Sunday, December 06, 2009

Election Day in Bolivia: The Morales Landslide


It has been quite a day in Bolivia. In a vote with few glitches, Bolivians went to the polls today in huge numbers and gave President Evo Morales a huge victory. Morales won more than 62% of the popular vote, beating his nearest opponent, former Cochabamba Governor Manfred Reyes by more than 2 to 1.

It is a huge mandate by any conceivable measure. To put this in perspective, for more than two decades before Morales no president ever took office with much more than a quarter of the vote. The three political parties that once rotated the presidency between themselves for twenty years now no longer exist. Bolivian politics has been turned on its head in deep and enduring ways. What President in the Americas or the world has a mandate larger?

All day the Democracy Center team has been blogging live from around the country and even abroad. We hoped you have enjoyed the coverage. As we and Bolivia finally head off to bed, we also bring our live blogging to a close as well. Here is what you will find below:

1. The Final Results
2. What the Candidates Had to Say
3. A Review of the Day from Around the Country and Beyond
4. The Oddities of Last Minute Media Coverage

For those interested in more images of the day, here is a slide show prepared by Democracy Center team. Thanks to everyone here who worked so hard today and for the past few weeks to contribute to the Democracy Center's coverage: Leny Olivera, Aldo Orellana, Anders Vang Nielsen, Jessica Aguirre, and Kris Hannigan-Luther.

Best to all,

Jim Shultz
The Democracy Center

1. Latest Results – The Morales Landslide

Here are the latest numbers from the national TV network ATB, which reports 100% of the vote now counted:

National Vote:

62.5 %, Reyes Villa 27.6 %, Doria Medina 6.1%
Senate: Morales/MAS 66.7%, Reyes Villa/PPB 27.8%


La Paz: Morales 78.5%, Reyes Villa 9.4%
Santa Cruz: Morales 40.1% Reyes Villa 53.2%
Cochabamba: Morales 67.6%, Reyes Villa 25.7%
Potosí: Morales 74.9%, Joaquino, 15.1%, Reyes Villa 5.3%
Chuquisaca: Morales 53.1% Reyes Villa 36.3%
Tarija: Morales 48.6%, Reyes Villa 40%
Oruro: Morales 77.3%, Reyes Villa 10,2%
Beni: Morales 37%, Reyes Villa 53.7%
Pando: Morales 45.4%, Reyes Villa 50.8%
Bolivians Voting Abroad: Morales 69.8%, Reyes Villa 25.2%

2. What the Candidates Had to Say

President Evo Morales – The Winner (62.5% of the vote)

"Here we are, blacks, whites, brown-skinned; and everyone has the same rights, be they indigenous or of the working class. The new Constitution guarantees an economic system that respects private property, communal property and that also respects a state managed economy. We are going to accelerate the change. This is a triumph against imperialism.
This is the first constitution of the Bolivian people that benefits distinct sectors of workers."

Manfred Reyes Villa – The Loser (27.6% of the vote)

"Now more than ever, I’m convinced that we must continue struggling to strengthen or democracy. And I want to say to all Bolivians, that there was never a ticket going anywhere for Manfred Reyes Villa. Manfred Reyes Villa is going to continue struggling here for democracy, for country, and for all those Bolivians who keep betting on the viability of this national alternative."

3. A Review of the Day from Around the Country and Beyond

It has been an extraordinary day in Bolivia. A day without cars across a whole nation and a day in which more than 5 million voters were set to head to the polls. Here are our reports from Cochabamba, La Paz, and Arlington Virginia.

1. Election Day in Cochabamba

As families stroll around on the streets of Cochabamba this Election Day, eating pork sandwiches and ice cream, an occasional car interrupts the tranquility of the pedestrian filled streets. The cars bear special documentation in their dashboard; they are carrying representatives from the electoral court who are rushing around among the voting stations checking for irregularities or fraud.

But in the voting stations of the city, all is uneventful. Edwin Claros, a human rights representative who has been to 30 voting stations this morning confirmed to us that, other than a few minor glitches which included lack of tables in some stations of the Southern zone, everything is proceeding normally.

Talking to people on streets, dressed in their Sunday best for the occasion, one is impressed by two overriding sentiments. Public opinion is split between deep pride in being able to take part in the formation of democracy, and apathy towards an act that the state imposes as a civic obligation. Either way, all seem content to enjoy a day that (aside from a few hours of standing in lines) entails good food, time to nap, and room to stroll.

@Colegio Aleman Santa Maria

In downtown Cochabamba, many of the polling places are schools. We managed to speak with a few voters at one such school, where people waited on benches, found shady spots for their panting dogs, pushed babies in strollers, chased young children around on bicycles and tricycles and calmly went through the voting process.

