Centrist Carlos Mesa is the only candidate who has any chance of beating President Evo Morales in Bolivia's presidential election, which will have the first round on Sunday.
The journalist, writer, historian and documentary filmmaker is not a new face in Bolivian politics; Mesa was president between 2003 and 2005, one of the most unstable periods in the country.
These are the toughest elections ever faced by Evo Morales, who has been in power for almost 14 years. Mesa had ups and downs during the campaign, but in the final stretch polls indicate he has a chance of taking the presidential race to the second round.
Mesa was born in La Paz in 1953, the son of a couple of architects. One of Bolivia's most prestigious journalists, in 2002 Mesa ran for vice president alongside liberal businessman Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada of the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (MNR), who was elected to his second term.
In 2003 the so-called Gas War in Bolivia began, when citizens protested against the export of natural gas at low prices to the United States and Mexico. The protests turned violent and the government repressed – more than 60 people died in the clashes with the army. In the hostile climate, Lozada resigned.
Although Mesa announced that he had broken relations with the president, he remained deputy and took office as president when Lozada resigned and fled to the United States.
His term lasted 19 months. Intense protests led by Evo Morales, pressure to nationalize gas reserves, and little congressional support – not even from Lozada's bench, who considered him a traitor – led him to resign in 2005.
Your current campaign has not been free of reports. Officials and opposition sectors accuse him of alleged illicit gains and corruption. A complaint originating from former President Lozada's circle accuses Mesa of receiving about $ 1 million for his former television channel in exchange for accepting the vice presidential nomination in 2002. Mesa neither confirms nor denies the complaint. : "I said many times and I repeat: we will not respond to the dirty war," he said in an interview with Infobae this week.
Evo Morales's government describes Mesa as the "last neoliberal president in Bolivia's history" and often blames him for the economic difficulties the country faces during his tenure.
Many Bolivians also question Mesa's ability to stay in power if he wins the election after resigning in his first term.
Mesa counts on the useful vote to prevent the continuation of the government of Morales. Closing his campaign in La Paz on Tuesday, he called for support from the left and right opposition in Sunday's elections, calling on the country to decide "between the authoritarian path to dictatorship or the path of democratic building."