Bolivian President Evo Morales has appealed for unity amid fears of a worsening political crisis in a divided country, on the eve of a crucial referendum.
He is expected to survive a recall vote on Sunday but right-wing opponents of his pro-poor reform policies are wary of his socialist roots, likening him to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Morales is Bolivia’s first indigenous leader. A former coca farmer, he wants to relaunch plans for nationalisation and land redistribution.
The president is banking on the referendum to strengthen his hand and undermine regional governers who have been demanding autonomy.
Morales, and eight of Bolivia’s nine provincial governors, face the vote ordered by the president in an attempt to sap momentum from autonomy movements in the country’s eastern provinces.
While Morales remains popular, his reforms have increasingly divided the country and protests forced him to abandon several campaign events this week.
He has already nationalised energy, mining and telecommunications businesses and is distributing some of the proceeds to Bolivia’s poorest in the form of handouts.