Photo: Foreing Policy, retrieved.
Eight hours after calling for general elections, Evo Morales resigned from Chimoré, in Cochabamba, where he arrived on the presidential plane. This came after a wave of resignations by his party’s governors, mayors, deputies and senators all across the country, in addition to ministers and diplomats, at the suggestion of dozens of politicians, military and civilian officers. His statement was manipulative. He didn’t mention his hold on power for 14 years or how he violated the Constitution and the mandate of the referendum he lost, doing later electoral fraud to remain in power. At 4:52 p.m., Evo Morales presented his resignation saying that “Life here isn’t over, the fight carries on.”
The expectation remains after every person in the line of succession, according to the Constitution, resigned, pressing for an unconstitutional scenario that fits the coup narrative.
What Morales Doesn’t Say
In 2008, Evo pushed for a new Constitution allowing only one reelection, but in 2016 he called for a referendum consulting the possibility of indefinite reelection. 51% of Bolivians said no, but in 2017 the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal allowed Morales to be a candidate because of his “political rights” (since they were human rights, they were above the Constitution). So in 2018, the TSE allowed his candidacy. In that context, he ran on a first electoral round, the recount was paused for almost a day, followed by fraud accusations, protests and strikes. Stopping the recount wasn’t the only factor: citizens protested against the inadequate transportation to voting stations and ballots by the Departamental Tribunals, an institution that opposed the OAS audit. IT expert Édgar Villegas denounced irregularities in the final tally of votes, including the loss of votes for certain parties and a change in the tendency.
19 Days of Tension
The situation in Bolivia turned even more explosive on Friday, after police bodies in the country declared mutiny. The conflict made Evo mention a national dialogue on Saturday, rejected by the opposition. On Sunday morning, the opposition councilman in Potosí informed about a delegation of almost 3,000 miners intercepted and shot by government supporters on their way to La Paz, leaving three people injured. Morales accused the opposition on Saturday of planning a coup against him, but the Army said it wouldn’t hurt the people. All of this after several clashes from Evo’s supporters and his detractors because of suspicions of vote manipulation, which left the tragic outcome of three deaths, 384 injured and dozens of arrests so far, according to the Ombudsman’s Office. Opposition leaders Carlos Mesa and Luis Fernando Camacho—civilian leader of Santa Cruz—asked for Morales’s resignation repeatedly. Camacho even proposed a march to deliver a resignation letter to Evo so he’d sign it. The opposition rejected the dialogue offer and remained firm in their demands. By refusing to repress the protests, the Army changed the game.
A Demolishing Report
Amidst the social unrest, the OAS started an audit of the electoral process. The fact that the government endorsed this analysis was a red flag for the population and opposition leaders. “In the four elements analyzed (technology, chain of custody, integrity of the ballots and statistical projections), irregularities were found, varying from very serious to suggestive. This makes the technical audit team question the integrity of the results of the election of October 20th,” said the OAS technicians, who suggested to annul the process and start over. 36 experts from 18 countries evaluating the voting process said that it lacked good practices and security standards weren’t respected. “The manipulation of the IT system is such that the Bolivian State must investigate it thoroughly and determine responsibilities,” says the OAS report.
On Sunday morning, still in his post, Evo Morales announced new presidential elections, after an OAS technical commission delivered its preliminary report. In a grim tone, Evo said that he’d replace the board of the TSE and that the new election would allow “the Bolivian people to democratically elect its authorities” with “new political actors.” He added that the Bolivian Parliament, the institution that should renew the TSE, will soon start the process to appoint new authorities. He insisted on the fact that he made this decision to “calm the tension” and “pacify Bolivia.” Morales didn’t mention the OAS preliminary audit.
“I Won’t Resign”
Evo Morales said he wouldn’t resign and avoided talking about a potential candidacy in the new electoral process. He said that talking about running for office or resigning could further fuel the social turmoil: “At the moment, candidacies should be secondary, the first thing is pacifying Bolivia. We are having a dialogue and let’s agree on how to change our TSE; the second thing is discussing when we can guarantee new elections,” he said, emphasizing that his mandate ends in January 2020, and he must fulfill his constitutional duty.
The Final Hours
- First, the Prosecutor’s Office started the legal action for “processing” the TSE spokespeople and “other authors or accomplices” of the irregularities in the election.
- Later, the Police High Command said that every investigative institution would be at the disposal of the Prosecutor’s office.
- The Military High Command announced operations against armed groups (pro-Evo), after they attacked buses transporting opposition citizens.
- William Alave, La Paz prosecutor, informed about warrants for the arrest of electoral tribunals spokespeople, for forging electoral materials and corruption crimes.
- The police and the Prosecutor’s Office took over the Supreme Electoral Tribunal headquarters.
- TSE president and vice-president were detained and it was shown on national television at the prosecutor’s request. The humiliation was absurd.
- The president and vice-president resigned, as did the president and first vice-president of the Senate and the president of the Chamber of Deputies.
- Opposition senator Jeanine Añez, second vice-president of the Senate, said that she’d be taking over the office of the president.
- On Monday, the Senate will analyze the resignations. By law, it’s the Senate president who assumes the presidency and calls for elections in no longer than 90 days. They also have to appoint a new TSE.
- In its official residence at La Paz, Mexico received 20 people from the Bolivian government, and extended their offer of asylum to Evo Morales.
- UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed his concern for the situation in Bolivia.
- Evo Morales denounced a warrant for his arrest. The National Police Commander said that, so far, the Prosecutor’s Office hasn’t issued one and they don’t know his whereabouts.
Evo was able to finish his term with high approval ratings and good economic results, but he violated the Constitution, disregarded the mandate of the referendum and cheated on the first electoral round to limit the opposition’s range of motion. Only Morales is responsible for his downfall. The protests in the past few days have valid arguments, so many and so relevant, that they managed to convince public forces to rebel. Evo didn’t want to go to free elections and opted to resign, fueling the fire of his colleagues’ victim narrative, that now complain about a coup d’état. Hopefully, Bolivia will get through this in an orderly transition, with a democratic governability pact and free elections.
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