A former "cocalero" (coca farmer and activist), and continuing football (soccer) enthusiast, he has served as president of Bolivia since 2006 and has maintained close friendships with Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
When Morales was elected in 2005, Bolivia's per capita GDP was lower than it had been in 1998, but it took an upward turn after his election and continues to rise. Between 2006 and 2009 this growth was higher than at any point in the preceding 30 years.
The polling company, Tal Cual, has projected that Morales will win the election easily on Sunday with 57.3% of the vote, against his primary contender, centrist businessman Samuel Doria Medina.
Evo Morales, Eli Salguero at Pujllay
In a recent campaign speech, Morales reminded supporters that on another October 12th -- in 1492 -- "the Europeans invaded America to dominate and subject the people of the continent. Now October 12, 2014 will be the day of the Bolivian peoples' definitive liberation."
Morales, an Aymara, is the first indigenous or originario ("native" or "original") president of Bolivia. The Aymara have occupied the Andes in western Bolivia for many hundreds of years (and possibly up to 5000 years, according to some estimates.)
Wiphala, the flag of the Aymara is now a national symbol recognized under the constitution
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Originarios make up 55% of the population of Bolivia, and include over three dozen native groups, the largest three being the Quechuas, the Aymaras and the Guarini. 15% of the population is white, and 30% is mixed (white and orginario.)
In addition to governmental ceremonies, when he became president in January 2006 Morales was crowned Apu Mallku (Supreme Leader) of the Aymara as he thanked the goddess Pachamama for his victory.
In contrast to previous presidents, Morales dresses casually, often wearing garlands of coca leaves around his neck when speaking. His communications with the people are also marked by a sense of casual friendship rather than the authoritarianism of previous presidents.
Morales' presidency has been characterized by "vivir bien," the "good life." During his presidency he has returned much of the nation's resources to the people, and has dramatically improved the lives of Bolivia's poor, especially though agrarian reform and a massive literacy campaign.
Upon his election in 2005, Bolivia's illiteracy rate was 16%. As a result of his ambitious literacy campaign, Bolivia was declared a territory free of illiteracy by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in July, 2014.
Morales has noted that in Bolivia "the way of doing politics has changed. For officials, politics is not a business nor a benefit ... politics is a committed service...," he declared to an applauding crowd.
And he lives his words -- upon becoming president in 2006, he reduced his and his ministers' salaries by 57%.
The coca plant has had an important role in Morales' rise to the presidency. Coca is an integral part of everyday life for most Bolivians, brewed as tea, chewed, or used in religious ceremonies. It has been used for hundreds and probably thousands of years as an antidote for altitude sickness in the Andes, where the average height is 13,000 feet above sea level.
Through the coerced support of previous Bolivian governments, the US brought its war on drugs to the coca fields in 1988, trading economic aid to the country in return for the freedom to wage an aggressive assault on the coca growers. The rise of the coca growers union, and Morales' rise to the top of the Movement for Socialism (MAS) political party was a direct result of these US interventions.
As a coca farmer, Morales said, "I am not a drug trafficker. I am a coca grower. I cultivate coca leaf, which is a natural product. I do not refine (it into) cocaine, and neither cocaine nor drugs have ever been part of the Andean culture."
Since then he has often accused the US of imperialist oppression, suggesting that the US should deal with their drug problems at home, not by trying to eliminate farmers and their crops in Bolivia.
Morales has survived one brutal beating after which he was left for dead, as well as assassination attempts.
I'm convinced that capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity and the environment, enemy of the entire planet. ~ Evo Morales
One of Morales' shining successes is the new aerial tramway transportation system linking the capital city, La Paz with El Alto. The first stage opened in May 2014.
Constructed by an Austrian company for $234 million, it is the world's highest cable railway line, offering stunning views as it lifts passengers over the Andes at heights up to 13,000 feet above sea level.
Each car can hold 10 passengers, who are now able to commute between the two cities in less than 10 minutes -- a trip that can take more than 30 minutes by road.
In addition, Morales has just announced that his government is seeking bidders to build a 20-megawatt wind farm for $50 million in the country's midwest region of Cochabamba.
According to the Institute of American Studies Press, "Evo Morales, has declared that the country 'will be an energy power in South America,'" saying "We will not only export gas, but energy to our neighbors as well."
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs notes that "Bolivian President Evo Morales has won six nationwide elections since his presidential victory in 2005, and on October 12th he will make it seven."
See Evo Morales get the last laugh on The Daily Show. Air Date: September 25, 2007.
Cocalero (DVD), Alejandro Landes (Director)