Bolivia’s President Wants To Be Reelected For A Fourth Time But He Could Send His Country Into A Political Crisis
Bolivia’s president Evo Morales is again envuelto en controversia after his attempts to be reelected once again.Juan Evo Morales Ayma is one of the most disputed figures in recent Latin American history. The indigenous activist and politician became president after leading his party, Movement for Socialism, to victory in the polls. He first attempted to win the presidency in 2002 and came in second after a very tight race. He is part of the wave of socialist and populist politics that defined South American politics in the mid 2000s, and which also included statesmen such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa (for an alternative reading of the socialist revolution in South America, watch Oliver Stone’s controversial documentary South of the Border).
His allies see him as a true liberator of the continent, a noble opponent of the neoliberal policies that have produced millions of poor in the region. His opponents think of him as a dictator with a thirst for power. Truth is, he has subverted Bolivian politics by adopting a socialist agenda and often pushing back corporations and foreign influence, particularly from the United States.
Morales has served as President of Bolivia since 2006: 13 years and counting.
So how is it even possible for someone to remain in power for so long? Morales was first elected for the 2006-2009 period. In 2008 he organized a recall referendum (meaning that the electorate could decide whether to keep him or dump him), which he won. Shortly after he established a new constitution through which Bolivia became a plurinational state, meaning that indigenous nations within the borders were recognized. This reshaping of the political backbone of Bolivia led to his reelection in 2009 and then for a third term in 2014. So yes, 13 years and counting!
So the opposition is obviously very unhappy about the prospects of a fourth Morales term, especially after a referendum that he lost.
Morales organized a referendum asking Bolivians whether he should run again or not. A constitutional reform needed to be in place for him to do so. He lost, but he is nevertheless on the ticket and seems to be headed to a victory in the October elections. The opposition sees this as an attempt to undermine democracy. They see Morales as a king who will do anything to keep his throne and crown. As BBC reported back on July 3, 2019: “Although the 2016 referendum results rejected the constitutional reform needed to allow Morales to seek office again, subsequent court rulings determined that not allowing him to run would violate his political rights, and electoral authorities accepted his new re-election bid”.
Political pundits have taken their gloves off.
Personalities such as writer and journalist Carlos A. Montaner have criticized not only Morales, but also the Organization of American States (OEA), which has supported the Bolivian President in his bid for a fourth term. The OEA had previously been critical of regimes in Cuba and Venezuela.
Protests during Morales’ mandate have been constant and increasingly violent.
Before becoming president, Evo Morales was famous for his combative activism. He was the leader of cocaleros or coca producers, and played an active role in the 1999 Cochabamba Water War, in which indigenous populations fought against the privatization of water. During his presidency he has encountered the same kind of combativeness, but he is now on the other side. This photo, for example, was taken at a protest against budget cuts in services for people with disabilities. His bid for a third reelection could escalate into a full-blown political crisis.
Western powers don’t see him con muy buenos ojos, as he is an advocate of leftist politics and aligns with Putin’s Russia.
Evo Morales is perceived in Western countries, including the United States, as a populist who manipulates his people into following him, and as a threat to global markets. He has aligned himself with the remains of the Soviet Bloc, meaning he has tight connections in Moscow and Havana. Just this year, Morales expressed his interest in buying Russian military equipment, as reported by Sputnik News Service: “There is a great interest in purchasing Russian military equipment, including aviation equipment, and in services. A [joint] commission is operating, and we hope that technology transfer will bring good results”.
In the meantime, Morales is in full election mode.
His opposition is echando el grito al cielo, but Morales continues his seemingly swift ride to reelection. In his social media he has been sharing images of events such as this caravan in the iconic site of Cochabamba, an icon of indigenous struggle. Love him or hate him, no one can deny he is a masterful politician.
And of course the photo-op “putting out fires” in the Bolivian Amazonia.
This image is kind of poetic. Yes, Bolivia should do its part in fighting the fires in the Amazon rainforest, but Morales seems to be ignoring the political fires that threaten to undermine democracy in the country. In the meantime, he has criticized the aid promised by the G7 (the group of the most powerful countries in the world). As reported by AFP, Morales said in an interview with Radio Panamericana: “I welcome that small, small, tiny contribution of $20 million from the G7 — that is not help, it is part of a shared co-responsibility, as all peoples have the obligation to preserve the ecosystem”. This anti-establishment rhetoric is exactly what might get him another electoral win.
In fact, he “temporarily interrupted” his reelection campaign to oversee the environmental crisis.
With the election looming and the opposition getting combative, how come Morales interrupted his campaign? This is a smart political move: he acts presidential to get voters to think mejor malo por conocido que bueno por conocer.