Morales, Evo

Morales, Evo

(Juan Evo Morales Ayma) (ā`vō mōrä`lās), 1959–, Bolivian political leader, president of Bolivia (2006–). An AymaraAymara
, Native South Americans inhabiting the Lake Titicaca basin in Peru and Bolivia. The originators of the great culture represented by the ruins of Tiahuanaco were very likely Aymara speakers. Although subjugated by the Inca in the 15th cent.
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, he became a coca farmer when his family moved to Boliva's lowlands. In the 1980s Morales became a leader of the coca growers and gained prominence in the 1990s when the growers struggled against the U.S.-supported coca-eradication program. He formed a political party, the Movement toward Socialism, in 1995 and won a seat in the Bolivian congress in 1997. Morales was an outspoken critic of the government in Bolivia's subsequently turbulent politics, and was expelled from the congress in 2002 on charges relating to violence involving anti-eradication supporters. A populist and socialist, Morales finished second in the 2002 presidential elections. In the 2005 presidential race, however, he received more than 50% of the vote, becoming the first person of indigenous descent to be elected president of Bolivia. He was easily reelected in 2009 and 2014, but in 2016 voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have allowed him to run for a fourth term. In office, Morales has nationalized companies in energy, telecommunications, and other industries, and used gas and oil revenues in part to underwrite antipoverty programs.