LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) – Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales, an outsider himself, is leaning on relatively young Bolivian advisers who share his leftist background and sparse government experience to enact the
sweeping changes he envisions for the impoverished nation.
Morales, who takes office on Sunday, has not yet named his Cabinet. But he has vowed to nationalize Bolivia’s vast natural resources, rethink its free-market policies and improve the lot of the majority Indian population.
While international attention has focused on the advice he receives from allies such as Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, the nitty gritty of policy will be in the hands of university professors, journalists, activists and even a former guerrilla.
“There are very interesting people around him,” said Jimena Costa, a political science professor at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés. “But most of them don’t have experience in government; they’re not government functionaries, they’re academics, intellectuals, and some of them very good.” Turning to experienced politicians to run the nation of 8.5 million would risk linking himself to the political elite that he ran against, Costa added.
Alvaro García Linera, Morales’ vice president, was the intellectual leader of the now defunct Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army, an ultra-left group formed in the early 1990s that believed Bolivia’s Indians should take power through armed struggle. The group named itself after an Aymara Indian who fought Spanish colonists in the 18th century by laying siege to the city of La Paz.
García Linera, a mestizo of middle-class descent, was arrested in 1992 and served five years in prison for his role in the group, which robbed a university and used dynamite to cut off electricity outside La Paz.
Now in his mid-40s like Morales, García Linera has said he doesn’t regret his involvement in the group, which had only a handful of members and was never a serious threat to Bolivia’s government.
While in jail, García Linera studied sociology and later became a professor at a public university in La Paz. He was enjoying his newfound success as a mild-mannered television pundit when Morales invited him to run on his ticket. “Alvaro is a moderating force, despite his guerrilla past. His influence over the middle class has been key,” said Bolivia expert Eduardo Gamarra, head of Latin American Studies at Florida International University.
García Linera said in a recent television interview that he and Morales consult each other about everything they do in their 16- to 20-hour work days.
Alex Contreras, a former journalist who accompanied Morales on his recent world tour, is in the running to be presidential spokesman as he manages the intense media attention that Morales receives wherever he goes.
Contreras was a union leader for newspapers in Cochabamba and worked for the city’s largest daily, Los Tiempos. He cultivated a close relationship with Morales and openly supported his political campaigns.
The man directing Morales’ economic plan, Carlos Villegas, is an economics professor who has often criticized previous Bolivian economic models.