Category Archives: Bolivia

Latin America should stop worrying (about term limits) and start to love incumbency


My latest for Americas Quarterly argues that the hand-wringing over the advantages of incumbency in Latin America is overwrought, and that term limits may actually hinder the development of sustained policy gains.brazil

In particular, Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff each won their respective presidential contests since June. But two of those three elections were incredibly competitive:

Incumbent victories in Brazil and Colombia, the two largest economies of South America today, are also much more fragile than they appear. Rousseff only narrowly defeated challenger Aécio Neves, and her margin of victory was the smallest of any presidential election since the end of Brazil’s military dictatorship in 1985.

Santos actually lost Colombia’s first-round vote in May to the more conservative Óscar Iván Zuluaga, who had threatened to shut down talks between the Santos government and the leftist Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) that have destabilized the country for a half-century. More notably, the country’s March parliamentary elections transformed the Colombian Congress from a rubber-stamp chamber into a much stronger check on presidential power.

In both countries, democratic competition is on the rise. Even in countries lacking truly fair elections, such as in Venezuela, Henrique Capriles nearly defeated President Nicolás Maduro in April 2013, despite the widespread institutional advantages from which Maduro benefitted after over a decade of chavismo.


Read it all here.

Bolivia election results: Morales wins landslide, but obstacles lurk

evowinsPhoto credit to Aizar Raldes/AFP.

It wasn’t unexpected, but Evo Morales has extended his rule to a third consecutive term after Sunday’s general elections in Bolivia, where exit polls show that Morales leads his nearest rival, Samuel Doria Medina, by a margin of around 60% to 24%, easily avoiding a runoff and propelling him into position to become Bolivia’s longest-serving leader. bolivia

Although Morales himself introduced a two-term limitation in a new constitution promulgated by popular referendum in 2009, he argued that because he was elected to his first term in 2005 under the old Bolivian constitution, his 2009 reelection was his first ‘term’ under the new constitution, paving the way for Sunday’s reelection bid.

Unless the Bolivian Asamblea Legislativa Plurinacional (Plurinational Legislative Assembly) votes to overturn those term limits, however, Morales will now become a lame-duck president, whose final term will end in 2019.

Though the final results of Bolivia’s parliamentary elections are not yet available, it was also expected that Morales’s Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS, Movement for Socialism) would retain its control over both houses of the national assembly.

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RELATED: Morales set to cruise to easy reelection in Bolivia

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Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia, won reelection for many reasons, including his faithful support among Bolivia’s majority indigenous population. Bolivia’s economy is roaring, thanks to a commodity boom and high demand (and high prices) for Bolivian natural gas in neighboring Argentina and Brazil. Though Morales came to office as a firebrand disciple of the late socialist Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, he has taken a more nuanced approach to economic policy than chavismo might otherwise indicate. Though Morales has nationalized many of Bolivian’s industries, including major gas, mining and telecommunications interests, even orthodox economic policymakers admit that the Morales government has done a good job of managing state assets. Morales has reduced Bolivian public debt, and he has used the proceeds of the Bolivian commodities bonanza to finance programs that have sharply reduced poverty in South America’s poorest country. Continue reading Bolivia election results: Morales wins landslide, but obstacles lurk

Morales set to cruise to easy reelection in Bolivia

evobikerPhoto credit to Xinhua / Reynaldo Zaconeta / ABI.

Though the late Hugo Chávez has been dead for over a year, the progeny of his democratic socialist movement elsewhere in Latin America are thriving — in part by playing much smarter regional politics than Chávez ever did.bolivia

Even as Chávez’s heirs in Venezuela struggle to control a growing economic and governance crisis, the other children of chavismo, including Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa and Bolivian president Evo Morales, may be showing how to marry socialist ideology to a more sustainable co-existence with global markets.

All three leaders, including Morales, tweaked investors by nationalizing industries and, in the case of Morales, railing against the international patchwork of neoliberal institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

As with Correa and Chávez, Morales came to power with a relatively anti-US disposition, and one of the first things that Morales, a former coca farmer, did upon taking office was to kick US drug enforcement agents out of the country. His steps have de-escalated the militarization and violence involved with US-led efforts to eradicate drug production in Latin America, and have likely emboldened the calls of other regional leaders to call for a new approach to illicit drugs, including legalization.

But if Morales has nationalized industries like a Venezuelan socialist, he’s run them like a Norwegian state manager.

That’s one of the chief reasons that Morales (pictured above), the country’s first indigenous leader, is such a favorite to win reelection to a third term as Bolivia’s president in general elections on October 12. Bolivians will also vote to elect the members of both houses of its Asamblea Legislativa Plurinacional (Plurinational Legislative Assembly).

Continue reading Morales set to cruise to easy reelection in Bolivia

Evo Morales pulls a Bolivian Bloomberg to run for third presidential term


While chavismo seems like it’s falling apart two months after the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, many of his acolytes throughout South America continue to flourish.bolivia

That’s true in Ecuador, where Rafael Correa cruised to a third consecutive term in February 2013, and it’s looking increasingly true in Bolivia, where president Evo Morales now seems clear to run for a third term following a new law confirming that he can run for a new term, which follows a constitutional court ruling that Morales could run for reelection.

Under Bolivia’s constitution, the president may serve only two consecutive terms.  Although Morales was first elected in December 2005, he cut his first term short after implementing a new constitution in 2009 and standing for a new election in December 2009.  Morales and his allies claim that, under the new constitution, Morales is serving his first term, which is technically true.  Bolivia’s constitutional court certainly ruled in his favor, and the law this week makes it all but certain that Morales will run, though he has yet to announce his reelection campaign for a general election expected in December 2014.  The governing Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS, Movement for Socialism) has already indicated its support for Morales.

That’s a long way off, but Morales starts off as the favorite.

In a highly indigenous country, Morales remains a powerful symbol as the first indigenous president of Bolivia, and he’s been a champion of indigenous rights.  When he took office in 2006, he was well-known as a leading indigenous politician with roots in the labor movement and, in particular, roots in the cocalero trade union in Brazil as a former coca-grower and a champion of campesinos — farm laborers.  In office, he was one of the world’s most outspoken critics of U.S. efforts to eradicate coca in its own ‘war on drugs,’ and it’s a view that’s gained currency in subsequent years in Latin America and beyond.

As a leftist president, his economic program has been based widely on nationalization of Bolivian industry, especially the mining industry, and using state resources to improve the lives of impoverished workers.  Despite an unconventional economic policy that involved price controls, Morales reduced the country’s inflation and brought about some measure of economic stability to one of South America’s poorest countries.

Moreover, Bolivian GDP growth remains strong at around 5% last year and in 2011, with even higher GDP forecasts for 2013.  Bolivia’s future is a little brighter in light of its burgeoning lithium industry, given that its Uyuni salt flats boast the world’s largest reserves of lithium, a mineral used in smartphones and other electric devices.

But lithium development, which requires additional water from more fertile parts of the country, has conflicted with the indigenous communities that form the backbone of Morales’s political coalition, and he’s faced protests in 2010 over cuts in government subsidies for gasoline and protests in 2011 by indigenous groups in opposition to a planned highway through the Amazon basin.

Altogether, a largely fragmented opposition will still have a tough time challenging Morales.   Continue reading Evo Morales pulls a Bolivian Bloomberg to run for third presidential term