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Socialists Made a Comeback in Bolivia, But the Boom Times Are Over

President-elect Luis Arce must deal with national debt and poverty without the help of growing natural gas revenue.

Arce, fourth from right, celebrates his win in La Paz on Oct. 19.

Arce, fourth from right, celebrates his win in La Paz on Oct. 19.

Photographer: Javier Mamani/Getty Images
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It looked like regime change. In November 2019, after the armed forces’ chief called on him to step down, Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, boarded a plane and fled to Mexico, ending 14 years of socialist rule. He called it a coup.

Days later, Jeanine Añez, an opposition senator, seized control of the presidency, brandishing a giant Bible to symbolize that Christianity rather than indigenous rituals would guide Bolivia’s new rulers. Doctors from communist Cuba were expelled, and the country switched overnight from being a friend of Venezuela to an ally of the U.S.