Bolivians overwhelmingly re-elected Evo Morales as president for a third term last Sunday with over 60 percent of the vote.
His nearest challenger, fast food entrepreneur Samuel Doria Medina, got around a quarter of the vote.
Morales’ party MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) also won commanding majorities in both houses of the Bolivian parliament.
The bulk of Morales’ support came from the indigenous and working class majority, who have benefited most from increased state welfare spending and minimum wage increases during MAS’s eight years in power. MAS has overseen significant reductions in poverty and the disappearance of illiteracy.
But there are real contradictions at the heart of Morales’ political project. He is perhaps best known internationally for his denunciations of capitalism and its effect on “Pachamama”—the earth.
But his government has intensified the extraction of
At various times these contradictions have exploded into open revolt—for instance in 2011 when huge protest from indigenous communities and their allies blocked a proposed highway construction through a national park.
Some social movements previously allied to Morales have either abandoned him or seen damaging splits.
He has committed his third term to extending the so-called “process of change” and to integrating the highly divided territory through investment in transport and communications.
The flagship for this policy is a magnificent new cable car system links the capital
Despite his environmentalist credentials the government plans extensive road building and new international airports. He also plans to construct
One big change in this election is the support Morales has received from previously hostile business interests in media luna—the eastern lowlands.
The business class has been impressed by Morales’ “careful” management of the economy.
The funding for this spending comes from
His government has also seen a rebirth in the previously dormant mining industry, once the heartbeat of the Bolivian economy, and a government assisted explosion in the export of the highland Andean grain quinoa—now a staple of expensive health food shops in
Clearly though, as the election results testify, none of this has managed to halted the extraordinary political success of Evo Morales and MAS. For the majority Morales still represents a break from the dreaded neoliberal elites that dominated the country in the 1980s and 1990s. His success as the first indigenous president has challenged deep seated racism and class hatred.
Morales has proclaimed an anti-capitalist “democratic and cultural revolution”. The next six years will test his ideals against the contradictions he faces.