He is followed in
the polls by Jorge ''Tuto'' Quiroga, with 27 percent, and businessman
Samuel Doria, with 13 percent. Both men are prudent, pro-Western
democrats who believe in the market. Their combined votes easily
surpass Morales'. Since there is no runoff and Doria is not expected
to drop out, it's likely that Morales will win the Dec. 18 election
and plunge the country into chaos.
Why is the nation
committing political suicide? The answer came, indirectly, from
data provided by Myles Frechette, former U.S. ambassador to Colombia:
The Bolivian republic has systematically failed in something as
essential as improving the living conditions of the majority.
Bolivia is South America's
most stubbornly poor country. In the past half-century, Brazil
has grown 350 percent; Chile, 200 percent; and Argentina, 75 percent.
In turn, Bolivia has grown barely 1 percent. The Bolivians who
will now cast their votes live in as abject a poverty as their
parents did in 1980 or their grandparents in 1950. The amount
of wealth they can create, per capita, is the same today as it
was before the mythical revolution led in 1952 by Victor Paz Estenssoro.
The most obvious explanation
points to the failure of the leading class. Considering the relatively
small population (fewer than 9 million) with a literacy rate of
more than 80 percent, the responsibility for this disaster inevitably
falls upon the ruling elite. The politicians, primarily, were
incapable of creating a social and judicial system where enterprises
could proliferate, the educational system could improve and various
ethnic groups could integrate with a greater degree of harmony.
The consequences of
this election, if Morales wins, will rattle all of South America.
Bolivia is the world's third-largest producer of coca, with almost
75,000 acres devoted to that accursed crop. The top producers
are Colombia and Peru. With coca friendly Morales leading, Bolivia
will soon head the list. That must worry Brazil, because it is
the first destination of that Bolivian drug.
However, as dangerous
as the drug is a potential war against Chile. With allies such
as Cuba and Venezuela, two brawler states, it is likely that Bolivia
will try to recover, manu militari, the territory it lost to Chile
during the War of the Pacific, 1879-1883.
The sum of all these
tensions could make Bolivia so ungovernable as to provoke a violent
outcome. Nor is it impossible to conceive a scenario where Argentina
from the south and Brazil from the east are forced to send troops
to pacify their neighbor in the face of growing breakdown and
You can't govern so
poorly for so long -- practically since the founding of the nation
in 1825 -- and not expect that a definitive catastrophe won't