We approached Karen Asad Ayala on the school grounds of a polling place in downtown Cochabamba. Her purple index finger identified her as someone who had already cast her vote. She spoke with us as she bounced her three-month-old daughter on her hip and opened a bag of juice for her three year old.

When asked what the elections mean to her personally, Karen responded, “We’ve had a lot of dirty politics in this country and I think that now people are trying to vote for a change.” Karen also told us that she is in favor of departmental autonomy. After speaking with us, Karen resumed chasing her 3 year old on her pink and purple tricycle.

Jenny Salamanca was waiting to cast her vote at the same school. After locating her name on the list of registered voters, she had identified which table she was to go to in order to cast her vote. She was waiting in the shade with her husband and adopted daughter when we approached her. “This is the election for a President of Bolivia” she said, “We always want to elect someone to represent everyone, not just the rich people, or just the poor people, but someone to represent everyone.”

“I think that we need capable people in government, she added; “Unfortunately, this past government has a lot of inept people in it, in my opinion. There are people in professional roles without professional training.”

@Colegio Avaroa

Fernanda Avila, a storeowner, was also enthusiastic about the elections: “(The vote) is a marvelous thing, but you have to think a lot to arrive at this extreme and not vote along with the crowd, we have to think a little to give our support to the candidate that is presented to us.”
Mrs. Avila also supported the referendum for autonomy, saying: “(Autonomy is) a good thing, if it is to be truly autonomous. When we have a business we are autonomous, all that we own is at our disposal, without waiting for another second person to make it available to us. Being autonomous means to be independent and in this case, all departments would have their independence…”

But another woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, echoed the sentiments of others when she said: “(I’m voting) because it’s an obligation, because they always ask us for our voting papers to be able to cash checks. But beyond that, it doesn’t mean anything to me; none of the candidates will give me money and I live off of my own work.”

2. A Pair of Short Interviews with Voters in La Paz

Jaime Linares, Engineer.

Q; What do these elections represent to you?

To me they represent the fact that we’re living in a democracy because all Bolivians can elect our next president. This is a historical election because we have a president that represents the people that are of Evo Morales. And I think that its management this government has achieved a lot of good things. It has helped a lot of poor people with its bonuses for the elderly, for children and for moms, something that no other government has done in the past 50 years. They (other governments) have never thought of the people, and I think it would be a very positive thing for us to re-elect Evo Morales. I’m not with MAS, but that’s my perception.

Q: What do you think of the referendum for autonomy in La Paz?

I think that autonomy would be really good for La Paz, because it would mean that we would be more self-sufficient. Now our taxes go to other states, and with autonomy, they would stay here.

Rita Hilda Palacios, Retired.

Q: What do these elections represent to you?

I think that there’s order and security, and that these are clean elections. I have already voted and I hope that my preferred candidate is elected. To me, the most important thing is that there aren’t problems or fights. Democracy is the most important thing; it has to be and exist because without democracy no one would respect anything.

Q: What do you think of the referendum for autonomy in La Paz?
I’m not convinced by the referendum for autonomy, because it would mean that state authorities could do anything they want, and that’s not good. I voted “NO” for autonomy, definitely no.

3. Bolivians Cast their Votes in Arlington

One of the other important changes in this election has been the right of Bolivians abroad to vote in it. Here is a special report from Arlington, Virginia from Andrés Carvallo and Lily Whitesell:

An early snowfall yesterday didn't make getting to the Iglesia Santa Maria any easier today, but it certainly didn't keep anyone away. Four blocks from the church, the traffic on Route 50, a major highway thoroughfare that cuts across northern Virginia, had already begun to slow. Iglesia Santa Maria, an Episcopal Church which is a major institution in the Bolivian community here, was the main site for today's vote from abroad in the Washington, DC area. The streets were completely full of parked cars for blocks upon blocks surrounding the building. Police closed off streets around the church to allow the pedestrians streaming in from all directions to reach their voting place, and nearly a dozen police were directing traffic at any given time at three different congested intersections.

At the church, the line was well outside the building and had reached the sidewalk, taking about fifteen to twenty minutes to reach the door. Once inside, things started warming up. CNE officials gave kind offers of assistance to point voters in the right direction. A mix of accents and languages resonated in the church rooms and halls, bringing together every corner of Bolivia. On the way out, a group of reporters were interviewing voters who had complaints. The problems at the Virginia polls were reminiscent of those encountered in Bolivia: principally voters who claimed they had registered but did not appear on the lists, and a small group of voters who were upset after being told they would have to go to the voting site in Maryland, a thirty minute drive away. For the first time Bolivians had the opportunity to vote from abroad, participation was robust, signaling the importance that Bolivia holds for those who have left their homeland.

