built airports, highways and the pride of La Paz, an Austrian-built aerial tramway system. He also put a Chinese-built satellite into space.
But Bolivians have been losing patience with his now-entrenched Movement Toward Socialism. And many indigenous peoples who initially lauded Morales for granting them autonomy on paper lost faith when he pushed natural gas and oil projects on their traditional lands.
The referendum also closely followed a revelation that Morales, previously unscathed by scandal, may have been personally involved in influence-peddling.