Bolivian leftists claim landslide victory in Presidential election

After US backed forces falsely staged a coup, indigenous leader Morales had to leave the country. The elections shows new hope for him, and the indigenous population as a whole.

Today, 19th October, Evo Morales’ party Movement for Socialism (MAS) claimed victory in a presidential election. This is a huge win for Bolivian democratic forces and its indigenous population, who faced heavy suppression after the right-wing interim Government staged a US-backed coup last year. 

There has not yet been an official declaration and that could take days, but the “rapid count” shows a clear winner in the Morales’ handpicked successor, Luis Arce. Even the interim president tweeted:

“We do not yet have an official count, but from the data we have, Mr. Arce and Mr. Choquehuanca have won the election. I congratulate the winners and ask them to govern with Bolivia and democracy in mind.”
 
The news of landslide victory came as a surprise: pre-election polls did show Arce ahead but predicted a second round against centrist former President Carlos Mesa. To win the first round, a candidate needs more than 50% of the vote, or 40% while leading against the second-place candidate by 10%. According to the rapid count, the MAS candidate received at least 52% votes, while Mesa got only around 31.5%. This victory and the similar result to the 2019 elections also legitimises Morales’ victory in 2019, which the US depicted as undemocratic.

2019 Bolivian Election Crisis

In the 2019 elections, Morales had initially been declared president after MAS won 48% of the vote. However, this was highly disputed and the Organisation of American state alleged irregularities in the electoral process. For decades, US propaganda has depicted democratically leftist elected leaders as “dictators” and U.S.-supported coups as democratic. Morales attributed the coup to Western anger over his decision to sell some of the country’s lithium supply to China rather than Western companies.
 
After continued civil unrest of 21 days following these claims, trade unions, the military, and police of asked the Bolivian President to resign. Morales complied, along with other high-level politicians, and the Government of Mexico offered asylum after Morales cited fear for their families. Later, he shifted to Argentina. Morales had described the allegations of vote-rigging as part of a “coup.”

Suppression of Journalists by Bolivian interim Govt.

This did not calm things in Bolivia, and the Morales’ supporters staged large-scale protests. The right-wing Government responded with heavy-handed surveillance and policing measures. They were yet able to gain and maintain international legitimacy because of American backing and consolidation of power.

Before the pandemic itself, there was a strong intimidation of the media, and then-Minister of Communication, Roxana Lizárraga used “sedition” to publicly threaten journalists. Their phones and cameras were confiscated, they were subjected to continuous threats, and conversations on their phones were used to directly attack journalists. There were also blockades on investigations. They used “misinformation” as a reason for this, but Bolivian intellectuals point out this isn’t an issue in Bolivia, and if anything such misinformation was spread by the right-wing government and the US itself.

After the pandemic hit, the Bolivian right-wing Government used it as a justification for tightening information control. IACHR and international CSOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch considered these to be attacks against the fundamental rights to freedom of expression and information.

Indigenous Rights in Bolivia

Under Morales- Bolivia’s first indigenous president– and MAS, Bolivia’s poor and Indigenous majority secured rights and economic gains through social programs. They also pushed for nationalisation of oil and natural gas, which provided revenue for the same and made them financially secure.

Meanwhile, the right wing Government pushed forward racist revanchism, backed by Christian fundamentalism. They aimed to bring Bolivia back to the pre-2003 regime of authoritarian neoliberalism, especially by giving businessmen like Marinkovic direct political representation for agribusiness, finance, and oil and gas extraction interests. During protests led by indigineous populations, two massacres were committed by the military, and at least 19 (mostly indigenous people) were killed.

Bolivians have described this as a victory for the indigenous people, especially against American capitalism.

 

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