Saturday, January 30, 2010

Debunking Myths: The eastern lowlands of Santa Cruz

Doug Hertzler, Andean Information Network

On December 6, Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous President, easily won reelection with 64% of the vote to 26% for the right-wing candidate Manfred Reyes Villa. During his first term in office the international press and opinion makers hyped a “deep” divide between Bolivia’s eastern lowland regions and the western Andean highlands. For example, an editorial in the Washington Post in 2008 claimed that “Morales is pursuing a narrow and divisive agenda that, if continued, will split Bolivia along geographic as well as ethnic lines, and possibly trigger a civil war.”

While the Bolivian upper class continues to control the politics of several lowland departments, the divisions among the regions are not as deep as the mainstream media has portrayed them. Evo Morales outpolled Manfred Reyes in the lowland department of Tarija, and took nearly half the vote in Pando. He also strongly improved his showing in both Beni and the largest lowland department of Santa Cruz, where Morales took 41% of the vote, up from 30% four years ago.

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