October 5, 2010 1:39PM

Evo Morales’ Soccer Behavior Mirrors His Governing Style

The video speaks volumes: During a “friendly” game played in La Paz, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales (wearing green jersey number 10) approaches a rival player to confront him for a previous foul. Suddenly, Morales takes justice into his own hands and savagely knees the player in the groin. The referee sees the action but doesn’t red card Morales. Even the teammates of the assaulted player don’t complain. Instead, the referee expels the attacked player. The game goes on and Morales scores the tying goal for a 4-4 match. It was later reported that Morales’ security detail tried to arrest the player.

Evo Morales’ thuggish attitude towards his soccer rivals mirrors his attitude towards political opponents (actually, the team he was playing against was led by the mayor of La Paz, a political foe of the president). Before and since becoming president in 2006, Morales has repeatedly resorted to violence in order to advance his socialist agenda. A couple of other episodes are indicative of Morales’ governing style:

In November 2007, after months of impasse in the Constitutional Assembly in which the text of a new constitution could not be approved because of a lack of an absolute majority, the government called for a session of the Assembly to be held at a military base. When the opposition delegates tried to enter the premises, they were prevented from doing so by the military, the police and Morales’ supporters. The text of Bolivia’s new constitution was thus approved by the unrepresentative Assembly.

To become the law of the land, the new constitution had to be approved by a national referendum. However, the opposition-controlled Senate refused to call a referendum on a constitutional text that was rightly viewed as illegitimate. In February 2008 Morales called the leaders of the opposition to his official residence for a negotiation. Upon arrival, they were told that the president wasn’t there and that the bill to call for a referendum was about to be submitted for a vote on the Senate floor. When the legislators tried to return to the Congress, they were prevented doing so by Morales’ supporters and the police. The Senate passed the bill and Morales went on to win the referendum by a wide margin.

A couple of years ago, Evo Morales candidly recounted his attitude to following the rules: “When some lawyer tells me ‘Evo, you’re making a judicial mistake; what you’re doing is illegal,’ well, I keep going even though it’s illegal. I then tell the lawyers: ‘If it’s illegal, go ahead and make it legal. That’s what you went to school for.’”

Nobody should be surprised by Evo’s soccer antics. They are just a metaphor for his governing style.