(EN) AT THE BOLIVIAN BORDER
Updated: Jan 16, 2021
It was early November 2019 and I was on Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world at 3812 metres. From the city of Puno my intention was to enter Bolivia through the Peruvian border to reach the town of Copacabana. However, at the border between the two states I was informed of the political situation in the indigenous country: A coup d'état prohibited any foreigner to enter Bolivia.
More than a year later, there are still several stories about the elections in the Andean country: What happened in Bolivia's presidential election?
The elections held on 20 October 2019 gave the victory to the candidate of the Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS), Evo Morales, over the next candidate of the right-wing Coalición Ciudadana (CC). However, this electoral process was challenged by opposition parties, organizations and sectors of society, who initiated violent protests and accused President Evo Morales of electoral fraud.
The reasons for accusing MAS of such electoral fraud were based on the interruption of the unofficial rapid vote count, parallel to the official one, which with the 83.76 % count showed that although Evo Morales was leading the vote, he didn't reach the necessary difference in votes to avoid a second round of elections.
According to Bolivia's constitution, in case no candidate reaches 50 % of the valid vote or, having exceeded 40 %, there is no difference of more than 10 % over the second one, a second round of elections must be held between the winner and the second most voted.
With 100 % of the votes counted, on 25 October 2019 the Bolivian Supreme Electoral Court announced that the party Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) of Evo Morales had obtained 47.08 % of the votes, while Comunidad Ciudadana (CC) of the opponent Carlos Mesa had obtained 36.51 %, ruling out a second round.
The opposition questioned the close margin of victory in the first round and the temporary interruption of the rapid vote count, which anticipates the data and is parallel to the official one. Thus, during election day and the following days, the conservative candidate Carlos Mesa encouraged demonstrations against the electoral courts and attacks on representatives of the MAS government, which became increasingly violent. In some cities, for example Sucre and Potosi, CC supporters attacked and set fire to the Electoral Court Department, forcing the suspension of the vote count and further complicating the collection of data at national level.
Meanwhile, the Organization of American States (OAS) issued two reports. A preliminary one before the publication of official results and the final report issued afterwards, reporting on suspected irregularities in the vote count and aggravating the opposition's claims. These reports were supported by the United States and the European Union.
After three weeks of chaos throughout the country, with pillaging, roadblocks, blockades of cities and industries, and total inaction by the public forces, on 10 November 2019 Evo Morales announced that the elections would be repeated and the members of the Supreme Electoral Court renovated. However, a few hours later he announced on the state television channel his resignation from the presidency after losing the support of the police and the army, whose commanders asked for his resignation. The president had to leave the country and go into exile in Mexico.
On 12th of November of 2019, Jeanine Áñez, who represented a party that received barely 4% of the votes, was elected provisional president by consensus among the opponents.
One of the first measures taken by the provisional president was to empower the armed forces to commit extra-judicial killings by exonerating them by law from any responsibility in the exercise of repression against civilians. With these credentials, the army responded with the massacres of 14 November in Sacaba (Cochabamba), where nine peasants died in clashes with the police and military, and 120 were injured; and the massacre of 19 November in Senkata (La Paz), where 11 civilians were killed.
Finally, on 24 November 2019 the Bolivian Congress approved the cancellation of the elections by unanimity in order to make it possible to hold new ones in May 2020.
Both the official story and most of the media supported the coup d'état, but was there an electoral fraud as established by the report of the Organization of American States?
Various prestigious international organisations such as the University of Michigan, the Latin American Strategic Centre for Geopolitics, the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have all issued statements denying the OAS report and considering the election results valid. In their reports they questioned the methodology used by the OAS and the validity of its conclusions, rejecting the unfounded doubts that were expressed. In addition, independent research studies by The New York Times or The Washington Post concluded that they had found no anomalies or irregularities, criticizing the OAS report for not being based on facts, being incomplete and not being scientific in nature.
On the other hand, the investigations also revealed the interference of the USA in the Bolivarian elections, supporting the coup d'état against the government of Evo Morales, an attitude that is not at all surprising if we analyse the history of Latin America in the 20th century. The collision between the USA and Bolivia dates back to the first MAS government in 2006. A programme originated from the trade union and indigenous bases was initiated to nationalize natural resources and to impose conditions on the presence of multinationals, preventing them from having a controlling interest in strategic companies.
And finally it was the people who spoke at the polls. The new elections on 18 October 2020, which were forced to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, gave the victory to Evo Morales' representative with the Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) party, Luis Arce, who obtained 55.11% of the votes in the first round.
After a year of clashes with civil society and tough disputes on the streets of the country's main cities, Luis Arce will now confront social upheaval and economic hardship, internsified by the coronavirus pandemic.
What happened in Bolivia is just another example of the intolerance and interference that capitalism and its tools often use when faced with the opportunity to sabotage and destabilize legitimate governments whose actions, policies and speeches are contrary to their interests.
I hope that when the future brings me back to wanting to enter Bolivia, no coup d'état will prevent us from doing so.
- Enric Roures -
Investigation: Survivors of Bolivia coup massacre cry out for justice
- Independent journalistic investigation by Grayzone into the massacre of indigenous peoples by the coup government in the Senkata area of El Alto in November 2019 -
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