The Street and the Ballot Box: Voices From Bolivia’s Recall Vote

Cochabamba, Bolivia – On August 10, Bolivian President Evo Morales won a resounding victory in Bolivia’s recall referendum. Regardless of what happens next, the vote invigorated Morales’ mandate in what was a broad endorsement from his base and beyond. As Toribio Terrazas, a farmer from outside Comunidad Mamenaca explained, "I want the president to continue because he is forging a good path for all Bolivians in the country."

Also see: Optimism and Uncertainty Follow Bolivian Recall Vote

Bolivia: Prefect Reyes Villa Resigns After Losing Referendum


MAS supporters celebrate (Amaru Goyes)

Cochabamba, Bolivia – On August 10, Bolivian President Evo Morales, of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party, won a resounding victory in Bolivia’s recall referendum. With 96.1 percent of polling tables counted, the National Electoral Court reports 67.77 percent support for Morales nation-wide.

The recall referendum also put eight of Bolivia’s nine departmental prefects (governors) to popular vote. Two conservative prefects, Manfred Reyes Villa of Cochabamba and José Luis Paredes of La Paz were revoked by wide margins.

Regardless of what happens next, the vote invigorated Morales’ mandate in what was a broad endorsement from his base and beyond. As Toribio Terrazas, a farmer from outside Comunidad Mamenaca explained before the vote, "We don’t know why they want to revoke the president. I understand it like it’s something discriminatory. An indigenous president has come to power, as never before, and the old governments weren’t like him. And it’s clear that an indigenous president doesn’t steal money and doesn’t sell off his country. This must be their motive. I want the president to continue because he is forging a good path for all Bolivians in the country."

On the Road to the Recall Vote

The recall referendum rose out of the conflicts between two essentially distinct political visions for Bolivia’s future. Generally speaking, the first is the "process of change," led by President Morales and the social movements that paved the way to his election. The second is the "autonomy movement," led by conservative prefects and backed primarily by powerful business and agrarian interests in Bolivia’s lowlands, who want to maintain the old balance of economic and political power.

The "process of change" refers to the recent manifestation of struggles initiated throughout history by different social organizations to affect deep structural changes in Bolivian society. These struggles have now yielded an agenda across different sectors including popular sovereignty over natural resources (such as gas, oil, water, minerals), popular participation in government, agrarian reform, and a constituent assembly to "re-found" the country with participation of poor and indigenous people. President Morales was elected in 2005 with 53.74 percent of the vote (historically high by Bolivian standards) based in part on his commitment to put this agenda into effect nation wide.

Gaining momentum shortly after Morales’ election, a right-wing regionalist "autonomy" movement rose in response to the broad MAS agenda, and is concentrated in Bolivia’s wealthier, lighter-skinned populations in the lowlands, and which now represents the heart of the opposition to the Morales government. The autonomy movement calls for the decentralization of the government bureaucracy based in La Paz and increased power for departmental governments, primarily to manage local resources and government. In 2006, the four lowland departments – Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija – voted in favor of departmental autonomy in a national referendum. Unfortunately, many militants of departmental autonomy couple these demands with racism toward indigenous people.

The leadership of the autonomy movement principally comes from the prefects in the lowland departments and their respective Civic Committees-powerful organizations that represent landed and pro-business interests. For these elites, departmental autonomy goes beyond decentralization. It represents a mechanism for them to maintain their economic power – particularly Santa Cruz’s extremely unequal distribution of land – in the face of President Morales’ reforms.

The Battle for Cochabamba

ImageCochabamba is the tipping point between the political force of Bolivia’s lowlands and the political force of the Andean highlands. It has come to be the department that defines the difference between one block and the other. – Rafael Puente, MAS’ Presidential Representative in Cochabamba

Bolivia’s centrally located Department of Cochabamba is one of the battlegrounds where these two conflicting political projects have played out – on January 11, 2007 with violence, and on August 10, 2008 at the ballot box. Given the strategic nature of the department, Upside Down World‘s recall referendum team decided to focus its coverage in Cochabamba.

