Yet despite his continuing domination of the political scene, Morales has lost his initial aura of invincibility since some allies turned against him over an Amazon highway plan and a fuel price hike two years ago.
Government critics from the left and the right would like to see strong challengers emerge in time for a 2014 presidential election in which Morales has hinted he may seek a third term.
In El Alto, several large state infrastructure projects, such as a US$234 million cable car system, should be ready in time for the election, but are unlikely to satisfy growing expectations.
“There’s been a lot of investment in the city, but it hasn’t been enough yet,” said Javier Ajno, president of the powerful FEJUVE neighborhood federation.
FEJUVE was a protagonist in the so-called Gas War that led to the ouster of former Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 2003.
Ajno said El Alto’s rebellious spirit was still very much alive, but that for now there is broad support for Morales.
“El Alto has been the cradle of this process of change ... we’ve carried an Indian to the presidency and people still believe in this process,” he said.