Sunday, November 08, 2009

Bolivia’s Election Part II: The Candidates for President

Dear Readers:

Today we bring you our second installment of our Blog series on the Bolivian Presidential vote.

Last time we looked at some of the peculiarities of the vote and the politics surrounding it. In this post we look at the major candidates on the ballot in the December 6th election.

We will be back again shortly with a look at the major issues in the race. This article was written with assistance from the Democracy Center’s stellar intern, Jessica Aguirre.

Jim Shultz


Three major candidates are competing for the Bolivian Presidency in December, accompanied on the ballot by five others, none of who have polled at more than 5% in recent voter surveys.

Evo Morales – The Incumbent President of Bolivia
Movimiento al Socialism (Movement toward Socialism)

Biography in a Nutshell

Morales is wrapping up his fourth year as Bolivia’s President, elected with 53% of the vote in December 2005. Morales rose to political prominence as leader of the coca growers in the Chapare region of Bolivia and later as a member of Congress with the MAS party, which he founded. Prior to his presidency Morales played a role in many of the prominent protest movements in Bolivia over the past decade, including mobilizations against forced eradication of coca, the Cochabamba Water Revolt, the 2003 Gas Revolt and others.

As President Morales has championed three major changes – a deeper role of the state in exploiting the countries gas and oil reserves, adoption of a new Bolivian Constitution, and broader economic support for the nation’s most impoverished. Morales’ presidency has also generated strong opposition, mostly from wealthy members of Bolivia’s traditional elite and the broader public in the nation’s eastern lowlands. In foreign affairs Morales has steered Bolivia toward close relationships with Venezuela, Iran and Cuba, among others, and has had a combative relationship with the U.S., including his ouster of the U.S. Ambassador and U.S. DEA last year.

Running Mate

Alvaro Garcia Linera; a one-time prisoner charged with guerilla activity, Linera is a well-known intellectual who served for many years as a television analyst on Bolivian politics.

Platform and Campaign

Morales’ key campaign promises deal with implementation of the new Constitution; elimination of corruption; and greater social equity and indigenous representation along with regional integration and alternative development. He also hopes to win a 2/3 majority for MAS in the new Bolivian Congress.

Political Base

Morales enjoys support hitting the 80% mark in many parts of rural Bolivia and especially in the western altiplano highlands. His support is weaker in the cities and weaker still in the western departments such as Santa Cruz. Recent polls show Morales winning 47% of the vote, more than thirty points ahead of his nearest opponent.

Morales on the Web: Facebook

Manfred Reyes Villa
Plan Progreso para Bolivia-Concertación Nacional (Progress Plan for Bolivia-National Convergence)

Biography in a Nutshell

Reyes Villa is the former mayor of the city of Cochabamba and the former Governor of the State of Cochabamba. He is also a former military captain who served in the early 1980s as the personal guard to one of the nation’s most brutal dictators, Luís García Meza. As Mayor, Reyes Villa was popular for his construction of numerous public works projects, including city parks, the world’s largest stautue of Jesus, and a new airport, all of which were primarily financed with public debt. A candidate for President in 2002, he finished third behind the winner, Gonzalez Sanchez de Lozada and Morales. He later formed a political aliance with Sanchez de Lozada just before the President’s political ouster in 2003. Elected Governor in 2005, Reyes Villa’s popularity sank when he thrust himself into national political matters and opposition to Morales. When a voter referendum was held in August 2008, Reyes Villa was removed from office by a vote of 2 to 1.

Running mate

Leopoldo Fernandez; former governor of the department of Pando. Fernandez was arrested and imprisoned a year ago by national authorities, accused of having organized and authorized the September 11, 2008 massacre in Pando of Morales supporters.

Platform and Campaign

Reyes Villa has pledged to reopen debate over the MAS-driven constitution approved by voters last January. He also has declared his intent to seek greater departmental autonomy and to increase foreign capital investments in mining and other resources. Generally favors closer relations with the U.S. and has close ties to conservative groups in the U.S.

Political Base

Reyes Villa has been polling at about 16% in recent voter surveys, well behind Morales. While he could once count on solid support from both the city and larger department of Cochabamba his ouster by voters a year ago makes that much less certain. His selection of the jailed Fernandez as his running mate can be seen as a bid to solidify a support base among the country’s most bitter anti-Morales factions but makes it virtually impossible for him to carve into any significant part of the Morales base.