As indicated by Rafael Puente, geographically and politically Cochabamba lies between La Paz and Santa Cruz. Politically, Evo Morales rose to national prominence as a leader of the coca-growers union in Cochabamba’s tropical Chapare region and MAS counts on the strong support of the rural population. (The autonomy movement did not initially have strong roots in Cochabamba – the department voted 62 percent "NO" in the 2006 national referendum on departmental autonomy.)

On the other hand, in 2005, the department elected Manfred Reyes Villa, a conservative former-mayor of the city of Cochabamba, for prefect. In his campaign for prefect, Manfred ran on his reputation as an efficient public servant and did not take a strong position on departmental autonomy. Only after Bolivia’s constituent assembly had erupted in conflict, and the debate over autonomy rose to new polemic heights in December 2006, did Manfred throw his weight behind the autonomy movement.

On December 14, 2006 Reyes Villa announced his supported for departmental autonomy and urged Santa Cruz to "go onwards with their independence." Manfred’s pronouncement infuriated MAS-backers, particularly the irrigators, coca-growers, and small farmers’ peasant union federations, who demanded his resignation and took to the streets. Conflicts soon spiraled out of control: radical supporters of MAS burnt down the prefect’s office, groups of middle class youth organized to violently force the campesinos out of "their city," and ultimately, on the on January 11, two campesinos and one middle-class youth were killed.

In this conflictive situation, Manfred suggested a recall referendum to revoke President Morales’ mandate. MAS in turn proposed a law that would allow for citizens to convoke a recall election for the president, prefects, and mayors if they solicited enough voter signatures. Yet, the conflicts in Cochabamba never reached a resolution. Congress never made progress on a law to legalize recall referendums and the subject disappeared from the political radar. Manfred remained prefect and from that point forward he would be in lock step with the lowland prefects in their demands and criticisms of the central government.

The Recall Referendum’s Strange Political Journey

The recall referendum rose out of the incredibly conflictive situation surrounding the approval of the final draft of Bolivia’s yet-to-be new constitution in November 2007, which left three anti-government protesters dead. The opposition prefects began the call for a recall referendum, as a remedy to what they believed was MAS’ authoritarian conduct in the constituent assembly and throughout the country. In early December, all four lowland prefects and Manfred Reyes Villa traveled to the United States in part to seek backing for their proposal to hold a referendum.

In response, the government quickly drew up a proposed law convoking a recall referendum for the president and the prefects, which quickly passed through the MAS-controlled Chamber of Deputies. The law was clearly favorable towards MAS: in order for the president and vice-president to be revoked, the "NO" vote against them would have to supercede the percentage of support cast in their favor in the general election of 2005. Concretely, this means that the vote against president Morales would have to reach around 54 percent for him to be revoked.


Toribio Terrazas (Photo: Amaru Goyes)

The same rule – that the "NO" vote in the referendum needed to supercede the "YES" vote in the 2005 elections – would apply in the case of the prefects, which again would work in MAS’s favor since no prefect took office with more than 48 percent support. To use the most stark example, José Luis Paredes, prefect of La Paz and member of Podemosm, the principal party of the opposition, had a meager 36 percent support in the 2005 election but won the prefect’s office because the rest of the votes were split between so many other political parties. In the recall referendum under MAS’ proposed law, Paredes would have to receive 64 percent approval in the vote to continue as prefect.

Clearly, MAS knew that the opposition controlled Senate would either modify or reject the proposed law. More likely the political logic was to take initiative away from the opposition. After several weeks, the recall referendum dropped off the political horizon and the bill lay dormant in the Senate.

Then in an utterly bizarre turn of events, on May 8 Podemos revived MAS’ recall referendum bill and passed it without modifying a single article. Podemos’ approval of the recall referendum came on the heels of the Department of Santa Cruz’s ratification of a set of "Autonomy Statutes" in a vote that the National Electoral Court and the central government qualified illegal.

