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Juan Evo Morales Ayma & Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías

Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, born on July 28, 1954, is the reigning President of Venezuela. As the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Chávez preaches a political doctrine of “democratic socialism” and “Latin American integration”. He is also a well-known critic of neoliberalism, United States foreign policy, and globalization.

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Chávez, founded the left-wing Fifth Republic Movement after masterminding a failed 1992 coup d’état opposing former President Carlos Andrés Pérez. Chávez, elected President in 1998, based his campaigns on promises of helping Venezuela’s poor majority, and was reelected in 2000 and in 2006. Nationally, Chávez has retained the nation wide Bolivarian Missions, which at combating disease, illiteracy, malnutrition, poverty, and other public ills. Internationally, Chávez has gone against the Washington Consensus by extending his support to alternative models of economic development and has urged cooperation amid the world’s poor nations, in particular those in Latin America (Kozloff, 2007).

Chávez’s policies have raised controversies within Venezuela and abroad, receiving heated criticism as well as enthusiastic support. The government of the United States alleges that Chávez is a danger to democracy in Latin America. Few others are supportive of his ideology or hail his bilateral trade and reciprocal aid agreements. In 2005 and 2006, he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

Juan Evo Morales Ayma, born October 26, 1959, popularly known as Evo, is the President of Bolivia since 2006. He has been named the nation’s first fully indigenous head of state in the 470 years from the time of the Spanish Conquest.

Morales was named President of Bolivia on December 18, 2005, with 53.7% of the votes with 84.5% of the national electorate participating. The next elections saw him substantially increasing this majority; in a recall referendum on August 14, 2008, 67.4% of the national electorate, i.e., more than two thirds voted to keep him in power (Dangl, 2007).

Morales leads a political party called the Movement toward Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo). MAS was involved in social remonstrations like the gas conflict and the Cochabamba protests of 2000, alongside many other factions, collectively known as “social movements” in Bolivia. They aim at providing more power to the nation’s indigenous and underprivileged communities by means of land reforms and redeployment of gas wealth (Otero, 2006).

Morales also holds the title of The president of Bolivia’s cocalero movement — a loose alliance of coca growers’ unions, made up of Campesinos who are defy the efforts of the United States government to wipe out coca in the province of Chapare in central Bolivia.

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Both Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales share a common ideology concerning a number of issues. Evo Morales is said to be influenced by Hugo Chavez. According to the BBC News – “Mr Morales has become a close ideological ally of the left-leaning Venezuelan government. Like President Hugo Chavez, he is an outspoken critic of the United States”. Both leaders propose an ideology that attacks the neoliberal market model and offers an alternative solution as a cooperative socialism and regional integration. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have a large population under the poverty line. Considering the similar conditions in both the countries, their sharing of common leftist, socialistic ideologies and their success seem justified. Evo Morales, inspired by the Bolivarian Revolution of Hugo Chavez believes that the poor Latin American countries must work in close cooperation in bringing about economic reforms, eradication of illiteracy, promoting agriculture, improvement of health services and energy issues. During a visit of Evo Morales to Venezuela in 2006, Hugo Chavez commented on creating an “Axis of Good” along with his Bolivian counterpart, the “Axis of Evil” being the United States (Gott, 2005).

America is said to have quite an aggressive foreign policy, particularly post World War II. Naturally, it makes quite a few enemies on its way. Chavez became one of the biggest threats to America after his 1998 election. Ever since, he’s been a prickle in America’s throat and its greatest threat – a “good example” that’s a model for other nations. He also encourages social movements throughout the Americas, even though none so far are prevailing or even close, and he shows signs of indecisive on some of his earlier commitments. The chronic verbal banter between Washington and Venezuela’s “populist” administration led by President Hugo Chavez ratcheted up in intensity, in the past, with Chavez threatening to cut off oil exports to the United States if Washington tried to weaken his rule, many a times. While each time Washington declares that it was practices a policy to “contain” him (Dangl, 2007).

Many allegations against United States have been made for covertly supporting the opposition faced by Chavez internally. Venezuela avers that a confidential memorandum from the US embassy to the CIA discovered and circulated by the Venezuelan government on November 26, 2007, presents information on the activity of a CIA unit engaged in stealthy action to destabilize the national referendum and to synchronize the civil and military oust of the democratically-elected government of Venezuela. Venezuelan government alleges, the memo, entitled “Advancing to the Last Phase of Operation Pincer,” was sent by Michael Middleton Steere addressed to the Director of CIA, Michael Hayden, and charts covert Operation Pincer (OP) (Operación Tenaza). According to these claims, Operation Pincer involves a two-pronged strategy of hindering the national referendum of December 2, 2007 on significant changes to the Venezuelan constitution advocated by the government of President Hugo Chavez, rejecting the result, and calling for a ‘no’ vote. Hugo Chavez even warns that the United States is plotting to kill him and is stepping up activity regarding the same. There have been innumerous number of allegations and counter-allegations made, and the blame game continues (Gott, 2005).

