Leftist claims Bolivia poll win
Evo Morales is greeted by coca farmers and supporters in Cochabamba, Bolivia, on Sunday.
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(CNN) -- Bolivian socialist leader Evo Morales has claimed victory in that turbulent Andean country's presidential election after conservative rival Jorge Quiroga conceded defeat.
An Indian labor activist who advocates the distribution of Bolivia's natural gas revenue to the public, Morales rose from poverty and obscurity to become the leader of Bolivia's coca farmers.
In the past four years, he has led rounds of protests that have shut down the capital, La Paz, and forced two presidents from office.
"As a people who love their country, we have an enormous responsibility to change our history," Morales told supporters Sunday night.
"This change that the people want is going to be respected."
Official results are not expected until Monday. But Quiroga conceded after exit polls showed a stronger-than-expected showing for Morales.
Morales, 46, is a friend and ally of Venezuela's outspoken leftist President Hugo Chavez and Cuban President Fidel Castro.
He came to prominence blasting U.S.-backed "neoliberal" economic policies that Bolivian leaders adopted in the 1980s -- policies he said do little to help the country's impoverished Aymara and Quechua Indian majority -- and defending impoverished coca growers against U.S.-funded eradication efforts.
The prospect of Morales now becoming president horrifies conservatives in Bolivia and in Washington, who say his radical form of socialism would be disastrous.
"I think it would be the worst nightmare scenario for Washington, because right now you have a growing alliance between Venezuela and Cuba," said Andres Oppenheimer, a Latin American analyst and columnist for the Miami Herald. "What is now a duo may become a trio."
Bolivia is one of the poorest and most politically turbulent countries in the region, with nearly 200 military coups in its history.
Its current president, Eduardo Rodriguez, took over as in June after anti-government protests led by Morales forced then-president Carlos Mesa from office.
Mesa took office in 2003 after similar protests forced his predecessor, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, to resign.
CNN Correspondent Lucia Newman contributed to this report
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