With the nation’s attention focus on Santa Cruz and the fallout from the vote on the Autonomy Statutes, the opposition-led Senate’s approval of the long-forgotten recall referendum came as a complete shock. Podemos’ support for the recall referendum left the opposition prefects, who apparently had not been previously consulted, completely befuddled.

On June 23 the opposition prefects issued a joint statement that the recall referendum was unconstitutional and that they would refuse to accept its legitimacy. However, a little over a week later, the four prefects from the lowlands decided to begrudgingly accept the referendum. Manfred Reyes Villa maintained the position that he would refuse to recognize the results of the referendum, which he argued would go against Bolivia’s constitution.

Despite the majority of the prefects’ acquiescence, debate over the legality of the plebiscite continued unabated, particularly regarding the way the percentages favored the president and worked against the prefects. At the end of July, the Departmental Electoral Courts based in the lowlands threatened to not carry out the referendum in their departments.

At this time, the National Electoral Court held a 13-hour emergency meeting with its departmental counterparts eventually working out a political compromise, albeit one which may have involved the Court infringing on the powers of Congress. The compromise set the percentages which the prefects needed to reach for their ratification at 50 percent, placating the lowland electoral courts and insuring that the recall referendum went forward.

In the week before the recall referendum, we interviewed number of political and social movement leaders about the importance of the referendum, the changes it might produce, and what they thought about President Evo Morales and prefect Manfred Reyes Villa. What follows is a collection of their opinions and analysis.


Jose Maria Leyes (Photo: Teresa Carrasco)

What do you see as the significance of the upcoming Recall referendum?

Josemaria Leyes is a lawyer and longtime member of the Cochabamba-based "Youth for Democracy" group, which he told us seeks to teach young people about the value of democracy, the rule of law, and liberty. The group is criticized by social movement organizations for their role in violence against campesinos in January 2007. Josemaria also organized the collection of signatures in favor of holding another referendum on departmental autonomy.

The referendum as a legal, political and social instrument of consultation with the people is positive because it strengthens the democratic processes of any country.

As long as there is a greater social participation in any kind of decision-making, democracy is being refined and perfected.

In Bolivia, unfortunately, the recall referendum has been distorted, because it has lost the sense of democracy and social participation and it has turned into a political tool to eliminate political opponents. The people are being used to destroy [MAS’] political opponents.

Rafael Puente is a former Jesuit priest and served as a Deputy in Bolivia’s congress from 1985-89 for the United Left party. He is now MAS’ Presidential Representative in Cochabamba.


Rafael Puentes (Photo: Alex van Schaick)

To begin, conceptually I think that the recall referendum is an advance in the democratic system. To ask a people if a president who has completed half his term should remain in office or not seems to me to be an excellent democratic advance. During previous governments, it would have been very interesting if they had asked us if we wanted the government to leave.

In general it’s a tendency of this government, which is expressed in the new draft constitution, to give more decision-making capacity directly to the population. I think that this is advancing from a representative democracy – which is what we have had until now in that the people delegated decisions to their representatives in parliament and these representatives could do whatever they wanted with the people’s mandate – to a democracy that isn’t representative but is much more participatory and direct in that it’s in the population’s hands to define the agenda.

Bernardo Gutierrez is a lawyer and works in the prefect’s office as an advisor to Manfred Reyes Villa.

We have spoken on many occations to the country about the risks that the realization of this Recall Referendum imply, at least in the situation and conditions in which it it is being carried forward.


Bernardo Guitierrez (Photo: Teresa Carrasco)

The law which approved the Recall Referendum is a law that by any standard is inconstitutional because it doesn’t establish equal rules for determining who should be revoked. The president can pass his test to remain in power with 47 percent support of the population, while the prefect of Cochabamba would need 53 percent, more than half. There is an inversion of democratic principles; in this case the minority governs.

Luciano Sanchez is Secretary of Press and Propaganda for the agrarian union federation, the Federación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Cochabamba (FSUTCC).

