Bye, Evo!

Jair Bolsonaro

After being ruled by a series of socialist crooks – such as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who ended up in prison for money laundering, and Dilma Rousseff, who was removed from office for corruption – Brazil opted for Jair Bolsonaro, a conservative admirer of Donald Trump who believes in cultivating alliances with democracies and spurning dictators. Argentina, after years of rule by “progressives” and Peronists, most notably the left-wing, sticky-fingered Kirschner clan, elected Mauricio Macri who, after high-profile defaults on the nation’s sovereign debt, seeks to reintegrate his country into the international market economy. In Venezuela, where chavismo succeeded in turning a highly prosperous oil-exporting country into a nightmare of hyperinflation where people are eating their pets or fleeing to Colombia, Hugo Chavez’s personally chosen successor, the mendacious Marxist mediocrity Nicolas Maduro, continues to cling to power thanks only to the backing of a ruthless Cuban-trained military even as the admirable Juan Guaido – a fan of liberty, friend of America, admirer of the free market, and potential rescuer of the so-called Bolivarian Republic – waits in the wings, desperate to set things right.

Evo Morales

In these South American nations, then, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Now another one has joined the pack. In Bolivia, Evo Morales, who since his ascent to the presidency in 2006 has become more and more of an authoritarian, finally went too far this year, triggering, in the words of the Atlantic‘s Yascha Mounk, “weeks of mass protests in La Paz and other Bolivian cities, and the rapid crumbling of his support both within law enforcement and his own political party.” In the end, writes Mounk, “his loss of legitimacy among the majority of his own countrymen…forced Morales to resign” on November 10.

2017 protests against Evo’s switcheroo on term limits

Evo’s offenses were many: he violated the two-term presidential limit and got his rubber-stamp Supreme Court to give this move the OK. When he ran for a third term in October and it became clear that the public vote count was going against him, “the vote tally suddenly froze. For 24 hours, the website of Bolivia’s electoral commission offered no more updates. Then the official result was finally announced: Morales had supposedly won 47.1 percent to Carlos Mesa’s 35.5 percent, winning the election outright.” Evo had so obviously pulled a fast one that millions took to the streets in protest. Their reward: threats and beatings by Evo’s thugs. But Evo’s effort to rule by pure force collapsed. An impressive number of cops and soldiers stood up against his gangsterism, saying they wouldn’t do his dirty work for him. They didn’t want to use violence to uphold an autocracy. They wanted freedom. The last straw was an OAS audit of the election; when it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Evo had cheated, his last few scummy hangers-on scattered, leaving Evo with no alternative other than to give up. The whole story speaks well of the Ecuadoran people, and especially of the members of a military and a police force who, unlike their counterparts in some Latin American countries, didn’t want to be bullies in the service of despotism.

Bye-bye to the bloviating Bolivian?

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Beware of socialists bearing gifts

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.

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Cristina Kirchner

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.

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Rafael Correa

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.

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Zapata’s arrest

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.

 

Evo’s Hollywood amigos

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Bolivian president Evo Morales presents Pope Francis with a “hammer and sickle” Cross

Bolivian president Evo Morales doesn’t often make front-page headlines in the U.S., but his image was all over the Internet in early July when he presented the visiting Pope Francis with a bizarre gift: a “cross” made out of a hammer and sickle. The message could hardly have been less subtle. In the weeks preceding their encounter, to be sure, Francis had spent a lot of his time savaging capitalism, but he hadn’t yet hoisted a Soviet flag over St. Peter’s Square or hung up a picture of Lenin in the Sistine Chapel. Morales’s gift seemed to make the pontiff at least somewhat uncomfortable, although it was unclear whether he disagreed with Evo’s apparent equation of Communism and Christianity or whether he was uneasy about being seen by the entire world accepting a potent symbol of that equation.

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Evo with Fidel Castro

What’s the deal with Evo? Well, first of all – like the Castros in Cuba, the Kirchners in Argentina, and Nicolás Maduro (and Hugo Chávez before him) in Venezuela – he’s a card-carrying member of Latin America’s hard-left club. He’s presided over South America’s poorest country since 2006, and is its first president with an indigenous background; during his tenure in office, he’s alienated whites and mestizos with his “discriminatory government policies and Hugo Chávez–style power grabs, not to mention rampant corruption.” (According to Transparency International, Evo’s regime isn’t quite as corrupt as those in Venezuela or Paraguay, but it’s on a par with Argentina’s, which is awful enough.) A 2009 Atlantic Monthly article described Evo as “deploy[ing] a rhetoric studded with racial references aimed at his [white] opposition.” Last year, reports Human Rights Watch, Bolivia became “the first country in the world to legalize employment for children as young as 10.”

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Evo with Benicio del Toro

Nonetheless, like his counterparts in Havana, Buenos Aires, and Caracas, Evo has made his share of amigos in Hollywood. Among them: Benicio del Toro, who in 2007 visited Evo, who “gave him a charango, an Andean string instrument, and several books.” Two years later, del Toro, who played Che Guevara onscreen, said that he shared many of Che’s values – and that he was sure Che would’ve been delighted to see Bolivia governed by somebody like Evo. We’re sure Che would delighted too: Evo, an outspoken Che fan whose aggressively socialist policies have eroded human rights, damaged the country’s already feeble economy, and sent foreign investors fleeing, would have been right up Che’s alley. 

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Evo with Oliver Stone at Lincoln Center

Another Evo enthusiast, unsurprisingly, is our old friend Oliver Stone, the far-left director whose 2009 propaganda film South of the Border was a gushing, inane paean not only to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez but also to Morales, with whom he held an obsequious interview at the presidential palace in La Paz. During his visit with El Presidente, Stone reportedly “kicked a soccer ball and chewed coca leaves” with him. Later, Evo traveled to New York, where he spoke alongside Stone and Chávez at a Lincoln Center event held in connection with the documentary’s premiere.

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Evo with Jude Law

Then there’s actor Jude Law, who  went to Bolivia this past February as part of a deal to promote the country’s annual Carnival. While in La Paz, Law met with Evo, who presented him with a poncho and a book about Latin American history. News reports on Law’s visit didn’t indicate how much money he was paid to plug the Carnival and didn’t even hint that there was anything remotely inappropriate about his taking money from Evo’s regime or holding a chummy meeting with the authoritarian leader; the Daily Mail, for its part, was more interested in covering Law’s new hairline and his growing family.