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Bolivian Socialist President Resoundingly Rejects His Own Rejection

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter

Bolivian Socialist President Evo Morales — whose close associates are being investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) — lost a campaign to amend the country’s constitution that would have let him run for a fourth presidential term.

After the Sunday vote, 51.3 percent of Bolivia’s residents opposed Morales’s constitutional amendment — just 48.6 percent of voters were in favor of the amendment. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal of Bolivia has counted 99.4 percent of the votes and officially declared that Morales’s constitutional amendment proposal failed Tuesday.

Before becoming a politician, Morales was a coca leaf farmer — a plant that is a central component of cocaine production. Morales still has strong ties to fellow coca farmers, but more importantly has long-standing bad blood with the U.S. DEA since he kicked agency officials out of the country in 2008.

Morales was also a close ally of deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The government of Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, is being investigated for drug trafficking by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Morales may have been punished by the country’s voters for a recent personal love scandal — he has been accused of making sure his ex-girlfriend’s Chinese company got multimillion dollar state contracts.

As a result of the accusations, Morales contemplated ousting the Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia because he claims the diplomat cooperated with the journalist — both of whom deny the allegations — who revealed his lobbying for his ex-girlfriend. Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador in 2008 because he met with an opposition leader. The Bolivian president also spoke openly in 2013 about shutting down the U.S. Embassy because his plane was re-routed while flying through Europe due to U.S. fears that Edward Snowden may receive refuge in Bolivia. The U.S. embassy is still open in Bolivia.

If Morales had won the referendum, he could have run for reelection in 2019. With a fourth term, Morales would have left office at the end of 2025 — after 20 years in office. Morales was elected in 2005 and began serving as president in January 2006 and has openly aligned himself with “21st century socialism.” The president is the first ever indigenous — called Aymara — president of his majority indigenous country.

Voters fear Morales will not respect the results of the referendum. The government has previously used vague laws to determine public media access and thereby silenced opposing viewpoints. Despite his loss, Morales insists the election is currently tied.

We have recovered democracy and the right to choose,” declared opposition leader Samuel Doria Medina, who has twice been a presidential candidate.

Morales claimed before official results were announced Tuesday, that the election could not yet be called because rural votes had not been counted. “We need to wait with serenity for the final results. It’s not time to begin partying yet,” Morales told the Bolivian people.

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