For us, the FSUTCC, the recall referendum is really important because it deepens democracy. We have lived many years in dictatorship. Later, thanks to the struggles of the organizations that sought democracy, we gained Bolivia’s democracy. We lived in it for the last 20 years, but in representative democracy, not a democracy that’s really participative. In these years we lived through governments that we elected but that did whatever they wanted. In this democracy the people only govern one day (election day).

So we want to deepen Bolivia’s democracy. That’s why we have so many obstacles in our path. That’s why it’s very tense in our country. There is a group that governed us with representative democracy and don’t want participatory democracy. And now, these people are desperately trying to make chaos in the country. They are trying to create confrontation between Bolivians.

And where did this participatory democracy begin? It begun with social organizations – we have struggled for years upon years and thanks to that struggle we have an indigenous president of Bolivia, of Aymara-Quechua blood, for the first time in history.

And now this bothers that other group – the conservatives – that wants to maintain its privileges and keep itself in power. But now it’s not like it was. For this reason the conservatives are fighting. So, there have been in our country two different Bolivias. One that has lived in abundance. The other in suffering. Against this, we have fought and now we don’t want two Bolivias but we want one single Bolivia. But this conservative group wants to maintain the two Bolivias. They, when they were in power monopolized the land, the economy and political issues. They had all the power and the people didn’t have any power. Now we want the reverse – that the people have the power.

What changes might the referendum produce?

Rafael Puente:

One of the arguments that are made is that the recall referendum isn’t going to resolve anything. And that has been converted into some sort of slogan that has re-occurred in all the newspapers. But no single political action in itself resolves the problems that we face, but rather they are resolved by a determined government in a series of actions.

That is the only way to understand politics, and not that a single action can resolve everything.

It’s inarguable that the referendum won’t resolve anything by itself, but it will prove a fundamental element of the political process that we are living through, which is to clarify where the political forces are really situated in the country. And this is fundamental.

It’s not the same to have a president that doesn’t enjoy majority support of the population and whose decisions moreover can be questioned due to a lack of legitimacy, with the suspicion that this president isn’t representing the majority of the population, because the majority doesn’t agree with him. That’s not the same as having a president that obviously continues to have the majority support of the population. We have gone for two and a half years following Evo Morales’ line which since he entered the presidency has been unwavering even if there have been some errors and inconsistencies. This line is the recuperation of sovereignty, natural resource, and greater democratic participation by the population.

So it’s very significant at the end of two and a half years to know that this majority support for Evo continues, after he has shown what his political line is. So politically it’s important to verify at the end of these two and a half years, that the population continues to support that line.

Second of all, the political opposition to the government now isn’t expressed by the opposition parties but rather by the prefects’ offices and the civil committees. The advantage for the prefects is that they have electoral legitimacy, since they were elected by the population in each department. So it’s also important to know to what point does this opposition block have the political strength that they apparently have.

Bernardo Gutierrez:

It’s going to bring more polarization and division in the country. The referendum results may artificially strengthen the positions of each side. This is worrying because it will seem like the Bolivian people are debating amongst ourselves whether we want to declare war on each other.

Why do (or don’t) you support President Evo Morales and Prefect Manfred Reyes Villa?


Don Federico and his family (Photo: Alex van Schaick)

Don Federico is President of the Organización Territorial de Base, a sub-municipal administrative unit, in Villa Mexico, a migrant neighborhood in Cochabamba’s impoverished southern zone. He is also President of the local retired peoples’ association. He is 67 years old and was born in an indigenous-campesino family in the North of Potosí. He worked as a miner in Oruro in the mid 1970s, an experience that he called his "school" of class consciousness and inspired to become a socialist militant.

This government is doing what no government has done before. It’s been two and a half years, and they have eliminated our national debt that previous governments had. It’s gone down a ton. Now, the opportunities, the benefits, for the people: education is a top priority, health is a top priority. When have we the campesinos had the right to healthcare, when have we had free health clinics? With what government? What government has been preoccupied with education for people from rural areas? The Juancito Pinto bonus is a great help for the campesinos. With 200 bolivianos (roughly $30), you can buy your school material.

