Bolivia - 2019 - Presidential Election and Resignation
Evo Morales gave a press conference 23 October 2019 in which he warned that a right-wing coup attempt was being carried out so as to stop the full counting of votes, and annul the result of the elections if it gave Morales a first-round victory. "A coup is underway, carried out by the right-wing with foreign support...what are the methods of this coup attempt? They’re not recognizing or waiting for election results, they’re burning down electoral courts, they want to proclaim the second-place candidate as the winner”, Morales told journalists assembled.
The Radio Education Network of Bolivia (Erbol) on 05 November 2019 leaked 16 audios involving opposition leaders who were calling for a coup d'etat against the government of President Evo Morales, a political action which would have been coordinated from the U.S. embassy in the Andean country. Among those mentioned in the audios are the U.S. senators Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez and Ted Cruz, who maintained contact with the Bolivian opposition in order to achieve a possible regime change in the South American country.
On 08 November 2019, President Morales held a meeting with his interior and defense ministers after it was known that some units of the Police had made a riot. this meeting was also attended by the Army commander Williams Kaliman and the Police commander Yuri Calderon, who had assured that everything was calm just a few minutes before the riots began. The next day, Morales denounced a coup by violent groups as some police officers joined opposition protests.
Morales proposed a dialogue process with the opposition parties but was rejected and even accepted the Organization of American States’ (OAS) call for new elections. However, due to strong violent onslaughts against militants and leaders of the Movement To Socialism (MAS), intimidation of journalists, burning of residences and betrayal of political allies and members of the National Police, Morales and his Vice President decided to leave the government in order to prevent more violence.
Moments after the Organization of American States (OAS) released a report alleging gross "manipulations" of election computer systems, Morales announced fresh elections and vowed to reform the electoral commission. Hours later, heads of the military and police demanded Morales step down in a bid to end deadly civil unrest.
Bolivian President Evo Morales was forced to resign 10 November 2019 after senior army and police chiefs called on him to do so following weeks of right-wing unrest and violence against his Oct. 20 elections victory, in what his government has called a coup by opposition forces in the country. “I decided to resign from my position so that Carlos Mesa and Luis Camacho stop abusing and harming thousands of brothers ... I have the obligation to seek peace and it hurts a lot that we face Bolivians, for this reason, so I will send my letter of resignation to the Plurinational Assembly of Bolivia,” the former president of Bolivia said in a press release.
Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera also said that he was resigning from his position. The two leaders said that they would be handing their resignation letters to the country's National Assembly. Since both President and Vice Presiden resigned, the president of the Senate, a position held by Adriana Salvatierra of the MAS party was supposed to assume the post but she later issued her resignation as well as the president of the Chamber of Deputies.
World leaders and organizations expressed Sunday their solidarity with former Bolivian President Evo Morales under the hashtag #ElMundoconEvo (the World with Evo) and strongly condemned the right-wing coup which forced Morales to resign. “I just heard that there was a coup d'état in Bolivia and that comrade Evo was forced to resign. It is unfortunate that Latin America has an economic elite that does not know how to live with democracy and the social inclusion of the poorest,” former Brazilian President and Leader of the Workers’ Party (PT) Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said.
The historic Brazilian leader’s message was echoed by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro who “categorically condemned the consummated coup d'etat against the brother president Evo,” adding that “the social and political movements of the world declare mobilization to demand the preservation of the life of the Bolivian Indigenous people victims of racism.” Cuba’s government was also quick to reject the coup as President Miguel Diaz-Canel urged for “the world to mobilize for the life and freedom of Evo.”
“To see Evo who, along with a powerful movement, has brought so much social progress forced from office by the military is appalling. I condemn this coup against the Bolivian people and stand with them for democracy, social justice, and independence,” British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote.
Currently, the line of succession was broken in Bolivia. Bolivia will now move forward with new presidential elections. However, it is unclear whether Morales will stand as a candidate. Mexico has offered to provide asylum to Morales if he decides to flee the country.
Bolivia held general elections in November 2019 and primary elections to determine each party's presidential and vice-presidential candidates in January 2019. The parties have already handed in their list of registered militants and are formalizing alliances this week. Evo Morales won the last three presidential elections with more than 50 percent of the votes. He was granted the right to run again in 2019.
