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Born on October, 1959, Juan Evo Morales Ayma is the eightieth and current president of Bolivia since 2006.as a political leader, Evo has been focusing on implementing a number of socialist reforms in Bolivia, nationalizing major industries, introducing land reforms, and going against corporate involvement in the country's affairs, especially from the United States (Erin, 2002). He descends from the native Aymara community, and was born into a working class family in a village called Isallawi. He started working as a Llama herder and started growing coca, where he getting involved in the coca trade unions.
He was first elected as president of Bolivia on the 18th of December, 2005, having garnered 53.7 percent of the votes. His popularity increased over the years, as seen in a recall referendum in 2008, where he eventually won in the 2009 presidential elections by a 63 percent margin. Morales is the leader of a political party known as the Movement for Socialism (MAS), which was involved in numerous social protests such as the Cochabamba protests of 2000 and the gas conflict. His political party aims at empowering the poor and indigenous Bolivian communities by redistributing gas wealth and a number of key land reforms.
Morales is also thought to be the president of the 'cocalero movement', a federation of coca's growers' union resisting United States efforts aimed at eradicating coca in the province of Chapare (Harten, 2011). He has been an ally of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, by criticizing the United States' foreign policy and opposing transnational corporations' involvement in Latin America. As a fact, he was named 'World Hero of Mother Earth' by the General Assembly of the United Nations'.
Evo has been declared as the first Aymara president (Sivak, 2008). Despite the fact that there were others who became president before him, however, they were never elected democratically. He is adored by many indigenous farmers. However, among his critics include Mario Vargas Llosa, accusing him of dividing the country along racial lines. As a farmer, he used to work on his family land, growing a variety of crops that include grapefruit, oranges, bananas, papaya and coca. He claims that he decided to support and defend other coca farmers after witnessing one of the tortured and burnt alive by soldiers of Luis Garcia's government (Mesa, Gisbert, Mesa & Carlos, 1998)..
His leadership skills started a long time ago in 1981, when he became the head of his local soccer organization. He became the general secretary of a union of coca farmers in 1985, and also got elected in 1988 to the position of executive secretary of the Tropics Federation (a position he holds up to now). This was the time that the Bolivian government, being supported by the United States started the eradication of coca production. He was among those who opposed this move and lobbied for a change of policy (Benjamin, 2002). As a result, he was jailed and nearly beaten to death by UMOPAR forces in 1989.
His leadership style has been different, characterized by unorthodox and eccentric behavior. As an example, he cut his salary by over 50 percent to less than 2000 dollars a month. Being single, his older sister, Esther Morales Ayma performs the duty of the First Lady. He has two children from different relationships, with Alvaro Morales Paredes and Eva Liz Morales Alvarado. He is an association football fan and enjoys playing the game with a number of local teams. His type of dressing has also aroused interest widely. He rarely dresses formally in business suits, instead in a stripped sweater that has become his unofficial symbol.
Morales is also a key supporter of Che Guevara, the iconic Argentine Marxist revolutionary unfortunately executed in 1967 by Bolivian soldiers. He remembers Che as an inspiration to them to keep on fighting and changing Bolivia and the world at large. His early entry into politics was in 1997 as among the four United Left (IU) leaders to join the Congress. He represented the provinces of Carrasco and Chapare, where he received the most votes surpassing all the other candidates (Benjamin, 2002). However, he parted ways with the leader of the party and formed the 'Movimiento al Socialismo', Movement towards Socialism (MAS). MAS has been referred as an indigenous political party that aims for a fairer distribution of national resources, legalization of coca leaf and nationalization of industry.
His term in office has faced an autonomy movement in the eastern departments. However, he adopted autonomy as a government policy as departmental autonomies became recognized in the new Bolivian Constitution passed in 2009 (Zaa, 2008). His first term in office saw increased state intervention on the economy by nationalizing communications, oil, gas, and mines. Moreover, welfare provision was expanded as old-age pensions to mothers came into reality. Free tractors were given to farmers as prices of gas and other foodstuff fell under the government's control. Food is currently sold at subsidized prices, a measure aimed at reducing inflation. Most of the measures have gone a long way into making the economy a success. The passage of the new constitution called for fresh election, which saw hi winning a landslide majority while his party won a two-thirds majority in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.
His government faced national protest after the announcement of cuts in subsidies for gasoline and diesel that saw their prices increase in 2010. However, the supreme decree was annulled given his promise to listen to the people. The protests seem to have affected his poll ratings. Morales has remained unmarried his entire life. Instead, he refers to himself as being married to Bolivia.