Reyes Villa on the Web: Website, Facebook, Twitter

Samuel Doria Medina
Unidad Nacional (National Unity)

Biography in a nutshell

Medina is a wealthy Bolivian businessman who owns both the nation’s Burger King chain and significant interests in the cement business. This is his second run at the Presidency (he was a candidate in 2005 finishing a distant third) and has sought to position himself as a moderate between Morales and conservative political forces in the country. Originally from La Paz, Medina attended the London School of Economics. In 1995 he was kidnapped by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement and held for 45 days. He was also a member of the constitution-writing Constitutional Assembly in 2006-2007.

Running Mate

Gabriel Helding, from the conservative stronghold of Santa Cruz, elected deputy to the National Congress.

Platform and Campaign

Medina’s emphasis is on being a businessman who wants to develop employment for Bolivians. His slogan is: We’ll put Bolivia to work. His campaign, though he trails a distant third, is well financed and visible.

Political Base

Unlike Morales and Ryes Villa Medina has no specific geographic or ideological base. He is seeking to create a base out of pockets attracted to a more moderate message, a tough sell in politicized Bolivia. Recent polling shows him with the support of 12% of voters.

Doria Medina on the Web: Website, Facebook

The Others

None of the remaining five candidates, according to polls, have significant enough voter support to be a major factor in the race. They include:

Rene Joaquino (Social Alliance)
Roman Loayza (People)
Ana Maria Flores (Patriotic Social Unity Movement)
Alejo Veliz (Pulse)
Rime Choquehuanca (Bolivia Social Democrat)

Written by Jim Shultz and Jessica Aguirre


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alvaro García Linera was imprisoned for TERRORISM - he blew things up, kidnapped people, was possibly involved in several murders, and definitely was involved in several cases of breaking and entering and theft. Not your run of the mill slap in the wrist "just a little sorta wrong" kind of thing.

No need to soften up the language when you speak of García Linera or Evo. It makes you seem very partialized and that's undemocratic. He was involved in these things, he most likely still is involved in similar acts, and it's OK to say it.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Mr. Anonymous-make-accusations-and-expect-us-to-believe-you,

How about some citations to documentation that we can actually check to verify what you said? I presume you have them or you wouldn't make the charges, no?

Ramon Santos

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if the people who castigate the current vice-president applied the same principles to ex-President Banzer when he was in office? And to
Manfred Reyes Villa, also a former military captain who served in the early 1980s as the personal guard to one of the nation’s most brutal dictators, Luís García Meza?

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw García Linera get shouted down by ex supporters of the dictatorship when he was addressing the constitutional assembly on TV once.
As far as I'm aware he was jailed for blowing up a TV mast.
Having seen Telepais news bulletins, I feel I may be able to hazard a guess as to which mast it might have been and say Well Done Sir!
I never knew Reyes Villa was García Meza's personal guard.
Wow.That's some special kind of Ubuntu they've got going on.In most countries he'd probably just be getting parole about now if he had been involved in that kind of thing.That was the Narco-state which employed Klaus Barbi, wasn't it? (he asked rhetorically).
I bet he did a hell of a lot more than blow up a TV mast.
It's difficult to see what Morales' single most difficult problem will be in advance of his 2nd term, but the concentration of opposition groups into terror cells must surely be on their radar.
I also noticed VP G-L spoke in Montero a few days back, (for those who don't know it it's a kind of Santa Cruz commuter belt town with more than a few hardcore working class mestizo cambas, kind of like Alabama is to redneck republicanism or Nottinghamshire or South East London to British neo fascism - it's a bit of a hotbed to put it mildly.If Morales had gone there all hell would have broken loose, I'm sure.
The fact that a lot of their supposedly ideological hatred of Morales' ideas kind of evaporates when confronted with a white man on the podium - a white man with more radical ideas than the President, in fact - makes me wish for the VP to take over from Morales after his 2nd term expires.As unpopular a suggwstion as this may be, were the altiplano to stay with him, he could carry a lot more of the votes in the lowlands than they currently have.
I suspect that would prove too much for the extremist and indigenist wing of the MAS, however.

2:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have also noticed there's no Podemos.
What happened to Quiroga et al?

2:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comments seem pretty much one sided in favor of Evo. You didn't mention his involvement in the Pando killings, the riots in Sucre over the new constitution, the riots in Cochabamba when a high ranking member of his government was directly involved in trying to burn down the prefectura, the illegal way that the new constitution was approved and on and on. Also, it ought to be a worry when Iran becomes your friend, a country regarded by the rest of the civilized world as an international outcast and thug. You usually can be judged by your friends you keep.


