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Bolivia's President Survives Recall Referendum

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Bolivia's President Survives Recall Referendum

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Bolivia's President Survives Recall Referendum

Bolivia's President Survives Recall Referendum

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Bolivian President Evo Morales has survived a referendum vote called after a power struggle with regional governors. Since taking office in 2006, the leftist leader has nationalized industries and spent state funds on social programs.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Bolivia's Evo Morales, one of Latin America's new populist leaders, has won a referendum that keeps him in power. But a bitter government stalemate is not over. As results come in, it appeared that some of Morales's most determined opponents, governors who also faced a recall, also won. It means Morales does not have full control of his country. NPR's Juan Forero reports from La Paz, Bolivia.

JUAN FORERO: Crowds filed in to vote in a poor neighborhood, and several voters said they cast ballots for their president. Since taking office in 2006, Evo Morales has delivered, those voters say. He's nationalized industries, he spent state funds on social programs, and he says he wants to improve the lives of Bolivia's poor, many of them indigenous like the president himself. Maria Coronel(ph) was among those who support him.

Ms. MARIA CORONEL: (Through translator) Our government has done good things other governments did not do. That's why we have to support our government.

FORERO: Morales won by a comfortable margin, and the government says it shows Bolivians support his programs, but the brunt of the brunt of the support came from Bolivia's eastern highlands: cold, barren, poor. Voters in the relatively prosperous lowlands strongly backed anti-government governors, among them Ruben Costas of Santa Cruz and Mario Cossio of Tarija. Javier Velasquez(ph) is among those who voted against the Morales government.

Mr. JAVIER VELASQUEZ): (Speaking foreign language)

FORERO: Velasquez said Morales's government has been too radical, too confrontational with its opponents. That's resulted in protests in recent weeks, some of them violent.

Unidentified Man: (Speaking foreign language)

FORERO: The largest workers federation has blocked roads, and miners have clashed with police. In the anti-government East, people believe the government is concentrating power, and they want more say over how to spend their revenues.

Jorge LaSarte(ph) is a political scientist who says the government has imposed its policies.

Mr. JORGE LaSARTE (Political Scientist): (Speaking foreign language)

FORERO: LaSarte says that Morales's styles has helped create a powerful opposition.

(Soundbite of applause)

FORERO: The stark divide between pro- and anti-government forces is particularly apparent in the Congress, where debates are often heated and characterized by name-calling and insults, but pro-government congresswoman Christina Rojas blames Morales's opponents.

Congresswoman CHRISTINA ROJAS (Bolivia): (Speaking foreign language)

FORERO: She says that after many centuries, Bolivia at last has an indigenous president who represents poor Bolivians, and his foes can't stand it. But the big question after the vote is just how much influence and power Morales really has. Juan Forero, NPR News, La Paz.

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