A US-Backed Opposition Leader Has Declared Herself President Of Bolivia Amid Outrage At Her Comments About Indigenous Bolivians
Bolivia is unrest. Following the ultimate expulsion of former President Evo Morales, after allegations of election fraud swept the nation, and Morales’ eventual flee to Mexico, conservative opposition leader Jeanine Añez declared herself interim president. Following her announcement clashes and protests from both supporters and detractors filled the streets.
The country has been struggling to find a successor to Morales who was forced to step down after a marginal win in Bolivia’s presidential election triggered a recount. Morales shut down the recount and declared himself the victor, but after an Organization of American States reported there were irregularities and possible fraud, he resigned.
Jeanine Añez declares herself the president of Bolivia.
Añez claimed the position of Senate leader which would put her next in line for the presidency and make her interim president. The move came after the three people ahead of her quit.
However, at the time she did not have a quorum (the legal minimum necessary to make it official) present due to a boycott by Morales’ Movement for Socialism party. Although it is unofficial, she stood on the balcony of the presidential palace wearing a presidential sash and holding a copy of the Bible — which had been banned from the building by the Morales administration.
“My commitment is to return democracy and tranquility to the country. They can never again steal our vote,” Añez said after declaring herself president.
Añez quickly got to work appointing cabinet members and leaders of the armed forces. She insisted in her first address that her role is strictly “provisional.”
“This is a transitional government,” Añez told CNN. “Obviously, as soon as we can, we will call general elections so the Bolivian people can have a president elected by us in a democratic manner.”
Protests break out in protest of Añez’s declaration.
Protests broke out in La Paz, Bolivia’s main city, to oppose Añez’s presidency. The demonstrators were confronted by riot police who used tear gas while they retaliated with smoking containers and rocks. Morales, who is Bolivia’s first indigenous president, insisted those who opposed Añez were his supporters and a part of anti-colonial struggle.
“We energetically condemn the coup d’etat in Bolivia, perpetrated by the army and oligarchs opposed to the government of our brother President Evo Morales,” said Rigoberta Menchu, an indigenous rights activist said.
Although Morales did benefit indigenous folks by reducing poverty rates, he rewrote Bolivia’s laws to run for a second term and then did so a third time claiming his first term did not count. He would reign for 14 years the longest in Bolivia’s presidential history. Many felt he was becoming increasingly authoritarian despite some wins for indigenous peoples.
Indigenous folks have a right to concerned about an Añez presidency.
“This coup d’etat that has triggered the death of my Bolivian brothers is a political and economic plot that came from the US,” Morales said.
Although Morales may not have been best for Bolivia, detractors of Añez have valid concerns as well. The conservative is married to the leader of a “Colombian conservative party with historic ties to paramilitary groups,” according to The Nation.
“The potential return of a conservative government after Morales’ 14-year rule has brought with it a resurgence of a virulent strain of anti-indigenous hatred with deep roots in Bolivia, reminiscent of the country’s ‘gas wars,'” the publication notes. “The toppling of Morales’s government threatens a potential return to anti-indigenous violence.”
The United States and Bolivian officials recognize Añez.
The United States extended its support to the new government as did Bolivia’s military and courts.
“We will guarantee the security of the constitutional government,” Army General Orellana Centellas said in support of Añez.
According to the New York Times, Añez’s presidency was backed by Bolivia’s Constitutional Court. United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement.
“The United States applauds Bolivian Senator Jeanine Anez for stepping up as Interim President of State to lead her nation through this democratic transition, under the constitution of Bolivia and in accordance with the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” Pompeo said.
“We look forward to working with the Organization of American States, Bolivia’s civilian constitutional institutions, and the Bolivian people as they prepare to hold free, fair elections as soon as possible. We call on all parties to protect democracy during the coming weeks and to refrain from violent acts against fellow citizens and their property.
Whether Añez can garner support from political allies is unclear. Bolivians, on the other hand, have engaged in violent protests to defend their addled democracy, without their support any future candidate will have to face their ire.