For a recent piece on the rise and fall Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, National Public Radio spoke with Manuela Picq, Loewenstein Fellow and visiting associate professor in political science, who cast similarities between Morales' story and the story former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa.
“Like Morales, says Picq, Correa established safety nets for lower-income families, invested in education and raised the minimum wage,” NPR reported. “But other interests got in the way of the promise to help marginalized populations. Little by little, Picq says, both Correa and Morales went back on commitments to safeguard the environment, giving priority to economic growth over the well-being of protected lands and the people who live there.”
Morales “encouraged slash-and-burn practices in forested areas as a means to clearing land for more cattle ranching and farming. But a spike in slashing and burning was linked to the fires that blazed throughout the Chiquitania region earlier this year,” NPR reported.
"The cost for the ecosystem is huge," said Picq, "and the cost for Indigenous people is enormous."
But it was attempts to remain in office at all costs and to repress their critics that hurt these leaders the most in the end, Picq and others told NPR.
“In 2015, Picq was jailed during a protest against Ecuador's lifting of term limits for elected officials and had her visa revoked overnight. She likens this to Morales' maneuvering the legal system to run for a fourth term even after 51% of voters rejected a referendum that would have allowed him to do so,” NPR reported.