Bolivian voters reject letting president run for 4th term

LA PAZ, Bolivia - Bolivian 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.

See Full Article

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 per cent of the vote.

After the outcome became clear Tuesday night, 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.

Sunday's ballot question was voted down 51 per cent to 49 per cent, with 99.5 per cent 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.

"Evo's traditional opposition among the affluent and middle class was joined by a wide swath of voters who have long been a part of his political support," said Jim Shultz, executive director of the left-leaning Democracy Center political advocacy group.

"Their turnaround isn't about moving rightward," but rather a rejection of corruption and an assertion that "20 years is too long for one person to be president," he added.

The vote count was unusually slow and the vice-president claimed Tuesday morning that a right-wing conspiracy was "trying to make disappear by sleight of hand the rural vote that favours Morales." He provided no evidence.

Organization of American States observers reported no evidence of fraud.

Early in his presidency, Morales crushed the right-wing opposition with an agenda that championed Bolivia's long-downtrodden native majority. He expelled the DEA and a U.S. ambassador, thriving on anti-Yankee rhetoric. Morales, who leads a coca-growers union, also upset Washington drug warriors with a less violent coca-eradication program in the world's No. 3 producer of cocaine.

But formidable opposition eventually emerged from inside his own movement and it stung in March 2015 municipal and regional elections, when opposition mayors won in eight of Bolivia's 10 biggest cities.

"The cost of corruption has been high," said political scientist Marcelo Silva of the Universidad Mayor de San Andres.

He said infighting in the governing party over a successor could now weaken it even further. Morales will also need to manage a challenging economy.

The unprecedented economic boom over which he presided, in which gross domestic product per capita rose by nearly a third, has now waned. Bolivia's revenues from natural gas and minerals, making up three-fourths of its exports, were down 32 per cent last year.

The vote's timing could not have been worse for Morales.

An influence-peddling scandal revealed this month cost him dearly, analysts said.

A former girlfriend nearly half Morales' 56 years was named sales manager of a Chinese company in 2013 that has obtained nearly $500 million in mostly no-bid state contracts. Photos of her neoclassical mansion in a wealthy southern La Paz enclave spread online.

Morales denied any impropriety and claimed he last saw the woman in 2007. But a picture of the two together last year emerged, casting doubts.

The most harmful scandal plaguing the ruling elite was the skimming of millions from the government-managed Fondo Indigena, which runs agricultural and public works in the countryside.

Judicial corruption has also been rampant, and freedom of expression suffered under Morales, with critical media and environmentalists complaining of harassment by an intolerant and overbearing state.

-----

Associated Press writer Carlos Valdez reported this story in La Paz and AP writer Frank Bajak reported from Lima, Peru. AP writer Paola Flores in La Paz contributed.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Former Trump campaign manager mocks girl with Down syndrome

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON - A former campaign manager for Donald Trump has created a stir by dismissing a story about a girl with Down syndrome with a sarcastic "Wah wah." Corey Lewandowski appeared Tuesday on Fox News Channel to discuss U.S. Source
  • Russia criticizes U.S. departure from UN Human Rights Council

    World News CTV News
    MOSCOW - Russia says that the U.S. exit from the United Nations' Human Rights Council reflects Washington's unilateralist approach to global affairs. The U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, announced the pullout Tuesday, criticizing the council for "its chronic bias against Israel" and pointing out that it includes accused human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, Venezuela and Congo. Source
  • Regina school named after residential school advocate to be renamed

    Canada News CTV News
    REGINA - School trustees in Regina have voted to change the name of a school over concern that it honours a man who was a driving force behind the residential school system in Canada. The Davin School is to be renamed Crescents School. Source
  • Hearing set for California parents accused of shackling, torturing kids

    World News CTV News
    LOS ANGELES - Prosecutors were expected to begin making their case Wednesday against a Southern California couple suspected of starving and shackling their children in a case that drew worldwide headlines when the parents were arrested last winter. Source
  • Florida couple charged in death of man's 6-year-old daughter

    World News CTV News
    LAKELAND, Fla. - Authorities say a Florida man and his girlfriend have been charged in the death of the man's 6-year-old daughter. A Lakeland police news release says 26-year-old Larry Golden Jr. and 21-year-old Breonna Wren were charged last week with first-degree murder and other counts. Source
  • Chicago teen to be sentenced in 2014 Facebook feud slaying

    World News CTV News
    CHICAGO - A Chicago teenager will be sentenced Wednesday for using a gun given to her by an uncle to kill another girl in what started as a Facebook feud over a boy, ending a chapter in a case that came to symbolize how the gun violence that plagues parts of the city passes from one generation to the next. Source
  • Indonesia raises ferry death toll to 166

    World News CTV News
    TIGARAS PORT, Indonesia - Indonesian officials said that 166 people are missing from a ferry sinking early this week at a popular lake on Sumatra, a much higher number than previously believed, as distraught and angry relatives pleaded Wednesday for a bigger search effort. Source
  • North Korea thanks China for support with Trump summit

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for his support in last week's groundbreaking summit with President Donald Trump, the North's official media reported Wednesday. Kim is in Beijing on his third visit to China this year, underscoring the major improvement in relations between the communist neighbours. Source
  • Federal, Indigenous officials begin finalizing proposed languages act

    Canada News CBC News
    The federal government is one step closer to creating a national Indigenous Languages Revitalization Act after government and Indigenous officials met in Yellowknife on Tuesday. The legislation is currently being co-developed between the federal, provincial and territorial ministers of culture and heritage and the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the M├ętis Nation. Source
  • Toddler migrants held in at least 3 shelters in Texas

    World News CBC News
    Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three "tender age" shelters in south Texas, The Associated Press has learned. Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described playrooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis. Source