Josemaria Leyes:

During his term in office as Prefect (governor), the main mistake of Manfred Reyes Villa was to not have supported autonomy since the beginning.

The national referendum on autonomy was being planned at the same time as the elections for prefect. During his candidacy as prefect he decided not to embrace autonomy fearing it could cost him some votes. It was just in the last week of the campaign that he spoke out and tried to sell the autonomy issue. But it wasn’t enough and the "No" vote against autonomy won in Cochabamba.

Manfred, after governing as prefect for a while, tried to push for autonomy. Precisely because he held a demonstration in December of 2006 in favor of autonomy and decided to start the process of gathering signatures for a new referendum on autonomy, these campesinos and coca-growers came and took over the city, burnt down the prefect’s office and the whole conflict blew up. And so Manfred’s mistake as prefect was to have not stood for autonomy since the beginning.


Flor Cordoba (Photo: Alex van Schaick)

The 10 of August: Cochabamba Goes with Evo

By all measures, the results of August 10 affirms that the Department of Cochabamba can no longer be said to hang in the balance, but rather is widely behind President Evo Morales and the "process of change" he seeks to carry forward. With the final results in from the National Electoral Court, the people of Cochabamba ratified Evo Morales with 71 percent support.

The vote in Cochabamba breaks down along predictable lines: Morales won the rural vote with 91 percent support and lost the city of Cochabamba with 45 percent, according to a ATB/La Razon exit poll, confirming that a rural/urban divide exists in perceptions of the president.

Yet there were a few surprises: Morales won the department-wide urban vote with 53 percent signaling that he has significant support in urban areas outside of the city of Cochabamba.

Also, speculation existed in the media that Morales’ support might fall in the Department of Cochabamba due to the middle class, which is increasingly alienated from the President’s political project. Comparing the statistics from the 2005 election to the ATB/La Razon exit poll confirms that Morales’ support indeed dropped from 52 percent to 45 percent in the city of Cochabamba. But few thought that MAS consolidated their rural base to the extent that Morales’ popularity would actually rise from 65 percent in 2005 to 71 percent in 2008.

The results delivered a huge blow to prefect Manfred Reyes Villa and his hopes for a future presidential run. His 35 percent support essentially boils down to a modest amount of backing in the city of Cochabamba’s center and north zones facing a complete rejection in the rest of the city and department.

The August 10 vote also indicates that the autonomy movement in Cochabamba, on which Reyes Villa gambled his political future, is an urban, middle class phenomenon.

The Increasingly Isolated Autonomy Movement

Although the recall referendum nationally will not resolve the political impasse between what are essentially Bolivia’s two competing political projects, the results should give pause to the leadership of the autonomy movement in the lowlands.

Though few expected President Evo Morales to lose the referendum, his astounding 67 percent support nationally was quite a surprise. Breaking down the results, Morales swept the highland winning by 85 percent in Potosí and 83 percent in Oruro and La Paz.

In the valley region, he won Cochabamba with 71 percent and Chuquisaca with 54 percent. Morales’ victory in Chuquisaca comes as a surprise given MAS just lost a special election for prefect there a month ago.

In the pro-autonomy lowlands Morales received more surprising results. He won a majority of 52.5 percent in Pando and lost with 49.87 percent, a mere 427 votes, in the gas rich Department of Tarija. In Beni and Santa Cruz he lost with 44 percent and 39 percent respectively. Such high percentages of "YES" votes for Evo are shocking when compared to the level of support MAS garnered in the four departments during the general elections of 2005, in which MAS won 23 percent in Pando, 32 percent in Tarija, 16.5 percent in Beni, and 33 percent in Santa Cruz.

The results, as suggested by Rafael Puente, do give us interesting insights into the balance of forces between the process of change and the autonomy movement. Evo Morales has constructed a serious following nationally, even in the lowlands.

