Bolivian President Evo Morales slammed CNN for spreading "lies" about him and boasted his fight against drugs was stronger now without US help, as he rallied followers on the eve of his expected re-election in Sunday polls.
Morales, 50, accused CNN of fueling the "opposition with lies," after he saw the US news network air a political rival's comments that he was the "best campaign leader for the right-wing" candidates in the election.
The leftist president called CNN the "great defender of imperialism, of capitalism," adding that it should not align itself with those who "plunder our natural resources" or with drug traffickers.
A fiery Morales wrapped up his re-election campaign Saturday, ahead of general elections he was widely favored to win against conservative rival Manfred Reyes Villa, whom he accused Friday of corruption and links to several deaths in 2007 demonstrations.
Polls credit Morales, an Aymara Indian who enjoys overwhelming support from Bolivia's indigenous majority, with more than 50 percent of ballots.
Swept into office in 2005, Morales is the first indigenous Bolivian elected president in the country, South America's poorest despite significant natural gas reserves.
His re-election to a second term was made possible under a January 2009 referendum that modified the one-term cap for president.
In a speech in the central coca-growing region of Chapare where he still heads six farmers' unions, Morales boasted that since he threw out the US Drug Enforcement Administration last year, Bolivia's fight against drug trafficking was stronger.
He said 20 tons of cocaine shipments were seized so far this year.
Under the DEA, Morales said, "operations were directed to lower the price of cocaine and to allow Americans to export cocaine to the United States."
On Friday he called former governor and presidential candidate Manfred Reyes Villa, 54, and his running mate "thieves" who would be jailed under a new law he intends to introduce once the election was out of the way.
He accused his rival of being linked to the murders of at least 12 pro-Morales supporters during 2007 unrest.
Reyes Villa, who was in charge of Cochabamba state before losing the governorship under a referendum Morales engineered last year, has denied the charges. He was seen trailing in opinion polls ahead of Sunday's vote with just 18 percent support.
Regionally, Morales is a strong ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and shares his hostility toward the United States and Spanish-descended elites who have historically ruled over South America's natives.
During his presidency, Morales has resolutely imposed socialist policies to improve the lives of the impoverished indigenous groups that make up 60 percent of the population, notably by nationalizing the energy and telecommunications sectors.
But he has also angered other Bolivians descended from Europeans who have seen their landholdings and political control in the more prosperous eastern half of the country whittled down under reforms.
That animosity spilled over into the September 2007 shootings of a dozen peasants who had been demonstrating in favor of Morales in a remote part of northern Pando state.
Anti-Morales activists were blamed for the killings. The government accused opposition figures, including Pando's state governor and Reyes Villa, of having a hand in the violence.
More than 55,000 troops and police will be on active duty throughout Bolivia for Sunday's vote that will start at 8:00 am (1200 GMT) and last eight hours.
Alcohol sales and the carrying of firearms were suspended nationwide on Friday ahead of the vote.
December 5, 2009
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