One of the “Alcaldes” that comprised the founding members of the Frente Amplio (FA) movement headed by Rene Joaquino, Presidential Candidate, has jumped ship. Miguel Becerra, mayor of Cobija in the small Department of Pando, accepted Samuel Doria Medina’s offer to be the Unidad Nacional’s (UN) Prefect candidate. So now there is speculation that this FA is slowly coming apart at its seams. It hasn’t helped that Joaquino has been polling in the single digits, with most Bolivians not even knowing who he is.
Bolivian politics relies on name recognition and cutesy nicknames. There’s “Tuto” and “Evo” and the fallen “Goni”. Even the former President Jaime Paz Zamora is better known as “El Gallo”. Samuel Doria Medina better find himself a nickname, if he wants any chance to stay in the race. (I suggest “Burger Boy” in reference to his ownership of the Burger King franchises in Bolivia).
Unfortunately for FA, its most famous member, Juan Del Granado (MSM), has decided to hold off any Presidential aspirations. There are some speculation that Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga is courting Joaquino as his Vice-Presidential candidate, whether that means dissolving the Frente Amplio or leaving the door open for del Granado to step up.
But these overtures made by Quiroga, who has been characterized as an extreme right winger, seem to make no sense.
The Mayors, including Gonzalo Terceros of Cochbamba (ex-NFR), are planting themselves firmly on the left, specifically the “modern left”, (does that mean MAS is the outdated left?). Capitalizing on the election buzzword of being “anti-neoliberal”, it would seem that eventually the FA would give its support to Evo Morales by default. So if Tuto does manage to convince that there is room for the left in his project, then the chances for a MAS presidency diminishes.
However, these speculations about a Joaquino defection to Tuto’s team could work to Evo’s advantage. These days any association with the political parties and “neoliberal” politicians automatically scores you negative points in Bolivian society. Joaquino and the mayors who want increased credibility could very well jump to the only remaining viable leftist candidate to prove that they mean business.
Joaquino must find a way to make a name for himself and show that he is an authentic political option for those who are tired of the same recycled politicians and are weary of Evo Morales’ support for disruptive blockades. The FA also must hope for some more big names to come out in support of this project, such as El Alto’s mayor Jose Luis Paredes (PP), who is a popular figure in that city. But what Joaquino needs is the biggest gun to come out of the woodwork for a heavy-duty endorsement.
Paging Carlos Mesa, please pick up the nearest courtesy phone.