Evo Morales wins in Bolivia
As expected, the leftist candidate Evo Morales won the largest number of votes in yesterday's presidential elections in Bolivia. What was unexpected was the share he received: about 51 percent, according to the latest estimates, about 20 percent more than Jorge Quiroga. If it turns out that Morales did not receive a majority, it would be up to the newly-elected Bolivian Congress to choose the next president. Given the high tensions in the country right now, however, choosing anyone other than Morales would result in an immediate insurrection on the part of the mostly-poor Indians. In the Washington Post, Pamela Constable calls the "sweeping if unofficial victory of Evo Morales ... has given him an unprecedented opportunity to transform the impoverished Andean country." If Morales indeed embarks on the kind of radical policy agenda that he has espoused, but without a broad public mandate, it could tear the country apart. That is what happened in Chile after Socialist Salvador Allende became president (without an absolute majority) in 1970.
Morales has made rejection of the pro-capitalist "neoliberal" economic development model the cornerstone of his campaign platform, but it is unclear what alternatives he intends to carry out. Ever since 1989 or so, most political leaders in Bolivia had a rough consensus that free market policies were an essential foundation, and that there could be no return to the irresponsible statist economic policies that had led the country to hyperinflation and virtual ruin by 1985, when I visited Bolivia. Morales has pledged to cease cooperation with U.S. government programs aimed at curtailing coca cultivation, and has said nothing to alleviate fears that he sees nothing wrong with growing coca leaf that ends up being processed into cocaine. That would set his government squarely at odds with U.S. national interests.
Miguel Centellas, who had been blogging intensively on Bolivia until this weekend, has a very curt post about the election results. He notes that this would be the first directly elected president of Bolivia since the return to democracy in 1982. Customarily, the Congress has chosen the president because no candidate has won an outright majority until, presumably, now.
Election results can be found (in Spanish) at bolivia.com. Interestingly, only two of the nine prefectural (provincial) elections were won by the "Movement Toward Socialism," which Morales leads: Potosi and Oruro, which are mining centers in the highland region. Also on that site is a report that the Mercosur economic bloc, composed of Argentina, Brasil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, expressed "pride" in the "exemplary" character of the elections in Bolivia. Given the political leanings of the current governments in those countries, they were no doubt just as pleased with the outcome of the elections as with the process.
Defending the Monarchs
In central Mexico, many millions of Monarch butterflies are currently hibernating in a unique highland habitat. If logging continues in that area much longer, the Monarchs could easily become extinct. That is why the Mexican government is now using armed guards to ward off anyone seeking to chop down trees in the butterfly sanctuary. See CNN.com.