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

  • Police detain Islamic State suspects in Spain, Britain, Germany

    World News CTV News
    MADRID -- Police on Wednesday arrested six suspected members of the Islamic State group, four in Spain and one each in Britain and Germany, Spain's Interior Ministry said. A ministry statement said the man arrested in Britain was a Salafist imam who led the group and who was sought by several countries. Source
  • Fish market owner upset by large lobster TSA photo

    World News CTV News
    OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. -- The owner of a Connecticut fish market says she is "personally offended" after she saw a photo of a 9-kilogram lobster being handled by a Transportation Security Administration screener on social media. Source
  • Solitary confinement under scrutiny as Ottawa moves to limit use of controversial practice

    Canada News CBC News
    Locked up in solitary confinement for 43 days last year at the maximum security Edmonton Institution, Matthew Hamm's only view of the world outside his cell was through a mail slot. And even then the only thing he could see was a brick prison wall. Source
  • No more coffee breaks: Pilot schooled after touching down next to P.E.I. Tim Hortons

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    O’LEARY, P.E.I. — A coast guard helicopter pilot has been schooled on the appropriate use of the aircraft after touching down in a field near a Tim Hortons in P.E.I. for a coffee fix. The chopper landed in a barren field in the small Island community on March 16, prompting surprised onlookers to take to social media with comments about the unusual sighting and photos of the red aircraft whipping up poofs of snow as it set down. Source
  • U.K. prosecutors charge 6 over 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster

    World News Toronto Sun
    British prosecutors have charged six people over the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster in Sheffield, in which 96 soccer fans were crushed to death. Those charged include the police commander on the day, David Duckenfield, who is accused of gross negligence manslaughter. Source
  • Pilot schooled on proper chopper use after touching down next to Tim Hortons

    Canada News CTV News
    O'LEARY, P.E.I. -- A coast guard helicopter pilot has been schooled on the appropriate use of the aircraft after touching down in a field near a Tim Hortons in P.E.I. for a coffee fix. The chopper landed in a barren field in the small Island community on March 16, prompting surprised onlookers to take to social media with comments about the unusual sighting and photos of the red aircraft whipping up poofs of snow as it set down. Source
  • Police helicopter attacks Venezuela's Supreme Court

    World News Toronto Sun
    CARACAS, Venezuela — A police helicopter fired on Venezuela’s Supreme Court and Interior Ministry in what President Nicolas Maduro said was a thwarted “terrorist attack” aimed at ousting him from power. The confusing exchange, which is bound to ratchet up tensions in a country already paralyzed by months of deadly anti-government protests, took place as Maduro was speaking live on state television Tuesday. Source
  • 'That stuff lives with you': Juror advocate says Saretzky jury has tough road ahead

    Canada News CTV News
    LETHBRIDGE, Alta. - The jury in gruesome Alberta triple murder trial has a difficult road ahead even after they finish their deliberations, says a former juror who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in the jury box. Source
  • U.K. prosecutors charge 6 in 1989 Hillsborough stadium deaths

    World News CBC News
    British prosecutors charged six people Wednesday in the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster in which 96 soccer fans died, many of them crushed to death — the first criminal charges in the tragedy that changed English soccer forever. Source
  • Ransomware attack hits property arm of France bank BNP Paribas

    World News CBC News
    A global cyberattack has hit the property arm of France's biggest bank BNP Paribas, one of the largest financial institutions known to be affected by an extortion campaign that started in Russia and Ukraine before spreading. Source