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Morales, Evo (b. 1959)

Thomas Purcell


In Juan Evo Morales Ayma, a football-addicted Aymara Indian, the spirit of Che Guevara lives on. “Evo,” as he is popularly known by his followers, embodies the fusion of ethnic and leftist politics. Born in 1959 near the tin-mining city of Oruro, high in the Bolivian Altiplano, Evo was one of seven siblings, but as is common among poor indigenous families, four died within a year of birth. Despite working from a very early age, Evo managed to get a formal education, organize football teams, and play the trumpet in the Royal Imperial Band, leaving school at the age of 17 to complete military service. In the wake of widespread mine closures, economic depression, and the terrible drought on the Altiplano in 1980, Morales's family followed many in the migration to the more fertile Chapare lowlands. Here they became farmers, mainly of the coca leaf. In 1981, after the brutal burning alive of a coca farmer, Evo declared “to fight tirelessly for the respect of human rights … for the free cultivation of the coca leaf … for the dignity of Bolivians and for our freedom” ( Morales 2006 ). In this same year, under the umbrella of the cocaleros' (coca leaf growers') struggle, his political journey began. First he was secretary of sports in the coca union of San Francisco; then, in 1985, he was named general secretary of his union and in 1988 became executive secretary of the Tropical Federation ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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