by Lawrence Goodman
July 18, 2008
Evo Morales’ extra-ordinary rise from impoverished peasant to the first indigenous president of Bolivia began on a soccer field. It was 1980, and Morales along with his family had just moved from their hometown in Bolivia’s western highlands to the central tropics in search of work. He went to a local soccer field where, as it turned out, members of the local cocoa growers union were playing.
“I said ‘Can I play?’ They said, ‘Sure,'” Morales recalled in a speech at Brown in late April. “It turns out I was the best player on the field.” He was made head of the squad, but more importantly, as he said, “it was the beginning of my being involved in the union.”
Over the next two decades, Morales, now forty-eight, forged a career for himself as a union organizer, activist, politician, government dissident, and thorn in the side of the United States. He has expressed admiration for Che Guevara and Fidel Castro; joked that the coca leaf, which is used to produce cocaine, should be his country’s new national flag; and called U.S. capitalism “the worst enemy of humanity.”
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