Outside a sports stadium in Cochabamba, Bolivia, three men stood on a plinth, tearing down a statue of Evo Morales, who until a few weeks before had been the country’s President. One man diligently whacked away with a sledgehammer, while another shoved at the statue’s head—crowned, like the man it portrays, with a mushroom-shaped mullet that is distinctive among world leaders. Finally, the statue came loose, and with a contemptuous heave the men threw it to the ground. The sports minister of the new government, who had helped with the demolition, told reporters afterward that stadiums shouldn’t be named for delinquents.
Morales had fled Bolivia in November, after he was accused of trying to steal an election, and the country’s military chief publicly suggested that he resign. Since then, Bolivia had been fiercely, sometimes violently divided. Many people spoke of a coup, but there was enduring disagreement over whether it had been perpetrated by Morales or by his opponents. Whoever was to blame, his departure brought an abrupt end to one of Latin America’s most remarkable Presidencies. The son of impoverished llama herders, Morales was an ethnic Aymara, the first indigenous President in a majority-indigenous country. Although he left school before college and speaks in rough, heavily accented Spanish, he managed to hold power for almost fourteen years. He was a protégé of Fidel Castro, and perhaps the last surviving exponent of the Pink Tide—the leftist leaders who dominated Latin America’s politics for more than a decade. During his time in office, he transformed Bolivia, reducing poverty by almost half and tripling the G.D.P.
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