Evo Morales retakes leadership of the MAS and the coca growers union in Bolivia

Evo Morales, former president of Bolivia during a speech in Chapare, Cochabamba department. Afp Photo / Archive

La Paz, Bolivia (November 20, 2020).-Since returning from exile in Argentina ten days ago, former President Evo Morales has retaken the leadership of his party and the largest union of coca growers in Bolivia, which he led for more than two decades, but his movements are cautious.

“Once our president (Morales) has returned, he retakes the leadership of the party (Movimiento al Socialismo: MAS) and the presidency of the Chapare federations (coca growers),” said Gerardo García, who served as president of that party in the absence of Morales.

The MAS returned to power with Luis Arce after winning last October’s elections, a year after Morales’ hasty resignation on suspicion of electoral fraud in the annulled elections in which he was seeking a fourth consecutive term after 14 years in power.

After crossing the country in a caravan that brought him from Argentina, Morales settled in his fiefdom in Chapare -in the center of the country- where he led the largest union of coca growers and from which he jumped into politics to become the first indigenous president in 2006 after the collapse of the traditional parties.

He immediately resumed his political and union activities in the Chapare, where he is loved and lives surrounded by a union guard that protects him. Its base of operations is the town of Lauka Ñ, the cradle of the coca growers unionism.

Still, as head of state, Morales remained honorary president of the coca growers until 2018. He was replaced by Andrónico Rodríguez, a 32-year-old political scientist of Quechua origin who is now president of the Senate.

The former president unleashes mixed feelings so his trips are careful and planned. Since his return, he has been more conciliatory, avoided the press, and only appears at political meetings.

On Wednesday he was in Oruro, the western highland city where he was born, and called his supporters “to a national meeting on Saturday to plan subnational elections,” García told Panamericana radio.

The elections of governors and mayors on March 7, 2021, will be the second round of the dispute for power in Bolivia this time in local governments, which are largely dominated by the MAS, according to analysts.

Arce and his vice president David Choquehuanca have been invited to the expansion of the MAS. Arce did not go to meet when Morales arrived in Chapare and publicly avoided referring to his political mentor. Morales did, who said that he maintains contacts with the president whom he helps organize the government.

The dispute between followers and detractors of the ex-president has been transferred to the government, in which supporters of Arce and Choquehuanca seek to displace the Morales collaborators from public office.

Arce said that he will not govern “in the shadow” of Morales and that he will create a “government for all.” “We want to renew with new people, but there will always be coordination with the president to help and support good management,” said García.