Evo Morales not trending among youth ahead of vote
LA PAZ (AP):
A series of memes that have gone viral in Bolivia show President Evo Morales combatting raging forest fires with a toy water gun or a flamethrower while others superimpose his image on the original cast of the Ghostbusters film.
Many young Bolivians have used the memes to poke fun at South America’s longest-serving leftist leader and what they say was his delayed response to thousands of forest fires they blame on his push to develop areas with slash-and-burn agriculture. As the blazes raged, Morales appeared in televised images personally battling flames with a water-filled backpack and nozzle.
Supporters of Bolivia’s first indigenous president say that showed the lengths to which he will go to protect the country’s forests, but many young people don’t buy it. And with young voters making up about a third of Bolivia’s electorate, they could determine the October 20 election in which Morales is seeking a fourth term.
“If the president would have acted before, we wouldn’t be mourning so much loss or the death of so many animals. ... I’m reconsidering my vote,” said Rolando Condori, 26, a chef at a restaurant in the city of El Alto.
Condori said he has cast ballots for the 59-year-old Morales since he became eligible to vote at age 18. But now he is listening to other candidates to see who can provide jobs and take care of the environment, which have become top issues ahead of the election.
Young Bolivians have been outraged by fires that consumed an estimated four million hectares (15,440 square miles) in the past two months, blazes that flew partly under the radar as world attention focuses on fires in neighbouring Brazil’s Amazon.
“Before the fires, Morales had his triumph assured,” said Marcelo Carpio of the network of Leaders for Democracy and Development, a political science school.
Opponents say a decree issued by Morales’ administration in July allowing some controlled burns for agricultural purposes contributed to the environmental disaster. The government denies the forest fires were caused by the decree, saying farmers have cleared land with burns for years and most are still done illegally.
In Morales’ 14 years in office, poverty has dropped in South America’s poorest country and the president still maintains a broad base of support, even among the young.
“To me, (his re-election) would be good for our Bolivia,” said Aldair Hermoso, an 18-year-old who recently quit school to pursue his dream of becoming a professional soccer player. “Evo Morales will be a good president.”
But this support has diminished following corruption scandals, allegations about manipulation of the justice system, and his insistence on running for yet another term.