August 6, 2002

Bolivia gets new president

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) --Millionaire mining executive Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada
was sworn in as president of Bolivia Tuesday, and immediately announced emergency
measures to lift South America's poorest nation out of an economic slump.

Sanchez de Lozada, a 72-year-old businessman who was raised and educated in the
United States, began his five-year term by calling for Bolivians to join together to
confront a "great national crisis."

"The moment of change has arrived," he said after Vice President Carlos Mesa
placed the red-green-and-yellow presidential sash around his neck in a special
session of Congress. "This country has to unite, because unity is strength."

Sanchez de Lozada, universally known by the nickname "Goni," was also president
from 1993 to 1997. He spent most of his youth in the United States and studied at
the University of Chicago.

He won just 22 percent of the vote in national elections in June. Congress, which
must pick a president if no candidate wins an outright majority, chose him Sunday
over second-place finisher Evo Morales, the leader of Bolivia's coca growers.

Bolivia's economy has been stuck in recession. Crime and unemployment are on the
rise in the Andean nation where six out of 10 people live in poverty. Various groups
of workers have taken to the streets to demand wage increases.

To jump-start the economy, Sanchez de Lozada announced an emergency job
creation program that will entail five major public works projects, including the
construction of a cross-country highway and public housing. He also pledged to
wipe out corruption.

"We'll call a truce and a social pact to get Bolivia out of this terrible economic crisis,
which could get worse and which could turn into collapse," he said.

Hundreds of Goni supporters crammed La Paz's main plaza outside Congress,
waving the pink flags of his Nationalist Revolutionary Movement party while a band
played traditional Andean flute and drum music. Helmeted police patrolled
surrounding streets with bomb-sniffing dogs.

Aurora Carrasco, a 32-year-old nurse, pushed up against a rope cordoning off the
crowd to glimpse the new president.

"Goni is well-prepared for the job. He did so much good work during his first
presidency, but he didn't have enough time to finish it all. That's why we re-elected
him," she said, a pink scarf draped on her neck.

Sanchez de Lozada's calls for a truce were directed at opposition forces led by
Morales, the Aymara Indian leader of Bolivian farmers who grow coca, the base
ingredient of cocaine but also a central part of centuries-old indigenous culture in
the Andes.

Morales, 42, stunned observers and Bolivia's elite in June by coming in a close
second to Sanchez de Lozada. Congress selected Sanchez de Lozada by a 84-43

Morales' Movement to Socialism party took 35 seats in the legislature, with many
delegates giving divisive speeches during Sunday's congressional debate. They
pledged an aggressive opposition against Sanchez de Lozada's coalition with former
president Jaime Paz Zamora's party.

"There's a new political map in the country," political analyst Jorge Lazarte said.
"We have a government comprised of two so-called traditional forces, a government
that does not have an electoral majority and that will be weak before a very
contentious Congress"

Coca will likely be a critical issue.

Morales led sometimes violent protests against an eradication program that has
wiped out most of Bolivia's coca crop. The unpopular program has led to deadly
clashes between police and farmers, but the United States hails it as a major success
in the war on drugs.

Sanchez de Lozada has promised to continue eradication, a decision analysts said
could fuel social unrest.

Morales told reporters Tuesday that he would lead a "constructive opposition,
searching for peaceful solutions in Congress."

He warned that street protests and highway blockades would resume if the
government continues its eradication policy. He also urged Sanchez de Lozada to
solve the problems of Bolivia's poor masses and to not just represent "transnational

If not, Morales said, "I calculate this government will last two to three years."

 Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.