Bolivian President-Elect Meets Castro

Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales on Friday met with Cuban President Fidel Castro and scores of young Bolivians studying in the communist country as he began reaching out to other government leaders even before he takes office.

Bolivian President-Elect Meets Castro
Although he won't be inaugurated until next month, Morales was greeted in Cuba by a red carpet, a military band and a smiling Castro when he stepped off the Cuban plane sent to pick him up in Bolivia.

Castro, dressed in his typical olive green uniform, hugged Morales, who has visited the island in the past as one of Latin America's leading protest organizers. The Cuban government has welcomed Morales' election as an important triumph over U.S. influence in the region.

"I think that it has moved the world," Castro told reporters of Morales' victory. "It's something extraordinary, something historic."

The 46-year-old Morales, who will be inaugurated on Jan. 22, won the presidency earlier this month with nearly 54 percent of the vote - the most support for any president since democracy was restored to Bolivia two decades ago.

He joins a growing number of left-leaning elected leaders in Latin America, some of whom are not shy about criticizing the United States. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Castro's close friend and ally, has repeatedly accused U.S. officials of plotting to assassinate him.

Speaking to about 400 young Bolivians studying here under full scholarships from the communist government, Morales and Castro said Cuba will now offer up to 5,000 scholarships annually to Bolivian college students.

"We have agreed to the first measures of cooperation," Morales said, adding that his meetings with Castro earlier Friday had been "an encounter of two generations in the struggle for dignity ... of two revolutions."

The 79-year-old Castro has been one of the U.S. government's biggest headaches in the region during his 47 years in power. And Morales, a nationalist Indian activist, has repeatedly declared himself an admirer of Castro and has vowed to become a "nightmare" for Washington.

Nevertheless, since his election Morales has offered a more conciliatory message, telling business leaders he will create a climate favorable for investment and jobs and will not "expropriate or confiscate any assets."

An Indian coca farmer and former protest leader, Morales campaigned on promises to halt a U.S.-backed coca eradication campaign in Bolivia.

He has vowed to promote legal markets for coca leaf, which is used to make cocaine but has many legitimate uses in Bolivia. He has also said he will crack down on drug trafficking.

Morales was expected back in Bolivia by Saturday evening. On Jan. 4, Morales departs on a world tour that will include visits to Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa, China and Brazil.
Source: Forbes
Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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