Political Chaos in Bolivia

By Justin Higginbotham

September 21, 2020

In 1998, Evo Morales was elected President of Bolivia, becoming the first indigenous person to become president in the two thirds indigenous populated country. Morales quickly became a popular figure, lowering Bolivian poverty rates from 32% to 10% and enacted policy aimed towards supporting the working class and indigenous peoples and warding off multinational corporations. Bolivia has famously been the target of large technology companies trying to extract the nation’s abundant resource of lithium, a material essential in the production of batteries. Just months after Morales announces he is going to nationalize the lithium industry in Bolivia, he is deposed during the October 20th, 2019 elections after a power outage called into question the legitimacy of his victory.

     Despite the consensus amongst electoral projections and polling predicting a Morales victory, the OAS declared the election results to have been manipulated. However, the CEPR stated there was no substantial evidence supporting the claim Morales in some way tampered with the results. After calls for Morales’ resignation, the president-elect decided to allow a recount of the votes, yet Bolivian politicians and the Bolivian military both clearly state they would refuse to uphold a Morales ran government if he won. 

   The situation had become what many would describe as a military coup to put in power the Far-Right Jeanine Áñez as acting president. After Áñez was placed into power, she was met with massive pro-Morales protests, many believing this coup was backed by the same large multinational corporations who sought to exploit Bolivia’s natural lithium resources. Áñez responds with the force of the military, declaring soldiers will not be held criminally responsible for any violence they inflict onto protesters. A Washington Post article states “Since being sworn in, the fiercely anti-socialist Áñez has presided over the detention of hundreds of opponents, the muzzling of journalists and a ‘national pacification’ campaign that has left at least 31 people dead, according to the national ombudsman and human rights groups”. Multiple human rights organizations have been heavily critical of Áñez and her treatment of journalists and protesters. 

  Áñez has twice delayed the election while stating her only purpose as acting president is to hold said elections. Áñez cites the reason for these delays being the current COVID-19 pandemic, yet simultaneously she has expelled 700+ Cuban medical professionals from the country. Pro-Morales protests and demonstrations have maintained as we near a whole year of an Áñez-ran government, police and military power remains unchecked as violence is taking place against protestors. According to Human Rights Watch, the Áñez government “appears to prioritize brutally cracking down on opponents and critics and give the armed forces a blank check to commit abuses instead of working to restore the rule of law in the country.”

   As we are near a month from the current scheduled electoral recount on October 18th, the Áñez regime must allow Morales out of exile if they wish to avoid further disapproval from international organizations such as CEPR. Yet at this point, it seems unlikely that Áñez will allow Morales to return, and much less likely run for the presidency.  Judging from the events of the past year, it seems very possible that Áñez will postpone the election once again, if she does not then October 18th will decide the future state of Bolivia and whether it will regain its relatively stable Socialist Party leadership or continue down the road of the Christian conservative Áñez government.

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