BOLIVIAN President Evo Morales was sworn in yesterday for his third and final term.
The tremendously popular Mr Morales, who won a 61 per cent landslide in October’s election, said during a press conference late on Tuesday that he had no desire to continue after the next five years.
“I want to fulfil the wishes of the Bolivian people until 2020 and then I want to return to my land, to agriculture, to Villa Tunari,” he said.
First elected in 2005, Mr Morales presided over the introduction of a new constitution in 2009, under which presidents are limited to two five-year terms.
“The people will decide if the constitution must be changed to improve justice, but I have never thought of re-election.
“The opposition is the one talking about it. The opposition is the one that wants Evo to be re-elected, to rule forever.
“Since the opposition began to talk I think that is what it wants. My task has been always to fulfil my duty with the people.”
Mr Morales’s strong support is easily explained by Bolivia’s transformation during his office.
In 2006, shortly after his election, the government renationalised the oil and gas industries and it has since used their vastly increased revenue to double public investment and shore-up Bolivia’s financial reserves to protect it from outside shocks.
Some of that public spending has been put towards alleviating hardship in the country, with poverty reduced by a quarter since 2005 and extreme poverty by 43 per cent.
The gap between rich and poor has been hugely narrowed, with the income of the poorest parts of the population growing far faster than that of the better-off.
Part of that is down to a minimum wage that has almost doubled in the past 10 years in real terms.
However, much work remains to be done, since almost two-fifths of the population remains below the poverty line.