SIN....this should bake the cake
Evo Morales, the socialist coca farmer who would be Bolivia's first Indian president, appeared poised to join the ranks of like-minded leaders who have pushed Latin America's democracies to the left in recent years.
With exit polls running strongly in his favor, Morales took an early congratulatory phone call from Venezuela's belligerently anti-American president Hugo Chavez.
At a party at Morales' home in Cochabamba, his supporters toasted as the candidate announced that Chavez planned to contact Cuba's Fidel Castro.
Said Morales of Chavez: "He's going to tell Fidel the good news" - eliciting laughs from those nearby.
Morales has promised to be "Washington's nightmare," indicating he would exercise more state control over South America's second-largest natural gas reserves and bring an end to U.S.-backed coca eradication efforts.
A Morales presidency in Bolivia would signal further movement to the political left among Latin America's democracies. The political shift has brought leaders ranging from Chavez in Venezuela to the moderate center-left presidents of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile.
A major factor in each of those elections has been voters' frustration with free-market economic policies of the past decade to do more to alleviate entrenched poverty in the continent of more than 400 million people.
Recently elected leaders have rejected U.S.-backed initiatives including a hemisphere wide free-trade zone in favor of smaller trade, energy and business alliances in the name of South American unity.
But Morales would face the additional challenge of simply holding the country together. More affluent regions of the county with new natural gas reserves have threatened to secede.
Two exit polls projected Morales was leading his conservative rival, former President Jorge Quiroga, by more than 10 percentage points, making it likely he would be named president by Bolivia's congress. On Sunday, he thanked supporters for what he called his "great triumph," but tempered that by saying he would await official results confirming the outcome.
At his single-story home off a dirt road in Cochabamba, near the coca-growing region where he built his political movement, Morales said he was feeling "Good, but I'm a little nervous."
He prayed before a photograph of his late father, a miner who raised Morales' family in poverty, and joined a close circle of friends for a beef barbecue and boiled small potatoes, as cheerful supporters passed around rum-and-coke drinks.
On Sunday night, the crowd around Morales remained somewhat muted as the smiling candidate, wearing black jeans and sandals, joked with friends. Official results were not expected until Monday or Tuesday.
Morales said, in addition to Chavez, he received congratulatory calls from center-left President Nestor Kirchner of Argentina as well as a representative from the government of Brazilian leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.