12/15/09 at 9:31 AM
Bolivian president Evo Morales and his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chávez, are comrades in a self-proclaimed socialist revolution. But their standing at home couldn't be more different. Morales won a landslide reelection on Dec. 6; meanwhile, two thirds of Venezuelans now say they foresee a possible uprising against Chávez. Why the split? Turns out that Morales, for all his fire-breathing rhetoric, governs with far more discipline. Both he and Chávez have nationalized key industries, but while Chávez blew his windfall on poorly focused social programs, Morales has been a model of fiscal austerity. He built up enormous reserves; made smart investments in infrastructure, electricity, and microfinance; and diversified trade to depend less on the U.S. So while Venezuela is suffering from blackouts, water shortages, and double-digit inflation, Bolivia is growing faster than at any point in the past three decades. Now, that's downright radical.