Evo Morales succeeds in holding power longer than his four predecessors

September 12

This week Bolivian President Juan Evo Morales Ayma out endured the last four tenants of the Palacio Quemado in La Paz, the seat of government.

The nationalist, indigenous Morales became head of state on January 22, 2006— 19 months and 3 weeks ago, thus breaking Carlos Mesa Gisbert’s record.

So far in the 21st century this country of nearly 10 million inhabitants, the poorest in all Ibero-America, has already had six presidents and not one of them have completed a constitutional term of five years.

The dictator-cum-elected-president Hugo Banzer was the last to be voted into office in the 20th century (1997). He stepped down from his post on August 7, 2001, a year before his term was up and died of cancer eight months later.

His vice-president Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga took his place and spent a year in the Palacio Quemado (the remainder of Banzer’s term). He is currently the leader of the rightist opposition alliance Poder Democrático y Social (Democratic and Social Power, Podemos).

In 2002 the neoliberal Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada was elected. "Goni", as he was known, had already served as president from 1993-1997, but he lasted just over 14 months this time.
On October 17, 2003, after a wave of disturbances left 60 dead, Sánchez de Lozada resigned and left Bolivia heading to the U.S.

The current Bolivian government accuses him of "genocide" and the Supreme Court just decided yesterday to petition Washington for his extradition.

Then vice-president Carlos Mesa Gisbert filled in for "Goni," but the writer and journalist was also forced to resign on June 8, 2005 due to demands for early elections.

Mesa lasted just over 19 months, thus setting what was until now Bolivia’s 21st century record for occupying the Palacio Quemado (Burnt Palace), a fitting name in view of the speed by which it’s tenants seem to "burn up."

Replacing Mesa was the Supreme Court President Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé, who holds the opposite record as Morales: the shortest mandate of the century, 7 1/2 months.

Rodríguez called elections for December 2005 and leftist Morales won with 53.7%.
It remains to be seen if Morales will set another record by being the first Bolivian president of the 21st century to remain in power for an entire 5-year term.

There are doubts, given that the proverbial ungovernability of Bolivia has not ceased and Evo himself has talked about possible elections in 2008 if the Constituent Assembly elected in 2006 fulfills their task of drawing up a new constitution and the people ratify it.

Translated from EFE by Dawn Gable

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