Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bolivia Inaugurates New Leftist President

Bolivia's First Indian President Sworn In
Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bolivia inaugurated its first Indian President, Evo Morales. As he was sworn into office, Morales vowed to end the discrimination against Bolivia’s impoverished Indian majority. Morales compared Bolivia’s history of race relations with that of “apartheid-era” South Africa.
Morales vowed that his five-year term would mark the beginning of his leftist movement toward socialism. Morales also announced his plans to consolidate control over Bolivia’s natural gas reserves. He called free market policies a “neo-liberal economic model” and criticized their failure to end poverty in Bolivia. Whether he will maintain free-market policies remains an open question.

An area of potential concern for the U.S. is Morales’ desire to increase the acreage allotted to grow coca in Bolivia. Coca is the raw material used for cocaine. Some Bolivians have traditionally chewed coca leaves to battle hunger and the effects of high altitude. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon expressed concern that an increase in acreage would also lead to increases in drug trafficking.

Bolivia is one of several Latin American nations to have elected leftist presidents wary of free-market within the past few years. In attendance at the inauguration were leftist presidents Nestor Kirchner of Argentina, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Ricardo Lagos of Chile, and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

"We've been discriminated against for 500 years, but now we have Evo and a
government that will represent us,"Aymara Indian Zenoino Perez outside the

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