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Issue #1926      August 3, 2020

No elections for Bolivia

Bolivia’s elections have been postponed for the third time since the leaders of Bolivia’s coup took over late last year. Instead of holding elections on the 6th September, elections will now (fingers crossed) take place on the 18th October.

Luis Arce (right) during a celebration of Bolivia’s Plurinational State Foundation Day, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 22nd January 2020.

Bolivia has been under the leadership of interim President Jeanine Áñez and the Juntos alliance since the coup last year. You might remember she promised swift and democratic elections as soon as stability was brought back to Bolivia after the coup she helped lead. This was obviously a false promise to appeal to the regional and international orchestrators of the coup.

Since coming to power, the interim government of Bolivia has been shifting their foreign alliances from China, Russia, and other non-aligned countries to the US, the European Union and Israel. This includes asking for Israel’s help to fight “terrorism” in Bolivia and pledging allegiance to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Áñez government has also cracked down on public dissent and left organisations. According to Latin-American news outlet, Telesur, at least fifty community radio stations have been shut down, as well as at least sixty-seven journalists imprisoned, threatened, or accused of committing crimes of sedition and terrorism since the Áñez government took office.

The Áñez government has not stopped harping on about “leftist” influence. However, this “leftist” influence is the popular resistance of the people. Examples of this are the thousands of people who took to the streets after elected president Evo Morales was forced to resign and the continuing resistance of the thousands of members of Six Federations of Tropical Cochabamba and the workers represented by the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB).

COVID-19

Bolivia currently has about 69,000 COVID-19 cases with about 1,200 new cases each day. The interim government is trying to blame the pandemic crisis on the previous socialist government for apparently “not doing anything for healthcare.” This, however, is just another right-wing lie spread by the government. The coup regime has wound back many social programs since November such as the Unified Health System (Sistema Unico de Salud). The Bono Juancito Pinto, Bono Juana Azurduy and Renta Dignidad cash transfer schemes have also been eviscerated. This contrasts with a 700 per cent increase in healthcare spending during the previous Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) administration led by Evo Morales.

But what is the interim government doing except for expelling hundreds of Cuban doctors and medical personnel, winding back co-operation with China and Russia, and cutting social programs which help the poor? Well, they are currently on to their third health minister and the health system is now failing under the increased load the Coronavirus pandemic has produced. Twenty of thirty-four hospitals had closed at the end of June according to Bolivia’s Health Workers Union.

The poorest regions have been the hardest hit. These regions have high support for Morales and MAS. In Cochabamba, the K’ara K’ara region was the site of protests against state abandonment and hunger in May. In June, three MAS members were arrested for involvement in these protests, allegedly for terrorism and health-related crimes. Locals in K’ara K’ara have also been denied water to help combat the pandemic after the area had their water cut off by authorities.

The interim government used the pandemic as an opportunity to postpone elections that it promised last year to bring to Bolivia. The interim government is using every tool in its repertoire to rig undemocratic elections.

ELECTIONS

To the current leaders’ dismay, MAS candidate Luis Arce currently dominates in the polls at forty-two per cent. The beneficiaries of last year’s coup trail in votes: Carlos Mesa at twenty-seven per cent, Jeanine Áñez at thirteen per cent and Luis Fernando Camacho at nine per cent. These numbers further show the popular support MAS has compared to the current illegal interim government.

There are currently talks of forming a right-wing coalition before elections to defeat MAS at the polls. The political teams of Mesa and Áñez have met to discuss an alliance. It is no wonder that elections have been postponed yet again to give the coup leaders more time to strategise how to overcome the people’s distrust of the interim government and the popular support for MAS.

One of these strategies was the interim government’s formal application to ban MAS from participating in elections. According to Kawsachun News, a left political news source from Bolivia, electoral authorities could be imprisoned if they don’t ban the MAS from participating in the elections.

Another one of the coup leaders, Fernando Camacho, asked the Organisation of American States (OAS) to intervene to stop the elections from taking place on 6th September. OAS was the organisation that falsely accused Morales of rigging the elections last year and for justifying the 2019 coup. Now, it seems they might be back for round two in suppressing MAS and Bolivia’s self-determination.

The interim government is justifying this political move by accusing MAS candidate Luis Arce of breaking electoral laws by mentioning an opinion poll before election campaigning has begun. The situation they refer to was when Luis Arce told a reporter that he was generally favoured in the opinion polls.

Evo Morales spoke out against the current attack on MAS by pointing out the double standard since “Juntos’ vice-presidential candidate, Samuel Doria Medina, [also] commented on and published opinion polls twice, but they [the interim government] all remained silent.”

Argentina’s Interior Minister has also stood up for the undemocratic attacks against Movement Towards Socialism and said in a tweet: “Bolivia’s de facto government is attempting to postpone the elections and ban the main political force. This is inadmissible for those of us who have a deep commitment to democracy and human rights.”

Conclusion

The outcome of the 18th October election is up in the air since the coup leaders are doing all in their power to repress political dissent, destroy the socialist opposition, silence left leaning media outlets, and manipulate the electoral process. The irony and double standards reek as the interim government that the US helped gain power due to “undemocratic elections,” is behaving undemocratically. The situation is textbook fascism.

Who is to benefit from the current situation? The imperialists that the interim government has aligned itself with, namely the US, the EU and Israel. These foreign countries that had their hands in the 2019 coup, are now able to exploit Bolivia’s lithium resource for electric cars and batteries. In a mask-off moment on the 25th July, Elon Musk replied to a tweet voicing concerns about Tesla’s lithium supply chains by saying, “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.”

Postponing elections for the third time will only hurt the poor and marginalised members of Bolivian society. The coup-regime’s current response to the pandemic is to punish the Chapare and Cochabamba regions and try to destroy all social gains made by the fourteen years of (MAS). Every day that the coup-regime continues is another day the poor suffer and lose ground. Elections in Bolivia must happen as soon as possible. We denounce the move to further postpone elections.

Down with the coup regime. Down with the destabilising activities of US imperialism. Power to the people of Bolivia. Good luck to MAS and Luis Arce in the upcoming elections.

Next article – Railway privatisation

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