[News] Will There Ever be Elections Again in Bolivia?

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Aug 19 10:56:45 EDT 2020


  Will There Ever be Elections Again in Bolivia?

by Vijay Prashad - August 19, 2020

On November 10, 2019, President Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia announced 
his resignation from the presidency. Morales had been elected in 2014 to 
a third presidential term, which should have lasted until January 2020. 
In November 2019, protests around his fourth electoral victory in 
October led to the police and the military asking Morales to step down; 
by every description of the term, this was a coup d’état. Two days 
later, Morales went into exile 
in Mexico.

On November 16, Morales told 
<https://www.jornada.com.mx/2019/11/16/politica/014e1pol> Mexican daily 
newspaper La Jornada that the coup that unseated him “was prepared” by 
the U.S. embassy in La Paz. The reason for the coup, he said, was—among 
others—Bolivia’s considerable lithium reserves and his government’s 
failure to surrender to North American multinational mining 
corporations. Morales told La Jornada’s Miguel Angel Velázquez it seemed 
his “sin” was that he “implemented social programs for the humblest 

The coup was justified by the Bolivian oligarchy and the United States 
government as the restoration of democracy. By “democracy,” the 
oligarchs and the U.S. government mean rule by elites who politely hand 
over resources to mining firms at concessionary rates; they do not mean 
that the people—who should have sovereignty over their lives and their 
resources—actually govern. This is why there is no anxiety in large 
sections of the Bolivian oligarchy and the U.S. government that Bolivia 
will not have an elected government in at least a year.

*A Coup Government Remains*

Morales was replaced by Jeanine Áñez, a minor politician who was outside 
the constitutional chain of succession. Áñez said that she would not 
seek election after her interim period was over, but quickly turned her 
back on that promise; this was the first of many promises she would 
break. The presidential election was set for May 3, 2020. Due to her 
government’s inability to control the coronavirus, the election was 
postponed until September 6, 2020.

Áñez and her coalition are polling far behind 
<https://www.celag.org/encuesta-bolivia-julio-2020/> the Movement for 
Socialism (MAS), Morales’ party whose ticket consists of Luis Arce 
Catacora for president and David Choquehuanca Céspedes for vice 
president, as well as behind the center-right Civic Community party of 
Carlos Mesa (a former president of Bolivia who also ran against Morales 
in the October 2019 election and lost). Afraid of a humiliating loss, 
Áñez pressured the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to postpone the 
election to October 18, 2020. There is no guarantee that there will not 
be a further postponement.

The TSE is now headed by Salvador Romero, whom Morales had decided not 
to reinstate when Romero’s term ended in 2008 because of Romero’s 
dangerously close relationship to the United States government. After he 
was not reinstated, Romero complained 
<https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/07LAPAZ38_a.html> to Philip 
Goldberg, the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia. Goldberg met Romero warmly but 
could not force Morales to put him back in his position. Nonetheless, 
the United States provided Romero with a nice post: he took a job in 
Tegucigalpa, Honduras, at the National Democratic Institute. (The 
National Democratic Institute, based in Washington, is loosely 
affiliated with the U.S. Democratic Party.)

While in Honduras, Romero ensured that the violent 
<https://tinyurl.com/yy78ttdp> conditions during the 2013 Honduran 
presidential elections did not provoke any kind of international 
condemnation as the far right’s Juan Orlando Hernández (favored by the 
U.S. government) defeated the left’s Xiomara Castro. Romero and others 
like him covered up the dirty tricks (such as minimizing the 
significance of a power outage as Hernández pulled ahead of Castro 
during vote counting) that led to Hernández’s victory. Romero told 
the New York Times that despite “the general perception of fraud,” the 
election was fine. After she took power in November 2019, Áñez—with the 
backing of the U.S. government—brought 
Romero back to Bolivia to head the TSE.

*Fractures in the Right*

All is not well in the camp of the far right in Bolivia. Áñez does not 
command the field. Carlos Mesa, the candidate of the center-right, is 
eager to make this election between himself and the MAS, with Áñez 
stepping aside to allow the votes of the right wing to consolidate 
behind him. But he has had no luck; she would prefer that he stand down 
and prolong the wait for an election while she leads.

Áñez came to power due to the shock troops of the far right, groups such 
as the Santa Cruz Civic Committee (a misnomer), the Resistencia Juvenil 
Cochala, and the Unión Juvenil Cruceñista. The main figure who had 
galvanized these groups was Luis Fernando Camacho, a businessman from 
Santa Cruz with the sensibility of a fascist thug. After the coup, 
Branko Marinković, who had absconded to Brazil after he was charged with 
sedition, returned to Bolivia and tried to regain control of these 
various far-right platforms. The rivalry between Camacho and Marinković, 
and the uncertainty about the possibility of a right-wing triumph at the 
polls, has stayed the hand of Áñez and Romero; they would prefer to have 
no election (using the excuse of the pandemic) over an election that 
returned the MAS to power.

*Protests for the Election*

A week of blockades, marches, and gatherings in early August took 
place across Bolivia to insist on an election. The protests demanded 
that the election date of September 6 be reinstated. That is unlikely to 
happen. But the protests have put the TSE on notice that any further 
delay of elections—or blatant intervention in election results when they 
do take place—is likely to result in public outcry.

All the polls suggest that the MAS will win the first round of the 
election; if the far right and center-right do not coalesce after the 
first round, and if the left is able to unite, then the MAS might win a 
two-way second-round election. If the left remains disunited, then this 
promises to hamper the election prospects of MAS.

In power for 14 years, MAS moved an agenda that made impressive gains 
for the people. At the same time, over that long period, MAS was not 
able to please every social sector, every time. Fissures in the camp of 
the left opened up when Morales was in office, so much so it was the 
country’s largest trade union federation (Central Obrera Boliviana, or 
COB) that publicly asked 
for the resignation of Morales.

Groups such as COB, the Ponchos Rojos, the National Confederation of 
Indigenous Peasant Women, and the Pact of Unity led the recent protest; 
they galvanized the people behind the demand for the immediate 
resignation of the Áñez regime and for immediate elections. Unity 
between these groups—which have excited the core of the left with their 
public actions—and the MAS is not yet established. These fissures weaken 
the left as these organizations proceed toward a continuation of 
struggles and the election. If the left were to stand together, the 
return of MAS to power is virtually guaranteed. The main task of the 
left is to consolidate the unity of the popular forces and to promote 
the young leadership that has come to the surface in these 
mobilizations. Unity, they say, is their focus.

Still, though, many people in Bolivia fear that the full array of dirty 
tricks—including blackouts during the counting of votes—will steal the 
election from them. It is not hard to imagine that this is what a coup 
regime has in mind; it did not annul democracy to allow democracy to 
remove it from office.

/This article was produced by //Globetrotter/ 
<https://independentmediainstitute.org/globetrotter/>/, a project of the 
Independent Media Institute./

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863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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