Bolivia's 2020

Vision is Unclear

Wendy Buendia

     As we here in America are coming close to the end of a presidential term, the citizens of Bolivia are in the midst of starting a new one in early May. A lot of controversy has followed last October’s presidential elections that now neccessitate a re-election, when Evo Morales decided to run for a fourth term against former president Carlos Mesa, his closest rival. This particular May election will have a significant impact not only for the future of Bolivia, but with its relations with the rest of South America and other countries such as the United States, Mexico, and Russia. 


     On October 20th 2019, the Bolivian presidential elections took place. The most popular candidates were Evo Morales, Carlos Mesa, Victor Hugo Cardeñas, Chi Hyun Chung, and Óscar Ortíz. Evo was the president at the time of the elections. Evo belonged to the MAS party. The acronym stands for Movimiento Al Socialismo, which translates for Movement for Socialism. He became the country’s first indigenous president on January 22nd, 2006, and had stayed in office for three consecutive terms and was running for a fourth term. During his administration, Morales  lifted millions out of poverty and the GDP per capita tripled. During the time of the elections, the reasons why people thought Evo could win and serve a fourth term was because of the economic and political stability that defined his years. However, he lost support mid-year when he didn’t provide adequate resources to help subdue the Amazon forest fires. 


     Evo had also stayed in power for almost a decade and a half, which has earned him a reputation of being authoritarian. Evo Morales has done a lot of good for his country, but has refused to let go off the power. The October elections would have determined if he got to stay in power, since he had lost significant support since the last election. Because Morales was in power for so long, the people of Bolivia protested against him running for a fourth term, which shouldn’t have been possible, but Morales convinced the Bolivian Supreme

     Court to amend the law that determines how many terms a president could serve. 

After the votes were counted, it seemed that Morales would serve a fourth term. However, the Organization of American States had suspicions that Morales committed fraud. In December 2019, The New York Times reported that the protests provided a reason for the military to “suggest” that he leave office, and so Morales left on a private plane with his vice president and his health minister for Havana, Cuba. Jeanine Añez, a right-wing Catholic politician and the second vice president of the Senate, was deemed the next in line and was sworn in as interim president without election following the protests against Evo that were happening all across the country. There were also protests against Añez becoming interim president. These two groups of protesters collided, and resulted in violent acts against Morales’ followers, who are predominantly indigenous. 


     The indigenous flag that stands aside the official flag was burned by Añez followers. Nine of Morales’ followers were killed during the protests against the military after Añez issued a decree that would grant immunity for security forces from prosceution because they were trying to “reestablish internal order.” She soon stacked her cabinet with religious conservatives, and sent an ambassador to the United States, the first one in Washington in 11 years. Morales had previously deported an U.S ambassador from the U.S embassy in La Paz a few years ago.


     Tensions between the United States and Bolivia were fragile, but the White House administration were gleeful that Evo was removed from power. As soon as Añez took over, the U.S soon recognized her as president. Others however, including Mexico and Cuba, did not. Since Evo became a political refugee in Mexico, tensions between the Trump administration and Mexico had escalated. On December 2019, The Guardian reported a statement from the White House saying that Mexico’s government should not, “ support, much less finance, a campaign by the deposed president to retake power in Bolivia. That is why Evo’s presence cannot last too long … because the more time that passes the more likely it is to become a source of tension between Mexico and the U.S.”  


     The rules for the re-elections in early May have started to come into view. Añez and Morales won’t be running in the May elections. Following the controversy surrounding the election, Añez issued a decree that will help make sure that the elections will be fair. Morales also wants the elections to be monitored by international organizations. Potential candidates have started to campaign. The political left candidates are vying to be Morales’ political heir and are currently awaiting a final decision from his party and himself on January 15th. 


     One candidate that is climbing up the polls is Andrónico Rodríguez. A survey by the newspaper Pagina Siete found that Rodirguez was leading with 23 percent of voter preference. Carlos Mesa, Morales’ former rival in the 2019 elections, who is running for president again, is following closely with 21 percent. A young man with a political science degree from one of the largest universities in Bolivia, Rodríguez first became an activist when he started following his father to coca farmer union meetings as a toddler. The coca grower’s leader said he is willing to run to support MAS and Morales, but considers it neccessary to fix the mistakes of the party. 


     The direction in which the Bolivian government will go in is still unclear. The future president will have to make sure to not walk the same path as the previous president, but also continue the progress that has helped millions out of poverty and improved the economy.