4. The Oddities of Last Minute Coverage

With the close of official campaigning early in the week the Bolivian and foreign media have been looking around for last-minute stories to report. My favorite, reported by Erbol and others, was the appearance (from an unnamed source) of an American Airlines reservation (first class) for candidate Manfred Reyes Villa and his wife on Monday morning, to fly from La Paz to Miami. The inference here would be that the former Cochabamba Governor is either not wildly enthusiastic about his chances in Sunday's vote or perhaps has a visit planned to the White House to immediately work at bettering U.S./Bolivian relations.

When I got news of this stunning development by e-mail I went on-line and made a similar reservation for Evo Morales (see above) who I am reasonably sure is not headed to Miami on Monday, just to show how wickedly easy it is to fake something like this. Ahhh the wonders of journalism.

More stunning was that while covering this story the Bolivian and foreign press completely missed the real story of the campaign's final days – this must see joint appearance between Morales and Reyes Villa here in Cochabamba, caught on video by the Democracy Center team. You will want to have a look.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This video is clear indication that the authoritarian MAS has even co-opted Convergencia Nacional and its presidential candidate, using Chavez's petrodollars. O'Shady was right along, tomorrow is the end of Bolivian democracy.

9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bolivian democracy says its doing well and most people haven't been coerced into voting for Evo Morales and the MAS. If he had been doing a terrible job, he wouldn't have the support of MOST Bolivians. It's interesting how these right wing critics who argue the current government is a repressive dictatorship have a significant representation in the editorial pages of Bolivian newspapers and television. These are the same right wing critics who supported the imprisonment, assassinations, and exile of leftists, sindicalistas, and cocaleros in the 1980's and 1990's.

1:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shultz why do you attract such reactionary readers?
They obviously haven't read your books and material. Even if you try not to show support for the Evo the fact of the matter is that the old political establishment is gone, forever. So gooodbye reactionaries, bye bye!!
Your time is over. You had a good run parasitizing on the poor majority but all good things come to an end, right? Accept the reality, swallow your racist pride and try to contribute for a change, you might find it meaningful. There is no future in neoliberlism so why should there be one in Bolivia. The right is desperate, just look at Honduras, they have no political plan and especially no way of deceiving the poor majority once again. So open your eyes and accept your defeat. Evo will make a historic victory ones again, thanks to the will of the people nothing else.


10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An update of the elections please? thank you.

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear Jim Shultz,

The snow didn’t stop Bolivians to assist to the polls in Annandale, Virginia. As you known, it is the first time that the Bolivian residents of Virginia and USA are able to participate in a presidential election. Many of these residents cannot leave the country for many years due to immigration issues; for that reason, this day is a celebration day for Bolivians regardless they support a green, blue, or purple political party. We now have a voice! The participation of the people was remarkably calmed and without major incident. (attached in an e-mail, I send you some pictures.)

keep on going with your great work!


5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I´m in Santa Cruz and it´s very quiet here and not what I was expecting from when I last lived here a couple of years back.This may in part be due to the rain but the vehemence of the opposition seems to have dissipated a lot(apart from on this blog, of course!).
A great day for Bolivia, a great day for democracy as well as another great article from It´s Center.
Salteñas all round and make mine picante!

6:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is especially scary is that Government minister Rada referred to the fake AA reservation and said (with a straight face I may add) that Reyes Villa is planning on leaving the country.

How can we take these guys seriously? Are they that uneducated to not verify something? What else are they taking from the internet and using as 'evidence'?

Next thing they will warn us about is about the fact that Hotmail will cancel your account unless you send the email to 30 people.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim,, thank you for your tireless coverage. Those of us outside of Bolivia were hungry for the news and yours was the most comprehensive reporting I've found. Sue in Colorado

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evo is already saying that he will seek re-election in much for being a man of his word.

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The most boring elections ever.
Totally anticlimactic.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dont worry Evo will die by xmas, pedro el negro is coming to town!!!!

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


you should check this too, OAS the brazilian owned company has gifted Evo a lot reais (BRA currency)in exchange for a few highway contracts, remenber why Lula came to el tropico, to finance Evo, Lula has some stake at OAS too, you may want to check with OAS directors they live at Codominio El escudano @ cbba, just ask for house 21>>>>

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jim and co,
Thanks once again for a great article. I've enjoyed reading your posts over the last two years whilst in Chuquisaca, and now I'm back in the UK, it's great to be able to keep in touch with current events. Let's hope that the future will be brighter for Bolivia, and that the party politically induced chaos and violence of recent months can subside so that people can work together for the good of the country and her citizens. Bolivia has too many deep seated economic and social woes to be mucking about with yet more hunger strikes, paros, internecine conflict and blockades.

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations Bolivia for a wise choice! keep deepening the revolution.


8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hopefully Evo's government will be charged soon for the killing of those three idiots who were running around with guns in Santa Cruz... they should have been arrested not executed... and since he was on TV with Castro and Chavez saying that he gave orders that morning to arrest them, Evo should be charged with that criminal act.

