The election of Evo Morales in Bolivia should not be underestimated because of its symbolic importance and because of its implications for the rest of Latin America. In a region where the concentration of power and wealth has been always outrageous, the election of a president belonging to the indigenous community is not a minor affair.
Bolivia has always been a paradigmatic country. The 1952 revolution was one of only four truly popular Latin American revolutions (along with Mexico, Cuba and Nicaragua). It was chosen by Castro, Guevara and Debray as a launching pad for guerrilla movements across Latin America; and it was there where the economic policy of Ronald Reagan was implemented for the first time in Latin America in the 1980s. In the United States, the substitution of coca cultivation in the country was seen as a success, but left a great amount of impoverished farmers, whose elected president today is Evo Morales.
There is a leftward drift in Latin America, but it is not homogeneous. There is a pro-Castro tradition that, apart from Castro, has turned into market economy, democracy, respect for Human Rights and responsible geopolitical stance. They include Ricardo Lagos and Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Lula in Brazil and Tabaré Vasquez in Uruguay. There are also the heirs to the populist tradition like Chávez in Venezuela, Kirchner in Argentina and Morales in Bolivia, who are less convinced of the imperatives of globalization and values of democracy and respect for Human Rights, and they like nothing better than baiting the White House. When the “new left wing” combats poverty, the populist left wing limits itself to an anti-American and pro-Cuban policy. This is what Morales will do. However, he will not become the Castro of the Andes. Bolivia is poor and dependant on foreign aid. If Brazil moderates the country and the US remains quite, Evo Morales will be in the “headlines” of newspapers, but calm.

International Herald Tribune (France)
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Bolivia’s new president is no Che Guevara”, by Jorge Castañeda, International Herald Tribune, January 19, 2006.