Endgame for Evo?

The populist government of Bolivian President Evo Morales seems to be heading into an inflation-fueled tailspin. Indeed, by refusing to change course on key economic policies, Morales is alienating many of the voters who brought him to power.

LA PAZ – The populist government of Bolivian President Evo Morales seems to be heading for political failure. Faced with 11% annual price growth and mounting complaints from the country’s worst-affected sectors, Morales promises change, but delays decisions, leaving in place the policies that are stoking the problem.

Of course, economic common sense sometimes prevails, but it is usually short-lived. At the end of 2010, for example, the Morales government decided to eliminate fuel subsidies in order to reduce the fiscal drain of importing market-rate energy and selling it at prices that have not changed in ten years. But the decision was reversed within a week, because the groups that brought Morales to power took to the streets in protest. Morales then promised to “govern by obeying.”

Opinion polls have registered a sharp fall in Morales’s popularity, with social protest of the type he once engineered now raised against him. A long strike by public transport workers was followed by another, just as long, staged by the Central Obrera (Bolivia’s trade union federation) and state employees.

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