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations Bolivia, over 63% of people who want continuity, progress, health, education, jobs, peace, national pride, sustainable use of natural resources and most of all Pride and DIGNITY of being bolivians.

The future needs everyone, except the corrupt, lazy, and the traitors like Manfred and his newly aquired followers. Where in the world is Gold....verga? Plotting again with the camba-nazis? Tuto is gone, who is the new sold out? Bigoton, bombom? Put him in jail with Leopoldo and Arze Gomez.

11:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bolivia has chosen primitivism over modernism.
Ye reap what ye sow, ye suckers!

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we should have gone for modernism........
you know... modernism is cool you know...
like privitize the hydrocarbons and water you know what I mean....
have a water-war you know...... cool stuffff man!!!
that is the cool stuffff kind of thing that manfred reyes represents....
go Manfred!!!

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Modernism includes having the courtesy (or willingness) of displaying correct grammar.

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Primitivism" implies supporting the slaughter of students in Iran.
"Modernism" implies supporting individual freedoms over a semi-theocratic ideology.

anon 3:31 has clearly never lived in Bolivia, or for that matter does not even understand recent Bolivian history.

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Primitivism = 4.9 percent growth.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're not talking about Viagra here.

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big deal. Same growth as during the Goni and Banzer years of the 90s, and they didn't have the luck of high commodity prices.

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 5.20,

Please name me one country that does not support a murderous regime of some kind? (Hint - probably best so skip the US)

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evo's landslide at last presents Bolivians(especially the poorest but not exclusively so) with the opportunity for real and lasting change. As a footnote to the now unstoppable process of change, it will be interesting to see how the right responds to this trouncing. Will they be humbled and chose to accept the president's gracious offer to work productively with him or will they continue creating divisions by spreading lies through the media? The good news is that Manfred's days are likely numbered as the process to bring him to justice gains momentum. Bolivian politics will be so much healthier when he's gone.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am deafened by the silence of the usual right wingers here. They are probably busy trying to explain:

1. How the vote was rigged and Manfred really got 55%.

2. How Evo put hipnotic potion in chicha and beer across the country causing people to vote for him.

3. How at their keyboards in Miami they still know what is best for Bolivia better than the millions who clearly want to continue what Evo is doing.

Give them a week for their Sunday hangover to wear off. They'll be back to entertain us.

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So eh you lik9e a da stinky pussy>?

12:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A dictatorship that fosters the production and distribution of cocaine is not apt to enjoy a positive international image. But when that same government cloaks itself in the language of social justice, with a special emphasis on the enfranchisement of indigenous people, it wins world-wide acclaim.


Under his rule, coca cultivation is legal and he collects a licensing fee from all farmers, whose harvests are sold through a centralized market. MAS officials also regulate cocaine production and trafficking which now reaches down to the household level.

The booming business has made Mr. Morales popular. He may hate the U.S. and freedom but one thing is for sure: He understands markets.

Write to O'

She may be wrong about a few dates or facts, but the essence of this article is correct, that is why liberals are afraid to talk about it and dismiss it as just nonsense.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The nasty racist comments prove why president Morales deserved to win!


9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WSJ as a source of information....LOL...only capitalists would treat it with any respect.
President Morales dosent hate the US but WSJ and the US right hate president Morales.

'But when that same government cloaks itself in the language of social justice, with a special emphasis on the enfranchisement of indigenous people, it wins world-wide acclaim'

WSJs words really fit the US, which has a long history of cloaking itself in the langague of social justice: 'freedom and democracy'.


9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you hate your country so much,B? You should be proud! ITs so great a US citizen won the Nobel piece prize.

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That us 'citizen' has refused to sign a treaty banning land mines,and sends more troops to kill in afghanistan.

anyway, its not my country...


8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that "country" you talk about is the #1 destination in the world for immigrants, heavy B. It must be doing something right.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For anonymous citing O'Grady and confounding coca with cocaine,
Coca has been legal to cultivate even amidst the worst of the war on drugs. This is not an Evo creation but rather a Paz Estenssoro and Reagen's Ley 1008 from 1988. So, P.E., P.Z, Goni and even Banzer collected licensing fees from licit coca growers. The illicit is another case, but that much should be clear - Evo has followed in the footsteps of Bolivia's neoliberal leaders in regard to licit coca control. Well, except for kicking out the DEA last year, but they had nothing to do with regulating the allotted licit market. And Evo is not a drug dealer. Many in his opposition are/were though, and look at the nouveau riche from the booming Santa Cruz cocaine industry of the '70s for this truth.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with the elections, for this holiday season I tip my hat and offer up some coca k'intus to a peaceful, just and prosperous next five years for this exceedingly democratically elected leader.

3:59 AM  

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