7:43 AM  
Blogger rose said...

You have given good information about Bolivia election.I came to know many new things from this post.Thank you very much for giving such a good information.


7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great information on all the candidates, a good summary and really useful. Ignore the whiners who comment -- they are just looking for ways to express their biases one way or another.

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, the "stellar" intern may be so,but this ain't no "stellar" report. Ex, just look at the contrasting pics of a smiling, relaxed Morales with Villa's authorative and Medina's groggy ones.
Be as it may,aAll that can be said about these candidates is that they reflect the deepest muck and stink in politicians -- the bottom of the barrel. Especially this president chap.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, get serious. Do fast seach on the Internet to see who is Mr. Garcia

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

happy 20th anniversary of the crumbling of the Berlin wall and Evil empire! We germans so happy.

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I guess you need to blame Manfred. When I followed the link here to his Web site I noticed that he used the same photo. Maybe Evo hacked his site, no?

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this -- Manfred supporters think the Blog is biased agasinst him because it used the photo he posted on his Facebook page. Any more questions about why your candidate is running 30 points behind?


10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

EVO is a self proclaimed pedophile.

10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's facebook?

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evo laeder in war against US imperialist forces!
Coca savior!
Master strategist!
Ekeko liberator!
Gas (burp) soveregneity!

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of the people writing here are against Evo Morales our president. Why? Because they learned English in American schools where their daddies sent them. Where are funds coming from? The blood, sweat and tears of the poor in Bolivia.
Of course the corrupted elite has to accuse Evo for his work, he is slowly (not so fast as he should) taking the power of the Gonis, Manfreds, Costas, (by the way where in the world is Mariconvich?)
Hopefully, in the next five years, Evo can establish a better organized country with more investments to create more opportunities for so many of the people who are still supporting him but need jobs. Evo and his vice president Linera are so much better than any of the crooks like Manfred, Leopoldo or Diez de medina.

6:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evo abonded his children and is a pedophile

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The comment above is well-taken. Because this comment section is in English and is on the Internet, by definition then it is absolutely not representative of Bolivian opinion. The comments here are generally the ranting of a tiny Bolivian elite that is losing its mental grip because it has lost its grip on power, based on privilege and corruption.

Democracy, however, has a different voice, and one that will return Morales to office by more than two to one over his nearest opponent.

So weep and whine if you must, those who comment here. But don't pretend for even a moment that you speak for the Bolivian people. If that were the case your friend with the big moustache and his murderer running mate would be headed for victory next month, instead of a political embarrassment that they (and you) have earned many times over.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just was in Cobija, Pando most of last week. I saw little political action there, other than a moderately attended MAS rally in front of their headquarters; people there seem resigned to the upcoming elections; there are no alternatives to Evo, and of course no one wants a repeat of the violence of last year. It is felt that the university in Cobija (Universidad Amazonica de Pando) is being punished by the government and there were strikes and protests due to the fact that their funds are being cut. Most feel that it is revenge against them (because of their request for autonomy) and also that the La Paz government doesn't care if one-half the Cobija faculty are let go, as they'll be replaced by people close to MAS (that's the way it works). My close Bolivian friends, who are mostly progressive, are sad for their country, almost embarrassed by the current government, they feel betrayed by some promise that was there at the beginning but that now is (in their words) a rigid government that promotes class hatred that is dividing the country along racial lines. On another note, a bad thing showing up in Cobija is the nazi swastika, representing "anti-colla" sentiment and racial hatred from the other side. If people there only really knew what that swastika meant. Too bad for Bolivia, a country heading for civil war, it seems.

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evo Morales reflects the indigenous population of Bolivia and was the first president to enact government help for the needy such as the Juancito Pinto for school children, Juana Azurdoy Bonus for pregnant women, and Renta Dignidad Bonus for the elderly. How were these programs made possible? The government for the first time is operating on a revenue surplus by making the multinational corporations pay more of their profit share. For years and years, candidates came and went, but they never delivered the desperate help to the needy and most government leaders before him were opportunist puppets of foreign interests. Now that Evo is in power, the opposition forces with vast resources and endless capital are tirelessly working to undermine this fragile form of representative democracy through coup attempts, assassination plots, and most importantly, DIVISIVE TACTICS. For years and years, they have intentionally kept indigenous communities isolated, misinformed, and undereducated. In addition, the word "Indio" which connotes to an ignorant, violent person has been and still is a term used and simmered to depict indigenous people like Evo. The new tactic of the opposition forces to divide the indigenous majority is to promote indigenous puppets like Savina Cuellar. The challenge for this representative governmnet is to stay in power long enough to address endemic social inequalities including poverty and racism. The challenge for the opposition forces is to diminish the "one indian, one vote" rule.

5:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Juancito Pinto dough is Goni's Bonosol with a different name.
Its Goni's neoliberal policies that allows Morales to score his cheap political points.
Lets hear that round of applause for Goni!

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Previous commentator incorrectly compares Bonosol to Juancito Pinto. Renta Dignidad bonus for the elderly is a vast improvement to Bonosol. Unlike Bonosol, it loweres the recipient's age to 60 years of age, reaches rural areas, increases the payout to the elderly by almost 40 percent, and is NOT plagued by bureaucratic errors. Under Bonosol, many pensioners would be denied payment because of system errors, documentation errors, and clerical errors. The elderly had to fill out various forms which were passed on for months to an inefficient bureaucracy of Bonosol functionaries. This might not sound impossible obstacles for someone living in the city, but it was nearly impossible for the elderly in the countryside to receive payments.
Bonosol was largely a neoliberal failure just like Goni's(the previous president) attempts to give away Bolivia's resources to multinational corporations and operate the country in debt while filling his own pockets with kickbacks from foreign interests. For the first time in Bolivian troubled history and due to Evo's policies, the country is operating in a government surplus.
Now, let's hear that round of applause for Evo!

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

5:29 Thanks for this. And let's hear a round of applause for accuracy.

5:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evo is still a pedophile

1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another unsubstantiated personal attack by the right aimed to turn off voters. Is that the best they can do now that is he is ahead by 30 points in polls? Keep trying.

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still applaud for Goni. Evo is riding his surf and falsely claiming credit.

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even I would applaud Goni, "ride his surf", and truly give him credit if he returns the millions of dollars he stole as he fled from Bolivia.

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What millions did he steal? He actaully gave so much.

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No only he took bribes from corporations he gave orders to kill 67 demonstrators.

The U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida has ruled that the claims for crimes against humanity and extrajudicial killings could move forward in two related U.S. cases against former Bolivian President Gonzalo Daniel Sánchez de Lozada Sánchez Bustamante (Sánchez de Lozada) and former Bolivian Defense Minister Jose Carlos Sánchez Berzaín (Sánchez Berzaín). The two cases – Mamani et al. v. Sánchez Berzaín, and Mamani, et al. v. Sánchez de Lozada – allege that in September and October 2003, the two defendants ordered Bolivian security forces to use deadly force, including high-powered rifles and machine guns, to suppress popular protests against government policies by targeting unarmed civilians in Bolivia’s indigenous Aymara community. During these two months, 67 men, women and children were killed, and several hundred were injured. Both defendants fled Bolivia in late October 2003, and have lived in the U.S. for the past six years.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you say personal guard, you are accusing Reyes-Villa through "guilty by association..."

He has done more for Cochabamba than Evo has done for Bolivia.....Linera is a terrorist, if you want to defend him show us proof, we do not need to show proof, its out look for it.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mean Evo order the killing of 67 innocent protesters, evo made his supporters protest and cause riots to further his cause.....where was Evo when this happened, at the front lines...I think not....he was in his cocalero home nice and safe away from the riots he caused.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Response to the below quote from "he has no clue"

You forgot that its Evo caused the deaths....lets see how you feel and think when your beloved evo takes your right away to post Comments, you will life very soon when evo wins, I would like to see you live in Bolivia when you cannot even speak out against your govt when they wrong the people of Bolivia.

If evo is so good, why have so many indigineous Bolivians fled Bolivia for work in foreign countries if he is providing them opportunity. There is and will be no opportunity under evo morales...This is representative of a bolivian who is not whining or an elite...

"....The comment above is well-taken. Because this comment section is in English and is on the Internet, by definition then it is absolutely not representative of Bolivian opinion. The comments here are generally the ranting of a tiny Bolivian elite that is losing its mental grip because it has lost its grip on power, based on privilege and corruption.

Democracy, however, has a different voice, and one that will return Morales to office by more than two to one over his nearest opponent.

So weep and whine if you must, those who comment here. But don't pretend for even a moment that you speak for the Bolivian people. If that were the case your friend with the big moustache and his murderer running mate would be headed for victory next month, instead of a political embarrassment that they (and you) have earned many times over...."

12:32 PM  

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