Observers of U.S.-Latin American policy lean-to analyze the crisis in U.S.-Bolivian relations due to a policy of neglect and ineffectiveness toward Latin America because of U.S. association in the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. In fact, the Bolivia coup effort was a mindful policy rooted in U.S. hostility toward Morales, his political party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) and the social movements that are associated with him. According to some Bolivian nationalists, the U.S. embassy is historically used to calling the shots in Bolivia, which violate the sovereignty of the nation. In 2002, when Morales lost his first presidential attempt by a narrow margin, U.S. ambassador Manuel Rocha had openly campaigned against him, going to the extent of threatening that Morales’s election to power would endanger U.S assistance to Bolivia. The U.S. state department called him an “illegal coca agitator”, the reason being; Morales lead the Cocaleros Federation prior to his election as the president. Morales advocated the production of coca but said a firm no to cocaine and stressed on the necessity to put an end to violent U.S.-sponsored coca eradication raids and stood up for the right of Bolivian peasants to grow coca (Levine, 2002).

He urged the production of coca for domestic consumption, therapeutic uses, and even for export as an herb in tea and other products. When Morales won the next presidential election, it meant a defeat for the United States. Shortly thereafter President George W. Bush called Morales, offering to help “bring a better life to Bolivians.” Morales asked Bush to reduce U.S. trade barriers for Bolivian products, and suggested that he come for a visit. But, Bush did not reply. The United States was trying to persuade Morales with polite and trite comments to keep him from aligning with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Intervention is obvious from the very start of the Morales regime, with early USAID actions through the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). After Morales assumed power, USAID documents state that the OTI set out to provide support to regional governments (Gott, 2005).

Altogether the OTI funneled 116 grants for $4,451,249 to aid departmental governments function more tactically. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), established as a semi-public institute had been particularly active in Bolivia. It funded a few groups and organizations with a clear political favoritism. Institute of Pedagogical and Social Investigation was one among them. The Institute opposed Morales in the 2005 elections, stating in a project summary report to the U.S. embassy that Morales and MAS are anti-democratic, radical opposition that doesn’t stand for the mass. NED’s support of the Institute’s actions continued into 2006, when the Institute filed a report stating that it intended to contribute to better municipal development my means of efficient and effectual social monitoring. Right from the onset of the Evo regime, Washington understood Morales meant trouble for them. Thus, continuous efforts are being made to counter the open criticism made by Evo Morales (Kozloff, 2007).

The political carrier of Hugo Chavez started with the failed coup attempt in 1992. After an prolonged period of popular displeasure and economic decline under the government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez and the violent repression known as El Caracazo, Chávez made extensive arrangements for a military coup d’état. Chávez held the allegiance of less than 10% of Venezuela’s military forces; still, numerous treacheries, defections, errors, and other unforeseen circumstances soon left Chávez and a small group of rebels cut off in the Historical Museum. Chávez, apprehensive, soon surrendered to the government. He was then permitted to appear on national television to call for all enduring rebel detachments in Venezuela to end hostilities. Chávez was hurled into the national spotlight, with him attaining the stature of someone who had stood up against government corruption among many poor Venezuelans. Chávez was sent to Yare prison (Levine, 2002).

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After a two-year imprisonment, Chávez was pardoned by President Rafael Caldera in 1994. After his release, Chávez embodied the MBR-200 as the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR—Movimiento Quinta República, with the V representing the Roman numeral five). In 1998, Chávez commenced his campaign for the presidency. While working towards earning the trust of the common man, Chávez outlined an agenda that had a great impact on his ideology of Bolivarianism. Chávez and his followers aspired to lay the foundations of a new republic and to reinstate the existing one. Chávez had a ostentatious public speaking style, which was noted for its profusion of colloquialisms and ribald manner. This helped him a great deal on the campaign trail to win the trust and favor of the mass which had primarily a poor and working-class population. Chávez went on to triumph in the 1998 presidential election on December 6, 1998 with 56% of the votes. Chávez was avowed in as president on February 2, 1999. Among his initial acts was the initiation of Plan Bolivar 2000, which comprised of road building, housing construction, and mass vaccination. Chávez also stopped the intended privatizations of, among others, the national social security system, aluminum industry assets, and the oil sector. Chávez also renovated the formerly slack tax collection and auditing system—in particular those of major corporations and landholders (Kozloff, 2007).

From then on the popularity of Hugo Chavez has been overwhelming. He has been re-elected in 2000 as well as in 2006. The Bolivarian Missions, a series of social justice, social welfare, anti-poverty, educational, electoral and military recruiting programs, have also popularized him in the international arena and has heightened his stature among like minded left socialist leaders. His close associations with world leaders like Fidel Castro of Cuba, Evo Morales of Bolivia also give him a good amount of credibility. His dynamic personality, eloquent public speaking style, ability to stand up against the strong, unafraid nature and his agenda to help the poor are few of the factors which have helped him to become one of the eminent leaders in world politics. The Time magazine, naming him one of the 100 most influential people in 2005, quotes, “Chávez is a survivor: he outlasted a recall referendum last year, a general strike in 2003 and 2004 and a coup attempt in 2002. Although Chávez is out to redress the chasm between rich and poor in Latin America, critics say he disdains democracy, noting the mass firings of public employees who had signed recall petitions. Chávez, who under his new constitution can run for one more six-year term in 2006, insists he’s creating a more genuine, grass-roots democracy. But if he finds a way to stay in power beyond 2012, the hemisphere may very well have its new Castro” (Times, 2005).

