By Jim Hayes
Bolivia might be a small south American country. But the stakes in this Sunday’s election were high for the country, the region, and the United States. This made it an immensely important political event, which will have far spread repercussions.
A year ago Evo Morales was forced to resign after confronted by generals who promised they would otherwise impose their will by force. Much of the international media presented this as being about a President that refused to go and that the recent election result had been annulled. It was still a coup, which was subsequently imposed with brutality. Dozens died, although we don’t know the full extent of the number.
It was said that there had been a popular uprising against him. Some Bolivians were against Morales and other did not support his constitutional change to remain in office. But the evidence shows that the opposition on the streets was largely made up of forces tied to the military.
Morales and the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party were still popular. The election result has confirmed this. Presidential candidate Luis Arce appears to have won by a landslide 53 percent, showing that those with connections to the coup do not have the support of the population.
“Brothers and sisters, the will of the people has been imposed,” said Morales via Twitter. “This has been an overwhelming victory.”
Arce of Morales’ party says Bolivia ‘has recovered democracy’
Video from AFP News Agency
Opponent Carlos Mesa, who got 30 percent, has conformed Acre’s win. One would think that this would be the end of the story.
But no sooner were the exit polls starting to show the extent of the unfolding result, their publication was blocked by the nation’s electoral body. A recent poll by the nongovernmental organization Fundación Jubileo found that just 40 percent of Bolivians trust the them.
Although there might be some difference between these numbers and the final count declaration, the margin is so wide, that there was never going to be a major difference.
When officials stopped posting of ballot results, as the trend became obvious, it fed fears that the result may not be accepted, and that it may be a ploy to encourage violence in the streets. This could be used as a justification for the army to step in.
Working against it is that the win by MAS is so overwhelming, that it is impossible to hide, and the fact that the contenders have publicly accepted the Acre win.
The MAS response was clear in a message to its supporters and the population as a whole: “we call on the community to avoid provocations… let’s end this nightmare we have been living for a year.”
The average person in Bolivia knows that during the Morales Presidency millions were lifted out of poverty in what is perhaps the poorest country in the continent, and that the economy was transformed from a basket case into showpiece.
MAS, with Morales as its leader, took on the traditionally powerful elite, curtailed their power and lifted the rest of the population. This is what led to a showdown.
Last year’s coup had been precipitated by an unsubstantiated claim from the US State Department and substantiated by the compliant and Washington based American Organisation of States (AOS), that the 2019 election was a fraud. both backed the coup and what followed.
It is unrealistic to suppose that the new election result will be accepted. Efforts to undermine the new government will begin straight away.
The ouster of Morales was a key component of the regional strategy of the long standing United States’ policy of regime change, to counter the rise of governments in South and Central America not to its liking. Bolivia and Morales figured large.
This week’s election result is a blow to this strategy. It may even boost the chances that other Washington sponsored regimes across the region will fall.
The most important is Brazil, where Jair Bolsonaro had won an on the back of imprisoning rival Lula da Silva, the framing and charging of former President Dilma Rouseff, and an alleged array of electoral manipulation and fraud,
Bolsonaro’s political base is disappearing and Lula has been vindicated, out of prison campaigning, and was quick to congratulate the MAS victory in Bolivia. With Lula’s has return, economic crisis, and a serious mishandling of the pandemic, it is only a matter of time, before there is a new showdown in Brazil.