Bolivian Coup Thrusts Country into Political Turmoil

I am the eggman, coup coup cachoo

By Meredith McLaughlin

Editor-in-Chief

Bolivia is currently in turmoil due to a recent contested presidential election between incumbent Evo Morales and challenger Carlos Mesa. Morales and his government were accused of interfering with the elections after the vote count was stopped without explanation for 24 hours. After the stop, Morales had gained a greater lead, and ultimately won the election. Morales’ opposition called to invalidate the election results, believing them to be tampered. Morales had initially promised to have a second election and to replace the electoral council, but this never came to occur, as the head of the Bolivian Armed Forces “asked” the president to step down. In the wake of Morales’ resignation, the second vice president of the Bolivian senate, Jeanine Añez, has taken up the role of acting president, and is promising a second election. There are those within Bolivia and in the international community who see this power shift as a “victory for democracy.” However, there are serious concerns about the validity behind the accusations of tampering. That, along with the major spike in anti-indigenous activity and questions into who is benefitting the most from Morales’ removal has made this event far from black and white.

The accusations against Morales were reinforced by a report released by the Organisation of American States, who had been monitoring the election. The OAS describes itself as being “established in order to achieve among its member states—as stipulated in Article 1 of the Charter—’an order of peace and justice, to promote their solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration, and to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and their independence.’” (oas.org.) Today, the OAS works to support democracy, defend human rights, and encourage free trade in the Americas, among other things. However, during its foundation in the beginning years of the Cold War, the OAS worked to unify American nations against communism and the far-left. Many left leaning groups believe the OAS has not shed this bias, citing their support for US backed Juan Guaidó’s efforts to claim the Venuzuelan presidency, as well as their silence on the Chilean government’s authoritarian actions to repress protests. The reputation that the OAS is antagonistic against left wing governments is not helped by the fact that the United States maintains a great deal of influence over the organization. The U.S. Agency for International Development justified diverting money to fund 60% of the OAS’s budget because it “promotes U.S. political and economic interests in the Western Hemisphere by countering the influence of anti-U.S. countries such as Venezuela.” With this in mind, it is more reasonable to doubt the OAS’s “impartiality” in how they judged the Bolivian elections. Even more concerning is the fact that the OAS has used its influence to change the course of elections in the past.

Haiti’s elections in 2000 and 2009 both saw OAS intervention, with groups such as the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) claiming the OAS called for election reversals without legal or statistical justification. In regards to Bolivia, CEPR (a left-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C.,) believes the OAS again made a call invalidating the Bolivian elections without any evidence. CEPR’s own research found that before the 24 hour pause in the quick count, Morales still had a 10 point advantage. CEPR also points out the fact that rural areas, who strongly support Morales but often vote later due to geographic factors, explain the jump in votes for Morales, something the OAS ignored. Lastly, while the quick count (which is based on a sampling of votes from certain polling stations,) was paused, the official count had not been stopped for “a significant amount of time,” according to CEPR. The OAS’s failure to account for these facts calls into question the validity of their accusations of vote tampering. Unfortunately, while the OAS’s claims might be unfounded, they are still being taken seriously by the press and the world, which has contributed to the dire state Bolivia is in currently.

Since Morales’ ousting, Bolivia has seen a rise in anti-indigenous hate crimes, which has more or less been supported by the new government. Jeanine Añez and her party have been vocal in bringing Christianity back into Bolivian politics; after being elected, Añez has been quoted saying “The Bible has returned to the palace!” Videos of the Bolivian police cutting off the indigenous flag from their uniforms have been circulating. he work Morales and his party did to support indigenous people is being threatened by this new trend demonizing indigenous culture. Bolivian protesters in support of indigenous rights and the past election has been met with extreme violence and repression; Añez has exempted the military from criminal repercussions when using force to repress the mostly peaceful protests. With this in mind, can we honestly say what’s happening in Bolivia is a “victory for democracy?” Or is it just another in a long list of socialist Latin American countries being destabilized by far right influence?

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