Latin America & Caribbean

Bolivia profile - Leaders

President: Evo Morales

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Image caption The election of Mr Morales represented a major shift for Bolivia

Socialist leader Evo Morales won a third term as president in October 2014, coasting to victory in a poll he was widely tipped to win.

He secured around 60 per cent of the vote, against some 25 per cent for his closest rival, cement magnate Samuel Doria.

Mr Morales told his supporters that his win was "a triumph for anti-imperialists and anti-colonialists". The victory puts him on track to become Bolivia's longest-serving leader consecutively in office.

Since taking office in 2006, Mr Morales has presided over a period of economic growth. His government has used Bolivia's commodity wealth to reduce poverty levels, but Bolivia remains one of the poorest countries in the Americas.

Mr Morales's critics say he has introduced measures which are harmful to the environment and has presided over a corrupt administration.

Historical shift

Mr Morales, a figurehead for Bolivia's coca farmers, was elected in 2005, in a major historical shift for his country. Describing himself as the candidate "of the most disdained and discriminated against", he was the first member of the indigenous majority to be elected president.

He was re-elected with a convincing majority over his conservative opponents in December 2009; his party also gained two-thirds majorities in both houses of parliament.

Mr Morales has made poverty reduction, the redistribution of wealth, land reform favouring poorer peasants and public control over Bolivia's oil and gas resources his main priorities. He has nationalised much of the energy sector.

The president draws his support mainly from the poor indigenous majority, concentrated in the western highlands. Middle class voters and the eastern provinces, where most of the resource wealth lies, worry that his policies are too radical.

In 2009, voters overwhelmingly approved a new constitution drafted largely by Mr Morales' supporters, despite strong - and at times violent - opposition, mainly from in the eastern provinces.

The new basic law accords more rights to the indigenous majority, gives greater autonomy to the states and enshrines government control over key resources. It also allowed the president stand for a second five-year term in a row.

He courted further controversy in 2013 by obtaining supreme-court approval for a law to allow him to stand for a third term, on the grounds that the new constitution was passed in the middle of his first term which therefore did not count.

Congress approved an amendment to allow a third term, which will be submitted to a referendum in February 2016.

Himself a former coca farmer, Mr Morales defends the traditional uses of coca leaf among the indigenous population, as distinct from its use as the raw material for cocaine.

His promise to relax restrictions on growing coca irritated the US, which has bankrolled the fight against drugs in the country. In 2008, he ordered US drug enforcement officials to leave Bolivia.

He has also alarmed the US by forging strong links with Venezuela's left-wing firebrand president, Hugo Chavez.

Born in 1959, Evo Morales is an Aymara Indian from an impoverished family. In his youth he was a llama herder and a trumpet player. The former coca grower lost the 2002 presidential election to the conservative, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada.

He succeeded caretaker leader Eduardo Rodriguez, who took office in June 2005 when President Carlos Mesa resigned amid mass protests demanding the nationalisation of the energy sector.

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