The Organization of American States (OAS) and Bolivia signed an agreement today for the deployment of a mission of experts to the 27 January 2019 primary elections that will determine the presidential tickets for the general elections of October 2019. The Permanent Representative of Bolivia to the OAS, José Gonzáles, highlighted that this was the first time that his country has organized primaries, and thanked the Organization for its support in the electoral process. "For us it is a learning process, it is the first time we have this kind of experience, and we are aware of the tradition that the OAS has in its observations in elections of this type, so we know that its accompaniment will be very healthy," added Ambassador Gonzáles.
The Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, said that the Organization accepts the invitation to participate as observers "with pleasure." "At the General Secretariat we maintain our commitment to strengthening electoral institutions and processes, both in our Andean brother country and in all the countries of the region," said Secretary General Almagro. The Mission would be composed of five specialists who will observe substantial aspects of the process in areas such as electoral organization and technology. Since 1966, the OAS has sent missions to 17 electoral processes in Bolivia.
Bolivia’s longest serving president confirmed in September 2016 he will step down as head of state in early 2020. "I have already said several times, I am not in the campaign and you have told me, 'Go!' And I am going in January 2020, we are prepared for that," said Evo Morales in a speech to supporters in Pando. The announcement was met with skepticism by Bolivia’s opposition. Core supporters from the ruling Movement Toward Socialism party say Evo Morales remains their favored candidate for the next elections in 2019.
Morales' announcement follows months of speculation that the president might decide to run for office again despite losing February’s referendum on abolishing two-term presidential limits. The "No" campaign narrowly won the vote by 51.3 percent. Evo Morales and senior ministers in the leftist government blamed a "dirty war" waged on social media by the opposition and the United States for "fooling" the electorate into voting against the administration.
Coca producers, one of the most important allies of the socialist government, have been encouraging Morales to find a way to legitimately seek a fourth term. "The social movements are collecting signatures asking for a new referendum to authorize his re-election and this announcement seems to be part of an electoral campaign," said opposition Congresswoman Jimena Costa. Former Vice President Victor Hugo Cardenas claimed, "It would not be the first or the last time that Evo Morales promises one thing and, shortly after, does the opposite."
In November 2017, the country's Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal ruled in favor of allowing all elected officials to continue to run for office indefinitely. The decision was based on the judges' interpretation of political rights as defined by the American Convention on Human Rights, according to the North American Congress on Latin America, NACLA.
Ecuador's former President Rafael Correa said he's certain Bolivian President Evo Morales, Latin America's first Indigenous head of state, will be re-elected for a fourth term in the 2019 elections. Interviewing Morales on his show 'Speaking With Correa,' broadcasted by Russian media outlet RT in July 2018, Correa highlighted "double standards" among the international community regarding re-elections. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was praised as a "great leader" on being elected for her fourth term, while Latin American leaders are branded 'dictators,' Correa said.
"Evo Morales makes history in Latin America, the leader who transformed his dear Bolivia, but we also see here a double standard at international level," Correa said. "Because Evo is not doing what everybody does, they say he failed, that he's a populist. Because he will certainly win his fourth election, he's a caudillo and Bolivia a dictatorship. If with all due respect Angela Merkel wins her fourth election, she's a leader and Germany a mature democracy."
Morales and Correa discussed attacks from the international right, and the U.S. threat towards progressive governments in Latin America. One example was the case of friend Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian ex-president currently imprisoned on trumped-up corruption charges – effectively a political prisoner, they said.
"If there's no military coup, there's a parliamentary coup; a judicial court," said Morales. "I was reading the newspapers and they say they will grant Lula freedom if he's not a candidate, or a judge that says 'I don't have evidence; I have convictions.' Imagine that."
Bolivia's President Evo Morales said in September 2018 that although he would prefer farming coca than running in the 2019 elections, the public has asked him to return for a fourth stint in office. "The people ask me to return, I do not want to... I want to return to my region to harvest coca, that's the great desire I have, but it is not easy to reject it when the people push you," Morales said.
Morales has led the country since 2006 and has alluded to improving the country's bovine and beef sectors before his term comes to an end. "When I go to Yacuiba, on the border with Paraguay, they invite me to barbecue Paraguayan or Argentine cattle, and we want to have Bolivian meat," the president told Pagina Siete.
Since Morales' inauguration, Bolivia's poverty levels have fallen by 3.5 percent; 5,200 schools and 49 hospitals have been built, and the country's economic independence has grown significantly. Through his Twitter account, Morales explained: "Our main achievement is economic liberation thanks to the nationalization of our natural resources and strategic companies, with the unity of the Bolivian people nothing is impossible." And he thanked the Bolivian people for giving him one last shot at the presidency.
