We last looked in on Bolivian bossman Evo Morales a few months ago, after he gave Pope Francis a unique present: a “cross” made out of a hammer and sickle. As we noted at the time, Morales – “like the Castros in Cuba, the Kirchners in Argentina, and Nicolás Maduro (and Hugo Chávez before him) in Venezuela” – is “a card-carrying member of Latin America’s hard-left club.” Like those other socialist strongmen, moreover, he’s palled around with useful Hollywood stooges, such as Benicio del Toro, Oliver Stone, and Jude Law.
But the winds have been shifting south of the border. As contact between Cuba and the U.S. increases, the Castros’ island prison seems to be on the verge of transformation. In Argentina, the corrupt, cronyist Kirchner era – that long national nightmare that climaxed in a sovereign-debt default – is finally over. In Venezuela, chavista socialism – which has resulted in Soviet-style shortages of toilet paper and other basic goods – is being taken on by a National Assembly newly dominated by the pro-freedom opposition.
That’s not all. Rafael Correa, the longtime Chávez amigo and America-basher who’s been turning Ecuador into a socialist paradise since 2007, has said he won’t run for re-election next year. In Chile, a raft of corruption scandals – at least one of which is an ugly mess involving her son and daughter-in-law – has tanked the popularity of formerly beloved lefty President Michelle Bachelet. And in Brazil, which not long ago was on its way to genuine First World prosperity, President Dilma Rousseff’s socialist policies and massive corruption, as we’ve seen, have turned the economy into a Greece-like basket case.
Latin America’s socialist leaders, in short, are being challenged on every front, buffeted by the gusts of liberty. And Evo Morales isn’t immune.
In office since 2006, Morales was re-elected in 2009 and 2014. During his presidency, he’s nationalized major sectors of the economy, created a massive welfare state, forged close ties with his fellow autocrats in Havana, Caracas, and Tehran, presided over widespread corruption, and entertained his followers with racist rants about the evil “gringos.”
His current term ends in 2020, and he’s prohibited from running for a fourth term. So on February 21 he had the electorate vote on a rewrite of the constitution that would let him stay in office.
Bolivia voted no.
Morales was still dealing with this kick in the butt when another blow struck. On February 26, Gabriela Zapata, an executive with a Chinese construction company that’s been awarded lucrative Bolivian government contracts, was arrested on corruption charges. This is important because Zapata isn’t just any businesswoman: she’s Morales’s ex-girlfriend, and the two of them have allegedly conspired to sell influence in exchange for Chinese cash.
This one should be be fun to watch. It’s always entertaining to see an oligarch brought to his knees.