Morales has fortified his bases in rural areas to an incredible degree – 85 percent support in rural areas nationwide according to ATB/La Razon’s exit poll. He has built this support on his personal ethnic and class background, his tight relationship with Bolivia’s strong rural organizations, and a mix of implementing policies to support the countryside and delivering development projects from the state and other allies in Latin America to even the most remote communities at an astounding pace. This support in rural areas hold true in the lowlands, where the autonomy movement has been unable to make major headway with highland migrants or lowland indigenous people.

Morales also counts on strong support in the poor and migrant neighborhoods in all of Bolivia’s major cities, as well as many urban unions and progressive organizations. With all of this added together, the opposition has been virtually isolated to the urban, non-indigenous population, with the exception of some support in semi-urban and rural areas in the lowlands.

Yet President Morales’s high support will most likely not translate into less resistance from the lowland prefects, who received high levels of support in the referendum. Ruben Costas, prefect of Santa Cruz, on the night of August 10, announced in a distinctly not conciliatory speech that his ratification with 67 percent of the vote signified a victory for autonomy and a blow to MAS. He delivered the speech in a strange voice that bordered on a growl, declaring that the "insensible, totalitarian, MASista, incapable government negates the development of the people and only seeks to concentrate power and convert us into its pawns."

The Morales government has indicated their desire to harmonize the departments’ demands for autonomy with the draft constitution and convened dialogue with the ratified prefects. Yet, creating such a negotiated solution to the two clashing visions of Bolivia’s future seems increasingly difficult. While dialogue may resolve some points of contention, the interests that lie behind the lowland prefects – particularly to protect large landholders from agrarian reform – will slow any negotiated resolution to the conflict from being reached.


Morning voting in Villa Pagador (Photo: Amaru Goyes)

More Voices from Bolivia’s Recall Referendum

During the recall referendum on August 10, we went around Cochabamba to talk with voters. Here is what they had to say.

7:30AM – Villa Pagador

In this migrant neighborhood, the streets are bustling with activity on Sunday morning, referendum day. There are no cars though – in Bolivia no vehicular transportation, public or private, is permitted on election day except for those with a special permit. All voters are required to go to their polls at their neighborhood school.

We drink cups of "Api," a warm and sweet corn beverage made from different varieties of corn, as we wait for the polls to open at 8:00. Our driver for the day, Margarita, explains that many of Villa Pagador’s residents, such as herself, migrated from the highlands, particularly from Oruro. Margarita is a "taxi-trufi" driver (a taxi that picks up multiple passengers along a fixed route) and militantly pro-MAS. She wanted to take us to Villa Pagador before going outside the city because there was no way she was going to risk not casting her ballot.


Raymunda Garcia Ramirez

San Francisco Educational Unit voting precinct

Reymunda Garcia Ramirez and her husband Esteban Bonifacio:


Yes, I support the government because it’s doing a good job. Not like the other governments like [Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga] or [Gonzalo "Goni" Sanchéz de Lozada]. Look at what they have done. How could they have sold all of Bolivia?


My motives for participating in the recall referendum are that we want to change our authority in the prefect’s office because Manfred Reyes Villa hasn’t valued the mandate of the people of Cochabamba. We said no to autonomy, but of course he tried to do it anyways. As an authority, what the people decide must be followed.

At the national level, I look at the prefects’ offices that are now against Morales, they are prefects that are looking after their personal interests. The autonomy that they are dictating only serves to make them bosses of the city. I don’t like that either. I want a president or a prefect from the people – not one serving a small group of people or personal interests.


Elena Gareca Vargas (Photo:Alex van Schaick)

10:30AM – Comunidad Mamenaca

We wanted to get a feel for how the rural vote was going, so we headed to Tarata, a beautiful colonial town of several thousand people an hour outside of Cochabamba. As we were on the road, we picked up a handicapped farmer who flagged us down for a ride. In the countryside, as there is no transportation on election day, farmers have to walk long distances to reach their nearest polling precinct. We dropped him off at the Community of Mamenaca, a town before Tarata. We then interviewed him and some other people congregated outside the polls.

