Bolivia’s Term Limit Referendum a Warning to Latin American Autocrats

World Politics ReviewLast weekend, Bolivian voters went to the polls and did something remarkable: They told their sitting president—a popular and successful one—that they will not allow him to remain in power for as long as he wishes.

The voters’ rejection of a constitutional amendment that would have allowed President Evo Morales to run for a fourth consecutive term came as a painfully unexpected blow to a politician grown accustomed to landslide victories and popular adulation. The vote sent shockwaves across Bolivia. More importantly, it sent an important message to other politicians with autocratic tendencies in the region: Latin American democracy is maturing, and populist-driven passion is losing its hold on the public. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and elsewhere. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, Russia, and even transnational criminal organizations.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform policymakers and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.