LA PAZ – President Evo Morales said on Thursday that he is not fretting about the outcome of a Feb. 21 referendum on amending Bolivia’s constitution to allow him to seek a fourth consecutive term.
He addressed the issue during a press conference in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, sharing with reporters the words he addressed Wednesday night to a seemingly worried Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera.
“I told him ‘we are fine, why should you be worried, bitter. You should be happy, content ... Even if they don’t approve our re-election, we made history thanks to the Bolivian people,’” the president said.
“Honestly, if we’re talking about Feb. 21, I want to say through you: I also want to know if the Bolivian people want me as president or not,” Morales told the journalists.
Bolivia’s first indigenous head of state had pointed out earlier that during his tenure, which began in January 2006, Bolivia has gone from being “a beggar country” to having the second-highest economic growth in Latin America.
A poll released at the beginning of December showed 53 percent of Bolivians opposed to another term for Morales, while 54 percent rejected the idea of amending the constitution to allow him to run again in 2019.
Morales and his supporters are campaigning for a “yes” vote in the referendum using the argument that the leftist president needs more time to complete his “patriotic agenda” for Bolivia’s development.
The agenda calls for investing roughly $47 billion in infrastructure between now and 2020 with the aim of increasing annual gross domestic product from the current $36 billion to $55 billion.
Bolivia’s GDP was $9 billion in 2005.
Bolivians will be asked to vote in February on amending Article 168 of the constitution by replacing the phrase “only one time” with “two times” in regard to the maximum number of re-elections of a sitting president.
Morales took office in 2006, started his second term in 2010 and the third in January of this year.
Although the new constitution enacted in 2009 limits the president to two consecutive terms, Morales was able to run in 2014 thanks to a court decision that concluded his first term did not count against the total because it began prior to the adoption of the new charter.