Road cleared for Bolivia’s next election

World Today

Road cleared for Bolivia's next electionBolivia’s President Evo Morales waves a Bolivian flag as he attends a rally in support of the proposed new constitution in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009. (AP Photo/Dado Galdieri)

This is a country where more than 40% of the population is indigenous. So the sudden departure of its first indigenous president has particular meaning for that community

But indigenous Bolivians do not all share the same view of Evo Morales. Some admire him; others have been deeply disappointed by his nearly 14-year rule.

CGTN’s Stephen Gibbs reports.

In a market in the capital La Paz, popular with the indigenous community, we found a range of opinions.

Rosa, 56, who was selling everything from spanners to shampoo in her roadside stall, said she was sad that the former president had gone.

“It was good in these last 14 years”, she said. “He helped the elderly and the children. We didn’t have that before”.

But just a few meters away, Maria, 52, who runs a shop selling the traditional clothes worn by the indigenous community, had little positive to say about the ex-president.

“Thank God he has gone,” she said.

She claimed those close to the president did well, while others stayed poor.

“There they are with their luxury cars while those of us who have worked for years can’t possibly buy any car”, she said.

So what was it that led Evo Morales, proudly indigenous, to lose the crucial support of his base?

Mario Chincha Gutiérrez Curaca, 52, the Mayor of the Qhara Qhara Nación, said many indigenous leaders’ faith in the president was diminished when they saw him repeatedly seeking to extend his period in office, something he argued was against their ancient traditions.

“He wanted to be the sole leader: like a God, a King, And that does not work. You have to cooperate with everyone in a plurinational state”, he said.

Morales has also faced criticism from some indigenous groups that he failed to protect their lands – by seeking to build roads and clear forests through areas they said were national parks.

Morales – now in exile in Mexico – does remain an emblematic leader for first people’s movements across the world. Perhaps now more abroad than he does back home.

But the former president can take credit for breaking the mold of politics here. There is already speculation that his party may put forward another candidate from an indigenous background, to stand in the forthcoming elections.