The shadow of an airplane is seen passing over farm land on Bolivia’s high plains. Newly elected President Evo Morales, the first indigenous president in Bolivia, was born on the altiplano where his family herded llamas. In the 1980s, the worsening economy forced Morales and his father to move to the tropical Chapare region to grow coca. Many Quechua and Aymara indigenous peoples, who make up over a majority of Bolivia’s population, migrate from the altiplano to the city of El Alto or La Paz to find work.
After years of being ruled by the traditional elite, Bolivia saw a historic change in December 2005: the election of the first indigenous President, Evo Morales that won with a historic 54% of the vote. The poorest country in South America, many Bolivian’s have high expectations that Morales’ reforms will provide more opportunity and equality for the country’s politically excluded indigenous majority.
Current President Evo Morales is calling for the “depenalization” of coca and hopes to find an international market for coca products. Self-proclaimed as Washington’s “worst nightmare”, Morales is a fierce nationalist who has allied himself with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro. In May he nationalized Bolivia’s natural gas industry and is calling to “deregulate” coca production.