Bolivian Ex-President Mesa Eyes Run Against Morales Next Year
LIMA -- Former Bolivian President Carlos Mesa said here Friday that he will run for president next year provided the country's proposed new constitution is approved in a January referendum.
Mesa told reporters at Lima airport that he and his associates in a party now being formed are "ready to take part in the electoral process if and when the constitution is approved."
Bolivia will hold a referendum on the new charter on Jan. 25 and, if it is approved, early elections will be held in December 2009.
The veteran journalist said that he is "building a new political option" in his country and hopes to have a party constituted by the first quarter of next year.
Mesa, who became president in October 2003 after then-head of state Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada was toppled by massive protests, added that it would be the first time that he actively got into politics.
Having joined Sanchez's 2002 ticket as an independent, Mesa had a difficult time governing Bolivia because of his lack of a party to support him.
He eventually stepped down in mid-2005, well before the end of his term, to facilitate early elections that were won by socialist Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of Indian-majority Bolivia.
"Bolivia is on the threshold of a historic decision," Mesa said Friday, noting the sharp polarization between the majority that supports Morales and "a very tough opposition" centered in the country's white-dominated eastern provinces.
Ideologically, Mesa stands between Morales and the right-wing opposition, and his presidency laid the groundwork for the Constituent Assembly that drew up the new constitution and for the assertion of state control over Bolivia's immense reserves of natural gas.
He also ordered security forces to refrain from the kind of tactics that led to the deaths of scores of protesters under Sanchez de Lozada.
Mesa is invited Saturday to a roundtable discussion on Latin American politics where also taking part will be former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, a past head of the Organization of American States.