Toribio Terrazas

We don’t know why they want to revoke the president. I understand it like its something discriminatory. An indigenous president has come to power, as never before, and the old governments weren’t like him. And it’s clear that an indigenous president doesn’t steal money and doesn’t sell off his country. This must be their motive. I want the president to continue because it’s a good path he is forging for all Bolivians in the country.


Campesinos after voting in Huertamayu (Photo: Amaru Goyes)

Elena Gareca Vargas

I would like to say that I live in the city, but I just have a little house out here and I came to vote. I can’t lie, I’m a fanatic of MAS. And I can’t lie about Manfred either, we don’t support him here. Why? Because he has done so many illegal things. Because of all the riches he has. Why wouldn’t we support the government? Why would we support Bombon (Reyes Villa’s nickname)? We have to support our people from the countryside. I support Evo because he an upstanding man. The things he does are transparent. Who wouldn’t want that? Above all it’s for the poor people… For example, my mother is very old. Maybe tomorrow I could die. Who is going to give her something to eat? It’s Evo. Now there’s Juancito Pinto Bonus [The government now gives 200 Bolivianos or $30 to students in elementary school after successfully completing a grade] for the children. What government took care of such things? Not one but Evo. That’s why I support him with pleasure and all the pride in my heart.


Andres Cruz Martes (Photo: Alex van Schaick)

1:30PM – Comunidad Huertamayu

After passing through Tarata, we headed to the community of Huertamayu, ten kilometers of dirt road outside of Tarata. Huertamayu, with a population of 250 families, is a sub-central of the Federación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Cochabamba (FSUTCC), an agrarian union federation.

Andres Cruz Martes

We want to ratify the president because he is making changes and, thanks to him, Bolivia is improving. We know the government well because he is from our indigenous blood and for this reason we confide our votes in him.

Flora Cordoba

With this government we have seen changes like the Juancito Pinto bonus and the Renta Dignidad [the government’s augmentation of a social security program that gives 200 Bolivianos monthly to people over 60 years old]. It has also helped us construct roads and improved the school in our community.


Juan Zurita (Photo: Amaru Goyes)

Juan Zurita, Secretary of Relations, FSUTCC

Manfred has to leave because, in the referendum for autonomy, the people of Cochabamba decisively voted no to autonomy. Manfred doesn’t respect this democratic vote, but has tried to force the people to support autonomy. That has caused many problems. He should leave because he is a liar and does not successfully govern this department.

The process that we are living through in Bolivia has made many advances. Economic resources are reaching our communities thanks to the bilateral agreements the President has secured with other Latin American countries. Without a doubt, during previous governments, which had much more international cooperation, this money was lost in the process of execution and never reached out communities.

3:00PM – Cochabamba’s City Center

La Salle High School voting precinct

We returned to Cochabamba and headed to the city center in order to get a picture of what middle class voters – Manfred Reyes Villa’s base of support – thought about the Referendum.

María Luisa Alvarado

I support Evo Morales because he is honest and wants to redistribute economic resources to all the people and not just one sector like the other presidents.


Miriam Oriona Montecinos (Amaru Goyes)

I don’t support Manfred because I don’t like corrupt people or thieves. And Manfred is the biggest corrupt thief around. We know his father was a thief that stole from the city and the country. And Manfred has stole ten times more. An example, the Cochabamba’s cable car isn’t worth more than $500,000 because it’s small and it has decayed quickly. And we know he charged the city $3,500,000 for it; so where’s the other $3,000,000?

Miriam Oriona Montecinos

We Bolivians don’t know what is going to happen after the results of the referendum. We are worried and fearful because we don’t have economic security thanks to the terrible inflation that has existed during the current government.

Manuel Sanchez

My motive for participating in the recall referendum is to revoke the president and the prefect because as authorities they have dedicated themselves to dividing and stealing from Bolivians. Evo is creating division and is teaching us Bolivians how to hate each other.

Manfred doesn’t actually control the prefect’s office, but rather his secretary general Johnny Ferrel does, who was prefect during the years of [former military dictator and later democratically-elected president] General Banzer.