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Evo Morales, the leftist advocate of coca legalization and next president of Bolivia has been the subject of much speculation. Now the Power and Interest News Report is offering their analysis:

“Morales’ unexpected vote tally indicated that he had drawn support from groups outside his base, particularly the small business sector that had been economically hurt by the blockades and had calculated that it would be more advantageous to have Morales on the inside than in the opposition. He also attracted support from urban professionals and government workers who had become disaffected in response to the economic situation and corruption.

Although Morales has legitimacy, the announced loyalty of the military and the temporary acquiescence of the opposition, the path to reaching his goals is not clear. His highest card is the fear of the opposition that, if he is thwarted, he could unleash his energized base and move to authoritarian rule that could involve expropriation of land and resources, which — at the moment — he has promised not to do.

The opposition’s highest card is the threat to take the lowland provinces into secession if the economic interests of that region are severely damaged. Morales also faces the need for capital investment to develop the gas industry and Bolivia’s dependence on aid and trade preferences from Washington, the latter of which have been instrumental in developing the country’s textile and furniture industries.”

Historically, developmental alternatives to the capitalist market model are usually based on commodity exports, employment of forced labor or both. This is true as much for the antebellum South as it was for Stalinist or Fascist command economies. Not infrequently, ” land reform” based on breaking up large private landholdings and the distribution of small plots to impoverished peasants is tried in the early stages of an anticapitalist regime. This policy usually fails and is radically reversed because the objectives of the peasantry ( subsistence farming) and the regime ( commodity export for hard currency) are ultimately incompatible so reconcentration of land under state control to gain economies of scale is imposed. Sometimes bloodily.

Morales however may try to craft a ” hybrid ” political economy that reassures foreign capital while using commodity revenues to fund development projects and reward his political network, much the way Hugo Chavez is doing in Venezuela. This would be the smartest long-term move for Morales – given Bolivia’s dependence on foreign aid and need for investment capital – but the firebrands in his Movement Toward Socialism and those further to the Left ( Morales is not an extremist by Bolivian standards) may not permit a moderate course.

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