In 1980, while Evo Morales was merely in his 20s, there was a 70% decline in agriculture and 50% of the animals were killed in his home region. Evo joined the Morales family when they left Orinoco to participate in the colonization of the tropics of Cochabamba, situated in the Bolivian lowlands. Working on the family’s property, he grew crops like oranges, grapefruit, papaya, bananas and cocoa. Morales shortly embodied a union of coca growers. As per his website, he claims that by 1981, he was motivated to protect his fellow coca cultivators after learning that one of them had been mistreated, covered in gasoline, and burned alive by drunken soldiers of the Luis García Meza Tejada regime. In 1981, he was named the head of his local football organization, although he had to give up that position after his father’s death in 1983, in order to focus on running his family’s farm. These were early indications that young Morales instinctively possessed leadership qualities. By 1985, Morales became the general secretary in his union of coca farmers and by 1988 was named the executive secretary of the Tropics Federation. He retains this honor till date, even as president of Bolivia. By 1996 Morales was nominated as president of the Coordinating Committee of the Six Federations of the Tropics of Cochabamba. In the late eighties, the Bolivian government, backed by the USA, began an agenda to wipe out most coca production (Dangl, 2007).

Evo was a prominent opposition to the government’s stand on coca and lobbied for an alternative policy. Morales led a 600 km march from Cochabamba to the capital of La Paz. They were attacked by law enforcement but were often cheered by supporters who gave the marchers drink, food, clothes, and shoes. Due to this gaining popularity, the government was obliged to confer an accord with them. He was acknowledged in 1996 by an international coalition against the “War on Drugs”. He traveled to Europe to gain support and to spread awareness on the differences between coca leaves and cocaine. On this issue, he told reporters that he was not a drug trafficker but a coca grower. He cultivated coca leaf, a natural product and did not refine (it into) cocaine, and neither cocaine nor drugs have ever been part of the Andean culture. On March 27, 1995, Morales became part of a united organization of farmers, colonizers who established the Assembly for the Sovereignty of the Common People (ASP) and the Political Tool for the Sovereignty of the Common People (IPSP). Morales and a few others were resolute to run for political office in Bolivia under this party. As the National Electoral Court did not acknowledge this new organization, they had to run under the banner of the United Left (IU), – an alliance of leftist parties, headed by the Communist Party of Bolivia (PCB). (Postero, 2004).

On June 1, 1997, Morales (with 70% of the votes) was one of four IU candidates who were triumphant and were elected in the Congress. He represented the provinces of Chapare and Carrasco and procured the most number of votes than any contender in Bolivia. The Bolivian Supreme Court continued to refuse to recognize IPSP, for the local elections of December 5, 1999, Morales came to an accord with the leader of MAS-U, David Añez Pedraza, to use the acronym, name and colors of that dormant organization. This resulted in the IPSP becoming the Movimiento al Socialismo or Movement Towards Socialism (MAS). In light of Morales’ open support to armed resistance to eradication of some coca-farms, on January 24, 2002, a 104-member majority of Congress voted to have him debarred from the Congress. The Congressional Ethics Commission commented that Morales had committed serious failure in the execution of his responsibilities. In the 2002 presidential election, Morales came in second place, by a narrow margin which was a surprising setback for Bolivia’s established parties. This made Morales an instant celebrity all through the region (Dangl, 2007).

As an outcome of growing discontent and popular strife, and the resignation of President Carlos Mesa Gisbert under demands by MAS and their supporters, led by Morales, Congress and President Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé decided to move up the 2007 elections to December 2005. These elections saw the uprising of Morales as he emerged as a victorious by a huge margin. His instinctive leadership, a low key profile, ability to gather mass support and clear ideology has made him the leader of masses, and his open stand against bullying nations along with alliances with leaders sharing a common vision have brought forth his prominence in world politics.


  1. Dangl, Benjamin; 2007; The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia; AK Press
  2. Gott, Richard; 2005; Hugo Chavez: In the Shadow of the Liberator; Verso
  3. Kozloff, Nikolas; 2007; Hugo Chavez: Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the United States; Palgrave Macmillan
  4. Levine, Daniel H; 2002; The Decline and Fall of Democracy in Venezuela: Ten Theses; Bulletin of Latin American Research; 21, 2, pp. 248-269
  5. Otero, Isabella & Rigoberto Bastidas; 2006; Venezuela; Thunderbird International Business Review; 44, 2, 237-251; Center for Strategic Management
  6. Postero, Nancy Grey & León Zamosc; 2004; The Struggle for Indigenous Rights in Latin America; Sussex Academic Press
  7. Times; 2005; Special Issue: The TIME 100; Time.

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