In Bolivia, the right-wing has been unable to produce new leaders or to form a unity in order to face Morales in the upcoming elections. They’re forced to rely on the ghosts of a bygone era, implicated in the country’s deepest economic and social crises. Caudillos like Doria Medina and Mesa have long believed that public office was their personal right. All the leading opposition candidates, Carlos Mesa of the Revolutionary Leftist Front, Victor Hugo Cardenas of the Solidarity Civic Unity, and Jaime Paz Zamora of the Democratic Christian Party have been either former presidents or vice-presidents. All during Bolivia's neoliberal period. Mesa and Cardenas served as VP during the infamous presidencies of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, who was responsible for violent privatization attempts and repression.
Evo's opposition had been united under the umbrella of “Bolivia Dijo NO” (Bolivia said no) in reference to a 2016 referendum on re-election limits. Morales lost the referendum but in 2017 Bolivia’s highest court struck down limits on re-election, paving the way for President Morales to run for a fourth term in 2019. In that context, with Morales running, opposition parties have been urged to unite in a single candidacy ahead of the primary votes. However, the coming primaries have only revealed that the right was still dominated by the old families and interests that brought the country to ruin before Evo was swept to office in 2006.
Carlos Mesa was so far Morales' leading rival. A former Vice-President and President, he governed immediately prior to Evo during a period of institutional and economic collapse. First as VP to Sanchez de Lozada, or ‘Goni,’ the President who fled by helicopter to Miami after the economic crisis and ‘Black October’ massacres. Mesa was a key part of Goni's political campaign. He contracted right-wing United States-based public relations companies to sell neoliberal ‘shock doctrine’ to an unwilling and unconvinced people in resistance. After political marketing failed, bloody repression followed as over 70 protesters were killed during demonstrations against privatization, some of them were shot by the army from helicopters that flew over unarmed crowds.
Victor Hugo Cardenas, former VP during Goni’s first term in office, during a period of rapid privatization of state companies. He was the first Indigenous VP and a prominent representative of a neoliberal identity politics that has tried to marry Indigeneity with neoliberal austerity. He’s running in an alliance with a coalition of activist groups of mostly far-right "citizen's platforms." The largest of these was a group called “Las Calles,” which has formal and financial links to Brazil's recently-elected president Jair Bolsonaro.
Jaime Paz Zamora presided over a period when inflation ran at over 2,000 percent.
Samuel Doria Medina was one of the figures that best symbolizes the strategic and political failures of the Bolivian right. He has tried and failed to be elected three times now, yet he refuses to step aside and let others within his party stand. An oligarch who owns a cement and hotel empire, as well as the Burger King and Subway franchise in the country. After being rejected by the other sections of the opposition as too toxic, he’s building an alliance with Ruben Costas, the separatist mayor of Santa Cruz, responsible for almost plunging the country into civil war in 2009.
The political landscape was more hostile this time around. The shift to the right in Latin America has emboldened right-wing grounds across borders. The fact Evo was running for a third term after rejecting the results of a popular referendum has taken a toll.
Despite the difficult terrain, it was still likely that Evo will win in 2019 due to the economic bonanza the country has witnessed and the opposition's inability to form a united front. Bolivians will have to choose between two types of continuity. One of privatizations, austerity, economic crisis and repression that characterized the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s or a fourth Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) government, which has proven nationalization and poverty reduction are possible without hampering economic growth.
The nationalization of strategic sectors, like gas, telecommunications, and utilities has provided the government the revenue necessary to launch massive social programs and expand infrastructure. Even now that commodity prices are low, the economy was still growing at a faster pace than anywhere else in South America, including neoliberal Colombia and Argentina, while boasting the largest foreign-exchange reserves as a guarantee against devaluations and possible inflation.
Evo’s party was also by far the best organized for these elections. They registered over 1 million supporters for the primaries while opposition parties are in the tens of thousands. This was partly because MAS isn't a traditional party but rather a coalition of social movements, including Campesinos and trade unions, who seek participation in structures of power and policymaking, forming what they refer to as a "popular democracy."
Morales easily secured his place as the candidate for the ruling Movement for Socialism (MAS) in Bolivia's first-ever primaries in January, but, as opposition to his presidency spreads to his traditional base, analysts say victory for the left-wing ethnopopulist this month was by no means certain. Discontent over Morales's audacious bid for a fourth consecutive term spilled into the streets with protests, a government building being set alight and national strikes.
