- The Washington Times - Monday, July 1, 2002

LA PAZ, Bolivia A mining executive and a former military captain appeared to be in a tight presidential race yesterday in an election seen as a test for democracy in South America's poorest country.
Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, president from 1993 to 1997 and a multimillionaire owner of Bolivia's largest mining company, is estimated by exit polls to have 22.6 percent of the vote, while four-time Mayor Manfred Reyes Villa has 21.6 percent.
Because no candidate is likely to get the 50 percent-plus-one vote that is required for outright victory something that has never happened the president will be chosen by the 157 members of the new Congress from the top two vote-getters in time for the Aug. 6 presidential inauguration.
Despair over the worsening economy and rising crime drove many voters toward candidates advocating radical change in yesterday's presidential and congressional elections.
Mr. Reyes Villa says he favors a "social revolution" and "moving beyond" the country's free-market system but has been short on specifics, leaving some to wonder how much he would truly change the status quo.
"I think he has really good intentions," said Pedro Lopez, 40, an accountant who voted for Mr. Reyes Villa. "And he's never been president, so we have yet to see if he's just like the others who've already shown us they don't follow through on their promises."
Sanchez de Lozada, known by his nickname, Goni, is responsible for much of Bolivia's capitalization. He is seen by many voters as the most conservative way to pull Bolivia out of its current economic crisis.
Coming in third with 16.8 percent, according to the exit poll results, was Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian who is the controversial leader of Bolivia's coca farmers.
Close behind with 15.4 percent was Jaime Paz Zamora, a social democrat who has appealed to voters with a plan that would see shares of Bolivian gas returned to the state.
"I voted for Paz Zamora because he's going to create jobs for Bolivians," said Patricia Lima, 32 and unemployed.
At least six of every 10 Bolivians live in poverty, and in rural areas it is nine out of 10. Violent crime, including bank robberies, kidnappings and bombings, is on the rise in a nation once known for its tranquility.


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