Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Argentina’s Nestor Kirchner praised Wednesday, November 30, Bolivian Indian leader Evo Morales whom opinion polls identify as the front-runner for the December 18 general election in his country.
Meeting in the border town of Puerto Iguazu, President Lula da Silva said that "At no moment in history have we enjoyed the opportunity of having a South America completely devoted to its people."
The Brazilian President went on to say: "Imagine what Chavez’s election meant for Venezuela. Imagine what it would mean if Evo Morales won Bolivia’s election."
"These are extraordinary events that not even the most talented political scientists could have ever written about it or even less forecasted," he added.
And turning to President Kirchner, "I’m certain that what you are doing in Argentina is evidence of leadership and progress, having more people committed to help people to advance and overcome poverty."
President Kirchner also expressed preference for Mr. Morales in Bolivia’s coming December 18 presidential election saying that he has given proof of "caring for people, for his country, for the fair exploitation of his country’s resources."
President Lula recently met in Brasília with Morales, currently a member of Congress and leader of the Movement Toward Socialism, MAS, who has promised he will not seize oil and gas companies’ property if he is elected, a most controversial issue in Bolivian politics, which caused the ousting of two presidents in the last two years.
Last May the Bolivian Congress passed a new hydrocarbons bill raising taxes on oil companies and royalties, which had a significant impact for foreign companies such as Brazil’s Petrobras and Spanish-Argentine Repsol-YPF, among others.
Brazil is land locked Bolivia’s main foreign investor and yields great influence in business and politics.
However Mr. Morales also leads the strong coca planting peasants’ movement, which does not please the United States that has invested millions of dollars in trying to convince Bolivian farmers to grow conventional crops.
Washington also believed that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was behind the political turmoil in Bolivia financing radical groups, but it now seems that the country is back to its more traditional course with neighbours Brazil and Argentina playing a more active role.
Bolivia with large reserves of oil and particularly natural gas, second only to Venezuela in South America, is expected to have a growing responsibility as a future reliable gas and oil supplier for energy-short Mercosur and associate members.
Public opinion polls show Mr. Morales leading in vote intention, but not enough yet to avoid a run off. Runner up is conservative former President Jorge Quiroga.
This article appeared originally in Mercopress – www.mercopress.com.