In 2018, Morales rejected judicial independence, branding it a "doctrine of North America" and of "capitalism". Allegations of corruption, including links to the region-wide Odebrecht bribery scandal and an investigation into his now-jailed-ex-girlfriend, have plagued Morales for years. His administration has frequently criticised the country's privately-owned media as a "cartel of liars", while the president himself referred to journalists as "media terrorists" and stated as far back as 2009 that the press was his "number one enemy".
The main challenger, former President Carlos Mesa, was seen by some as the very embodiment of the white political elite that Morales helped to usher out. The latest opinion poll, compiled by the Universidad Mayor de San Andres and other academic and civil institutions, suggested that Morales could be edged out in a second round run-off.
Bolivian President Evo Morales took the lead in voting 20 October 2019, but could face a second-round runoff. Initially, the three-term president was in the lead with just over 45% of the vote, compared to around 38% for his main challenger, Carlos Mesa, according to preliminary results after 83% of ballots had been counted. If no candidate receives 50% of the vote in the first round, or 40% of the vote with a 10-point lead over second place, the two leading candidates would face each other in a runoff on December 15. Morales said he was certain outstanding votes from rural areas, where he tends to have stronger support, would deliver him another "historic" victory. If the results held, Morales would face his first runoff election and could be vulnerable to opposition forces uniting around Mesa. South Korean-born evangelical pastor, Chi Hyun Chung, was in third place with 8.7% of the vote. Liberal Senator Oscar Ortiz was in fourth with 4.4%.
On 20 October 2019 Bolivia's top electoral authority stopped announcing new results - a point at which Morales had a lead of 45.3 percent to 38.2 percent over his closest rival, former President Carlos Mesa. Under Bolivian law, Morales needed a 10-percentage point advantage over Mesa to avoid a second-round election in December.
Morales claimed to have won the Presidency after obtaining 46.86 percent of the votes against 36.73 percent from right-wing main opposition candidate Carlos Mesa, meaning a 10-point lead to win outright. With 95.03 percent of votes counted from within Bolivia and across the world, left-wing candidate from the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party and current head of state beat Mesa from the Citizen Community (CC) party by gaining more than 40 percent of the valid votes and a 10-point lead. Morales counted on the rural vote, which took more time to be counted but handed him the so awaited victory to lead from 2020 to 2025. His party will also have a majority in Congres meaning governance will not be blocked by opposition parties.
International monitors from the Organization of American States voiced "deep concern" at sudden changes to the election count to show Morales closing in on an outright victory in the first round. Preliminary results released late Sunday showed neither Morales, 59, nor 66-year-old Mesa with a majority and "clearly indicated a second round," the OAS mission said. Results released after a long and unexplained delay, showed Morales edging towards an outright victory. The OAS observer mission in the country expressed "surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results revealed after the closing of the polls," it said in a statement.
The United States' top diplomat for Latin America said the Electoral Tribunal was attempting "to subvert Bolivia's democracy by delaying the vote count and taking actions that undermine the credibility of Bolivia's elections." Michael Kozak, said "We call on the TSE to immediately act to restore credibility in the vote counting process".
Bolivia's electoral authority reported that Morales had avoided a runoff in his re-election bid touched off protests by the leader's opponents already upset by a sudden halt in the release of the vote count. Crowds burned the offices of the electoral body in the southern cities of Sucre and Potosi, and protesters set fire to ballots from Sunday's election in Tarija. Groups of Morales' supporters and opponents also clashed in a number of places, including the administrative capital of La Paz.
The Bolivian opposition through the Civic Committees and the opposition group National Military Coordinator had prepared groups of young people to carry out violent actions, mainly in the cities of Santa Cruz and La Paz. These young people were inserted in the protests and were ordered to provoke violent confrontations with the police. These actions were accompanied by a military uprising, being the National Military Coordinator, with the support of the Union of Retired Military of Santa Cruz, who would organize the actions.
Anti-government right-wing protests turned violent 21 October 2019 with numerous violent attacks took place across the country as preliminary results indicated that leftist President Evo Morales was on course for a first-round victory. Attacks included the burning down of vote counting centers and assaulting Indigenous supporters of Morales. In response, social movements have called for a state of emergency, and a mobilization of workers in the streets to defend the vote. The violence followed a call by opposition candidate Carlos Mesa for his supporters to take to the streets and not recognise the preliminary results being published by the electoral authorities.
