There have been scenes of celebration in Bolivia following the election of South America’s first indigenous Indian president. Exit polls show that the left-wing former union leader Evo Morales, who describes himself as a “nightmare for the United States” has won more than 51 per cent of the vote.
“They tried to kill us with bullets, then they tried to kill us with lies, but now we’ve beaten them and we’ve won,” he told supporters at a victory rally. The majority Aymaran Indian population supports Morales, who has vowed to legalise production of the coca leaf, a food staple, but not the drug cocaine, an associated product. He has also pledged more state control over foreign petrochemical and gas investments. Former president Jorge Quiroga has admitted defeat. Known for its political instability, Bolivia has had five presidents in four years. It is also South America’s poorest country. Morales’ election is unlikely to be welcomed by the United States. He is directly opposed to the US anti-narcotics policy, which includes eradication of the coca-leaf crop. Morales’ plans also encompass a reversal of free-market reforms.