Student Writer | Zafir Zafirov
A few weeks ago Bolivia’s longest-serving indigenous president Evo Morales was forced by the Bolivian military to step down as the country was in the midst of protests – following the results of the October general election in which Morales ran for his fourth term in office. His decision to run for another term, albeit controversial, was allowed by an electoral court in 2017. The opposition of the country decided not to agree with this fact, and once it was clear that Morales had a 10-point lead in the polls over his main opponent, Carlos Mesa, the turmoil began.
The opposition, supported by the OAS, pressured the electoral authorities to restart the vote count. After the count was restarted, it was clear that Morales had enough support to secure another term. Nevertheless, the opposition decided to condemn the president’s team of election fraught.
There are many problems here, but to briefly summarize them, it should be said that the opposition did not take into account the fact that most of the support for Morales is rural. Simply put, the portion of these votes comes later than the urban votes. What is more, most of the polls before the election predicted exactly what happened. Morales was about to win and yet without any evidence, the opposition claimed that the election was rigged and therefore the results illegitimate.
When Morales agreed to have another election, the military decided to intervene and this resulted in the president’s removal from office.
Needless to say, when the military decides to get involved in elections and removes a leader from office, we call it a military coup d’état and nothing less.
President Evo Morales who for 14 years in office managed to reduce poverty (from 60% to 34%) and extreme poverty (from 38% to 15%), increase the minimum wage and the GDP of the country, and expand infrastructure by building many schools, hospitals and clinics, is now perceived as a terrorist and had to seek political asylum in Mexico. On top of that, his home was ransacked, while many of his supporters were targeted by his opponents.
As of today, the situation in Bolivia seems even scarier. Self-proclaimed president Jeanine Áñez (whose party got less than 5% in the recent election) has now permitted the armed forces to use force if necessary against protesters. Journalists would also risk prosecution if they try to defend Morales. Chaos is sprawling everywhere and human rights are being thrown out of the window, questioning the legitimacy of the current regime.
Renowned politicians and activists have already expressed their concerns and have deemed what happened in Bolivia as a coup. These include Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, Mexican president Obrador, US politicians Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, peace advocate Noam Chomsky, and others.
Many questions remain. Who is really behind the coup? Is the US and the Trump administration involved? Is all of this related to the enormous reserves of lithium in Bolivia? Why was a successful leftist leader brutally ousted right now?
Will there be answers? Maybe in years’ time.
Unfortunately, democracy is under threat in Bolivia, and no one has years to wait.