LA PAZ, Bolivia – With less than nine months of campaigning left before Bolivia's presidential elections on 6 December, the number of indigenous candidates running against President Evo Morales has grown. AFP reported that Morales would try to renew his term until 2015.
Two Quechua Indians, farmers’ union leader Alejo Véliz and lawyer René Joaquino, who is also mayor of the highlands mining city of Potosí, confirmed they would be challenging President Morales in the upcoming elections. Víctor Hugo Cárdenas, an Aymara Indian and former vice-president in Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada's liberal government, has expressed his interest in doing so.
With Morales, Véliz, Joaquino and Cárdenas all running, this would be the first time Bolivia will have four serious indigenous presidential hopefuls. Joaquino and Véliz, stressed that their candidacies aimed to combat the ethnic rift caused by Morales, an Aymaran, who – according to them – was dividing the country into indigenous, mixed race and “blancoide” (white or European) factions.
El Deber reported that Véliz, a rural union leader from the central region of Cochabamba who ran for president in 1997 representing the now defunct United Left party, had announced the newly formed People for Freedom and Sovereignty party (Pulso), officially recognised by Bolivia's National Electoral Court (CNE).
Veliz commented “This party has arisen from the frustrations of indigenous people who question Morales' leadership, who does not represent Bolivians, which is why they need a new movement that does represent them”.
Joaquino leads the Social Alliance (AS) group which is also a recognised party. His proposals, aimed to “reconcile Bolivians in the midst of so much confrontation”, have earned him criticism from government supporters, explained El Nuevo Día. “The people want a real change”, stated Joaquino, a former building worker with socialist convictions, without Bolivia having to “depend” on Venezuela.
The governing Movement towards Socialism (MAS) party though considers former vice-president Cárdenas the greatest threat to President Morales' re-election, since he has a proven political track record at national level. Although his candidacy has not yet been confirmed, Cárdenas told AFP that he had received messages of support after an incident two weeks ago when his house – on the shores of Lake Titicaca in the Andes – was attacked by the local indigenous population who were angry at him for opposing President Morales.
I wasn't thinking of running before, but after these attacks I'm going to talk with my family and I'm going consider it,” said Cárdenas.
Although President Morales condemned the attack against Cárdenas and his family at the hands of a mob, he also said “the Bolivian people have no tolerance for traitors, nor do they forgive them”. According to AFP, the government failed to instruct the police to evict the raiders and allowed state prosecutors to act without the diligence required in such a serious case.