The first such action was in the city of Sucre, an opposition stronghold, where rioters set fire to the regional electoral authority. Elsewhere in the country, government buildings were attacked in Tarija, Oruro, the campaign headquarters of Morales’ party were vandalised. In Cochabamba, where Morales was leading the vote, protesters attempted to seize control of the Campo Ferial, which was the hall in which the votes were being counted.
The European Union on 25 October 2019 backed calls from election observers for a runoff poll in Bolivia's controversial presidential election, following days of protests and allegations of vote-rigging. "The European Union shares the [Organization of American States] assessment that the best option would be to make a runoff to restore trust and ensure full respect for the democratic elections of the Bolivian people," the EU said in a statement. The bloc also called for parties to refrain from further violence. The United States, Colombia, Brazil and Argentina also called for a second-round vote between President Evo Morales and his top challenger. In a communique issued by Colombia's Foreign Ministry, the four nations said they "will only recognize results that reflect the will of the Bolivian people."
Opposition Senator Jeanine Áñez declared herself president of Bolivia 12 November 2019, despite not meeting with the constitutional requirements for such a move, as Parliament did not achieve a quorum because the lawmakers of the Movement to Socialism (MAS) could not attend, due to a lack of guarantees for their security. MAS has a majority in Parliament. "I immediately assume the presidency of the State and I undertake to take all necessary measures to pacify the country," said Áñez, who is the second vice president of the Senate of Bolivia and from the right-wing Social Democratic Movement.
But her legitimacy had already come into question. As the editor of the Grayzone Project pointed out, Añez is a fringe figure who garnered only 1.7 percent of the votes cast in Bolivia’s last elections. Anez named 11 cabinet ministers and appointed a new military high command. In a press conference at the presidential palace, she reiterated a pledge to "hold elections in the shortest possible time."
Once the National Assembly ends its period of contempt and new electoral deputies are elected, the legislative commissions will likely be operational again by the third trimester of 2020. A total of 21 commissioners would be appointed: 11 lawmakers from the opposition and from the government, as well as 10 members of the civil society.
Anez will need to form a new electoral court, find non-partisan staff for the electoral tribunal and get Congress, which is controlled by Morales's Movement for Socialism Party (MAS), to vote on a new election. All of which must be done before 22 January 2020, when Morales's current term was due to end.
Bolivia's interim government and lawmakers from the party of unseated leader Evo Morales struck a deal late on Thursday to pursue new elections, potentially helping resolve the South American country's political crisis.
On 14 November 2019, the Senate President, a member of Morales' Movement for Socialism (MAS) party, said there was agreement to work towards new elections. "Today is an historic day where we have been able to agree between opposition and government with the sole objective to make new elections as soon as possible, to pacify our country and above all to defend democracy," said Mónica Eva Copa Murga, who had earlier been confirmed in the role. She called on Bolivia's security forces, who have been facing skirmishes in the streets with pro-Morales supporters, to treat the country's indigenous groups with respect. "Let's get rid of colors, of radical positions, what our country is looking for right now is peace," she said.
Bolivia's interim President Jeanine Anez, said, however, that Morales himself would not be welcome as a candidate. "Evo Morales does not qualify to run for a fourth term," conservative former senator Anez told a news conference, adding the country's "convulsions" were because he had run in defiance of term limits. She said MAS, which has a majority in Congress, was welcome to participate in the vote. "They should start searching for a candidate," she said.
Anez did not give a specific date for the election, but under the constitution she has 90 days to do so since declaring herself interim leader. Anez was shoring up her position. She has appointed a new military chief and cabinet members, while MAS lawmakers seemed to have backed away from plans to try to nullify her interim appointment.
Tulsi Gabbard finally provided her take on the violent unrest that toppled the sitting president Evo Morales, telling her followers that it was a coup which shouldn’t involve US interference. “What happened in Bolivia is a coup. Period,” Gabbard wrote on Twitter, warning against what may lie in store for Washington’s interventionists. “The United States and other countries should not be interfering in the Bolivian people’s pursuit of self-determination and right to choose their own government,” she argued.
Washington is involved in the violent clashes that led to the change of government in Bolivia in November, Director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Sergey Naryshkin stated on 23 November 2019. According to the official, the US needed a crisis in Bolivia to change the nation's policy, adding that the situation will remain rocky for awhile. He also noted that the crisis was akin to the unrest in Venezuela, stating they belong to the same strategy.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR/CIDH) reported on 22 November 2019 that 23 people had died and 715 people had been injured since the beginning of the institutional and political crisis in Bolivia.
The current mandate of lawmakers is coming to an end in 2020, so there must be a new National Assembly in 2021.
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