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A socialist Aymara Indian, Evo Morales, has become the most important political figure on the demonstrators’ side. He is supported by the indigenous population and has demonstrated affinity with Cuba’s Castro and Venezuela’s Chavez. Since the overthrow of President Losada in 2003, the demonstrations have brought about the resignation of three other presidents, including a representative of the country’s white landowners, who demand autonomy and oppose the Indian movement. The presidency is currently in the hands of Eduardo Rodriguez, but elections have been scheduled. A victory by Evo Morales may affect neighbouring countries, where similar Indian movements are taking place.

3 – COMPOSITION  (Total 45 marks)

Read the following editorial from the Washington Post, 20th March, 2005, and in the light of it and of the text by Richard Gott in section 2, comment on the geopolitical, social, and economic issues raised as they affect South American integration.

A Threat to Latin Democracy

Another Latin American democracy is on the verge of crumbling under pressure from leftist populism. The trouble comes this time in Bolivia, where a democratic president and Congress face a paralyzing mix of strikes and roadblocks by a radical movement opposed to foreign investment and free-market capitalism. The insurgents, who claim to represent the country's indigenous population, drove one democratically elected president from office 18 months ago; now they are working on his successor, Carlos Mesa, who has searched valiantly but unsuccessfully for compromise. The populists ride a leftist wave of momentum in Latin America and have the rhetorical, and possibly material, support of the region's self-styled "Bolivarian" revolutionary, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The democrats could use some outside help, from their neighbors and the United States.

Accounts of political crises in Andean countries such as Bolivia sometimes portray a poor and disenfranchised indigenous majority pitted against an ethnically European and mestizo elite. The facts tell a different story in Bolivia. Mr. Mesa, polls show, has the support of two-thirds of his compatriots, while the party leading the protests, the Movement Toward Socialism, has never received more than 21 percent of the vote in an election. Nor is it the case that Bolivia's experiment with free-market policies in the 1990s failed to help the poor. Per capita incomes rose by 20 percent in the second half of the decade. Thanks to private foreign investment, significantly more Bolivians gained access to water, sewage systems and electricity.

The populist minority, led by former coca farmer Evo Morales, is bent on using force to reverse that progress. Already it has effectively blocked natural gas exports to the United States. Its current strikes are aimed at stopping further foreign investment in that industry through confiscatory taxes and reversing the privatization of other industries. Mr. Mesa, swearing off the use of force to break up the roadblocks, has countered with democratic political tactics: first a national referendum on a compromise gas policy, then an accord with Congress on political and economic reforms. Last week, in desperation, he proposed that his own term as president be cut short and new elections be held in August; Congress rejected the proposal, and Mr. Mesa later announced he would stay on. But the opposition still threatens to renew a blockade that is devastating one of the hemisphere's poorest economies

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