Manfred Reyes Villa Shocks Bolivia With His Choice of Running Mate
Bolivian presidential candidate Manfred Reyes Villa shocked Bolivia yesterday with his choice for running mate. None other than imprisoned Pando Prefect Leopoldo Fernandez will run as vice-president and campaign from inside San Pedro Prison in La Paz.
This unprecedented pairing was completely unexpected. A fragmented opposition, which has all but lost its opportunity to form a united front against Evo Morales/García Linera, had caused much frustration and loss of hope for voters who, according to early surveys, seem will greatly favor this new duo.
Leopoldo Fernandez is widely considered a political prisoner and is immensely popular throughout much of Bolivia. In addition, he has over 30 years of experience in politics, having been a representative for 3 terms and senator for 4 terms in addition to his term as Pando Prefect. A great number of Bolivians do not approve of his jailing and do not believe he is guilty of the charges against him.
Whether or not this will garner enough votes to topple Evo Morales is another story. A recent Gallup poll indicates 57,7% of Bolivia's population plans to vote for Morales on December 6th, while none of the opposition candidates got over 10%.
However, some analysts believe this pairing may cause some opposition candidates to eventually align with Reyes Villa and Fernandez just prior to elections, while others indicate undecided voters may now throw their support behind the opposition.
Although Fernandez has been imprisoned for nearly one year, no evidence has been presented to prove his participation in the events that occurred in Pando on September 11th, 2008 and he has not yet had a fair trial. Therefore by law, and according to the new Bolivian constitution, his imprisonment is "for preventive measures only" and he is indeed able to legally run for office. What isn't known is how he will campaign from within San Pedro Prison.
Although this duo is likely to far surpass other opposition candidates in popularity, it seems unlikely they will garner sufficient votes to win December's elections.