Evo Morales celebrates his inauguration and begins third term as President of Plurinational Republic of Bolivia.
By Emma Moore.
Following an election campaign fought with the background of almost eight years of solid economic growth, the Bolivian electorate decisively re-elected Evo Morales to a third term as President of Bolivia in October 2014. The returning president celebrated his inauguration on 22 and 23 January this week, with over 40 countries, including a delegation from the U.S. and presidents from Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador, represented across the two days, including at both the indigenous and official inauguration ceremonies. Morales referenced his indigenous background appearing dressed as a sun god amidst the pre-Inca ruins of Tiwanaku.
Morales has served as president since 2006 and during his two periods in office has spearheaded various policies aimed at socio-economic reform in Bolivia, despite opposition from the conservative middle class. These reforms have included using the denationalisation of key Bolivian industries such as oil and gas in order to fund social projects and public work programmes, and have been generally successful in reducing the hardship suffered by the population, with extreme poverty and poverty declining by 25% and 43% respectively. Economic growth under Morales has averaged 5% each year, way ahead of growth in Bolivia’s neighbouring countries.
Morales’ tenure has also seen electrical reform and democratisation, with several referenda and a greater voice for the indigenous people of Bolivia of which he is the first Bolivian leader from an indigenous background. (Morales is from an Aymara farming family.) Somewhat controversially, Morales was able to contest an unprecedented third term, despite the country’s limit of two presidential terms, by citing constitutional reform.
Despite these reforms and advancements there is still much to achieve as Bolivia remains the poorest nation in South America. The legal working age in the country is 10 years of age and Bolivians receive has the lowest minimum wage of the region. It is hoped that the next five years will see election pledges to provide further reform coming to fruition, although observers will be closely watching Bolivia’s next economic moves with oil and gas prices falling, as well as how Morales continues his frosty relationship with the U.S.
Back in October, Morales celebrated by dedicating his election victory to fellow leaders Fidel Castro and the late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. The president’s current term will end in 2020 and will make him Bolivia’s longest serving president.