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Archive for Sunday, December 18, 2005

Election pits ‘nightmare’ against former leader

December 18, 2005

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— Bolivians are polarized between presidential candidates offering sharply different visions going into an election today that could fortify South America's tilt to the left and deal a blow to U.S. anti-drug efforts in this Andean nation.

Bolivians are polarized between presidential candidates offering sharply different visions going into an election today that could fortify South America's tilt to the left and deal a blow to U.S. anti-drug efforts in this Andean nation.

The tight race pits Evo Morales, a leftist coca farmer who would become Bolivia's first Indian president if elected, against Jorge Quiroga, a conservative former president who wants to continue free-market policies and the war on growing coca, which is used to make cocaine.

Morales, 46, who held a slight lead in opinion polls, promised to be Washington's "nightmare" and reverse U.S.-backed efforts to eradicate coca fields.

He counts Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez among his friends and a victory for him would follow wins by leftists in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Uruguay.

Quiroga, who served as president in 2001-02 after then-President Hugo Banzer fell ill, said he would sell Bolivia's vast natural gas reserves at higher prices and improve infrastructure, education and health care in this impoverished nation of 8.5 million.

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