Morales, Evo

Morales, Evo (Juan Evo Morales Ayma) āˈvō mōräˈlās [key], 1959–, Bolivian political leader, president of Bolivia (2006–19). An Aymara, he became a coca farmer when his family moved to Boliva's lowlands. In the 1980s Morales became a leader of the coca growers and gained prominence in the 1990s when the growers struggled against the U.S.-supported coca-eradication program. He formed a political party, the Movement toward Socialism (MAS), in 1995 and won a seat in the Bolivian congress in 1997. Morales was an outspoken critic of the government in Bolivia's subsequently turbulent politics, and was expelled from the congress in 2002 on charges relating to violence involving anti-eradication supporters.

A populist and socialist, Morales finished second in the 2002 presidential election. In the 2005 presidential race, however, he received more than 50% of the vote, becoming the first person of indigenous descent to be elected president of Bolivia, and MAS became the dominant legislative party. He was easily reelected in 2009 and 2014. In office, Morales nationalized companies in energy, telecommunications, and other industries, and used gas and oil revenues in part to underwrite antipoverty programs, which helped reduce poverty levels.

In 2016 voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have allowed him to run for a fourth term, but the consitutional court voided (2017) the vote. In the 2019 presidential election he narrowly secured reelection, but suspicions of fraud led to demonstrations against him (the Organization of American States later concluded the result was rigged), and he resigned after he lost the support of the police and military. He fled Bolivia and received asylum in Argentina, but returned to Bolivia after MAS won the 2020 elections.

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