A few weeks ago, as the fires deepened into the Chiquitanía, the Bolivian dry forest, Evo Morales was on hand. In white shirt and suit trousers, the president hit the flames with a spade. He did not seem to need a helmet and a protective suit, as the firefighters wore it, for his firefighting work.
Officially, Evo Morales had suspended his campaign and had traveled to the forest fire area in the east of the country to "take care of the Chiquitanía," he says. In fact, that's part of the campaign as well. His extinguishing attempts documented by numerous television cameras are intended to convey a clear message: Evo Morales would be reliable - even in a fourth term.
This would start the Socialist in January, if this Sunday a majority of 7.3 million Bolivians eligible to vote Bolivians for him. In the first ballot Morales needs according to Bolivian electoral law either 50 percent of the vote. Or a voting share of 40 percent, if the lead on the runner-up is at least ten percentage points. According to election polls, it could be enough: Evo Morales is in over 40 percent - with the necessary distance from his most promising challenger Carlos Mesa.
The backing for Evo Morales from the left-wing "Movement to Socialism" (MAS) remains strong, despite the Bolivians' majority willingness to change the constitution to run again. Especially in the Andean highlands, where he himself was born, the president has many advocates.
Between July and October, five million hectares of forest burned
Morales belongs to the people of Aymara, one of the largest populations in Bolivia. He is the first indigenous president the country has ever had. As such, since assuming office in 2006, he has repeatedly stressed the importance of madre tierra , Mother Earth. Even before an international audience: "If we do not guarantee the rights of Mother Earth, we will destroy our lives," said Evo Morales in 2017 at a UN assembly.
The Bolivians judge their president by such statements. Therefore, many people, especially in big cities and in the eastern lowlands, are angry. In Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the capital of the department of Santa Cruz in the east, more than one million people gathered on the street at the beginning of October. Thousands protested in La Paz, Cochabamba and Tarija. You find: Evo Morales is not the conservationist he represents himself. Some of his political decisions have hurt the environment very much.
The devastating forest fires are an expression of this. The world looked to Brazil in the summer, but also in Bolivia raged the fires. Between July and October, there were five million hectares of forest burned there - an area the size of Costa Rica. Indigenous communities from the lowlands, where the fires were most violent, accuse the president of "physical, environmental and cultural genocide". But in the highlands of the Andes, where Morales comes from, the fires are far away.
Environmentalists and scientists see a connection between the forest fires and Morales' economic agenda. "For years, Evo Morales has been pursuing a policy that promotes large agribusinesses and the export of agricultural products," says biologist Alfredo Romero-Muñoz, who teaches at the Humboldt University in Berlin.
In his 13 years in office, Evo Morales has managed to significantly reduce extreme poverty and unemployment in his country. The profits of the nationalized oil and gas industry, he invested to a large extent in social programs. Evo Morales has been promoting agriculture since the demand for these raw materials declined. The burden of nature, but the Socialist accepts this. His example shows that not only ultra-right politicians like Jair Bolsonaro are destroying the environment in order to enforce economic interests.