The Miami Herald
Aug. 05, 2002

Former president chosen to lead Bolivia

  Associated Press

  LA PAZ, Bolivia - Bolivia's Congress ended a presidential tie Sunday, picking U.S.-educated millionaire Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to lead the South
  American nation as it confronts economic malaise and growing social unrest.

  Sánchez de Lozada, a centrist mining executive who was president from 1993 to 1997, won a congressional vote of 84-43 over Evo Morales, a radical
  Indian leader of Bolivia's coca growers.

  The men were the top two vote recipients in a national election in June. Neither won an outright majority, forcing a vote in Congress. Two congressman
  left their votes blank Sunday, while 26 voted for Manfred Reyes Villa, who came in a close third in June. Two other legislators were absent.

  Congress convened Saturday and debated for more than 24 hours. All members present gave a speech, with some wearing multicolored Indian clothing
  and speaking in indigenous languages. Others chewed coca leaf, the base material of cocaine but also an important part of centuries-old Indian culture in
  the Andes.

  Sánchez de Lozada assured his victory in the legislative vote more than a week ago by securing an alliance with his rival, leftist former President Jaime
  Paz Zamora.

  He will govern South America's poorest country while dealing with a combative opposition. Bolivia is suffering not only an economic crisis, but also rising
  crime and social unrest.

  After the vote, Sánchez de Lozada called for the country's fractious political parties to work together. ''We can't be fighting each other and
  misunderstanding each other because the country is in crisis,'' he said.

  The new government also will work to restore Bolivians' faith ''that we'll to be able to turn around the crisis and move forward with public works with jobs
  and the fight against corruption and social exclusion,'' he said.

  Known by the nickname ''Goni,'' Sánchez de Lozada spent most of his youth in the United States and still speaks Spanish with an American accent that is
  often the brunt of jokes among Bolivians. He grew up in Washington, where his father was a diplomat, and later studied philosophy and English
  literature at the University of Chicago.

  Sánchez de Lozada will face an opposition galvanized by the blunt-talking Morales, whose Movement to Socialism party has given Bolivia's downtrodden
  Indian majority an unprecedented political voice.

  Morales' party took 35 seats in the legislature and may ally itself with Indian leader Felipe Quispe's bloc of six legislators. Sánchez de Lozada's
  Nationalist Revolutionary Movement party won the most seats with 50, but did not get a majority in the 157-seat legislature.

  Morales' supporters gave divisive speeches during the congressional debate. ''One candidate represents the oppressed of the countryside. The other
  represents the businessmen who oppress us,'' Quispe said.

  Many of Sánchez de Lozada's supporters spoke briefly, saying they were voting for unity.

  Congressman Mario Cosio said he chose Sánchez de Lozada to ``construct one Bolivia, where unity, tolerance and coming together are put above
  resentment and differences.''

  Sánchez de Lozada will inherit a gaping budget deficit after his predecessor Jorge Quiroga spent heavily while trying to bring the sluggish economy back
  to life.

  At least six of every 10 Bolivians live in poverty, and unemployment now tops 10 percent. Various groups of workers are demanding wage increases,
  feeding growing social unrest in this country of 8.2 million people.

  Sánchez de Lozada has promised to create jobs with public works projects and to provide up to 800,000 fellowships for poor students. The main legacy
  of his first presidency was a ''capitalization'' program that partially privatized many of Bolivia's state-owned industries.

  He is also credited with increasing public financing for the country's long-neglected municipalities.

  He will be inaugurated for a five-year term on Tuesday. In a possible sign of things to come for the new leader, a national teachers union has announced
  a strike for the same day.