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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2008

RECALL IN BOLIVIA

Bolivians frustrated by 2½ years of socialist government under President Evo Morales have a chance to remove him from office next week, but even a strong opponent of his policies doubts he will lose the recall vote.

Eduardo Paz, a leading businessman, told a Washington audience that Mr. Morales, despite growing unpopularity, is likely to keep his seat in the Aug. 10 referendum and finish the other half of his presidency because Bolivians want consistency in their democracy.

"The people who want democracy don't want to recall him," Mr. Paz said at a forum at the Hudson Institute last week. "They want him to finish his term and go home."

Mr. Morales himself called for the vote in May after encountering increasing opposition from some state governors. He suggested that he and the nine governors, or prefects, submit themselves to a recall in order to prove who has a political mandate. Eight of the governors, including four who are fighting for increased autonomy for their state, agreed to put their names on the ballots.

Under the election rules, opponents would have to amass more votes against Mr. Morales and the governors than they won when they were first elected. In Mr. Morales' case, a mere majority of votes will not evict him from the presidency. The vote against him would have to be more than the 53.7 percent that he won in 2005.

While many Bolivians might want Mr. Morales to complete his term for the sake of democracy, they are growing weary of his attempts to nationalize industries, redistribute wealth and increase his powers.

"Bolivians dislike his confrontational style where he tries to isolate one group and pit large groups against them. They are also tired of the Venezuelan influence," said Mr. Paz. "Morales hands out checks [to the poor] from the Venezuelan Embassy."

Mr. Morales and Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, share an Indian heritage as well as left-wing politics.

"Morales has also created a climate totally negative to foreign investment and development," said Mr. Paz, Business Chamber of Santa Cruz.

Stephen Donehoo, managing director of Kissinger McLarty Associates, agreed with Mr. Paz.

"It's hard to be optimistic [about Bolivia]," said Mr. Donehoo, who appeared on the panel with Mr. Paz. "It is hard to recommend companies to invest in Bolivia."

Mr. Donehoo complained about the lack of a "functioning constitutional court" and the strong-armed tactics employed by Mr. Morales' government against foreign-owned firms.

"There is no climate of justice in Bolivia," he said.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Monday

• A delegation from South Korea with: Kyung Tae Kim, a member of the Yongin City Council; Haeyong Jung, a member of the Daegu Metropolitan City Council; Chang Bin Woo, policy adviser to National Assemblyman Jae Sae Oh; So Yun Kim, assistant manager of the Strategic Analysis Division of the United Democratic Party; Kyung Sun You, legislative assistant to National Assemblyman Choon-jin Kim; and Youn Jeong Kim, assistant secretary for Education, Science, and Culture of the Office of President Lee Myung-bak. They meet with Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, campaign advisers to Republican presidential candidate John McCain and officials from the State and Commerce departments. Their visit is organized by the American Council of Young Political Leaders.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.