Childhood & Early Life
Juan Evo Morales Ayma was born on October 26, 1959 in Isallawi, Bolivia. Both of his parents were ethnic Aymara natives who worked as subsistence farmers in Orinoca Canton.
Evo's father, Dionisio Morales Choque, and his mother, Maria Ayma, had seven children but only three survived past childhood: Evo, his sister Esther and his brother Hugo.
As a child, his favorite past-time was soccer. But he had little time for sports as he worked on his family's farm, planting crops and herding llamas.
Although his family spoke the Aymara language at home, he quickly learned Spanish while attending elementary school in Argentina. He completed his high school studies in Orinoco, Bolivia.
In 1974, Morales attended the ‘Agrarian Technical Institute of Orinoco’ but dropped out before his final year.
A year later, his parents sent him to study in Ororu and he graduated in 1977.
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In 1977, after graduation he moved to Chapare Province to begin his mandatory service in the military. The following year, he began touring all over Bolivia, working as a journeyman laborer and bricklayer. He also earned money as a trumpet player, touring with the ‘Royal Imperial Band’.
In 1979, he joined his family in Cochabamba where he learned to grow local crops, including coca. The same year, he joined the trade union for coca growers and was appointed to the position of ‘Secretary of Sports’ there.
In 1982, he was promoted to General Secretary of his region's union syndicate. A year later, Morales and other coca growers were offered $2,500 by the United States government for each acre of coca that they eradicated. Morales refused the payout and began organizing fellow coca growers to resist the offer.
In 1989, he gave a commemorative speech on the anniversary of the ‘Villa Tunari Massacre’. The following day, government agents assaulted him, abandoning him in a remote mountain pass to die.
In 1994, he was arrested by the Bolivian government and brutally beaten while in custody. The next day, thousands of his supporters marched on the jail and he was released soon afterwards.
In 1995, he was arrested again and charged with fomenting a coup. Several of his alleged co-conspirators were badly tortured while in custody but ultimately no one was formally charged in the case. The same year, Morales's union formed a political party, the ‘Assembly for the Sovereignty of Peoples’ (ASP).
In 1996, Bolivia's ‘National Election Court’ ruled the ASP ineligible to stand for elections. The ASP then worked out a vote sharing agreement with a coalition of leftist parties.
In the 1997 elections, he was elected to represent the El Chapare region in the ‘National Congress’.
In 1998, factional infighting led to a schism in the ASP. Morales parted ways to form his own party, the ‘Movement for Socialism’ (MAS).
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In 2001, Jorge Quiroga succeeded to the presidency of Bolivia. The United States pressured Quiroga to have him expelled from Congress.
After 140 deputies voted against him, Morales was expelled from the Congress in 2002 for allegedly having used inflammatory language that led to the death of two police officers in a shootout in his home region.
In late 2005, he defeated Jorge Quiroga in the presidential election. Assuming office the following year, he radically re-organized the government, increasing taxation on gas extraction and building large scale programs to combat illiteracy, sexism, poverty and racism.
In 2008, he won a nationwide vote of confidence that he himself initiated, to measure the level of his public support.
In 2009, UNESCO declared that Bolivia was freed of illiteracy. The same year, he was re-elected as president of Bolivia.
In 2013, the plane that was transporting Morales and his presidential entourage was brought down by authorities in Austria. Aviation officials had erroneously been informed that he was smuggling the famed whistleblower Edward Snowden on board.
In 2014, Morales was elected to a third term as president of Bolivia.