Bolivia remains deeply polarised over the disputed 2019 elections that resulted in the resignation of then-President Evo Morales and a brief hiatus in the long-running rule of his party Movement to Socialism, in power since 2006. Fierce disagreement between those who believe Morales was ousted by a coup and those who accuse his party of committing electoral fraud has triggered waves of political retaliation, partisan use of the judicial system and threats of violence. Bolivia’s fragmented society now faces an economic and health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Crisis Group works to find paths to establish trust in the state’s institutions, minimise tensions and find long-term reconciliation among all sectors of the population.
The turmoil after Bolivia’s disputed 2019 election has subsided, but the country’s political wounds remain unhealed. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2021 – Spring Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to keep up technical assistance to national and local electoral authorities, help foster local dialogues and encourage comprehensive judicial reform.
Arrest of former Interim President Jeanine Áñez triggered mass protests. Police 13 March arrested Áñez, along with former cabinet ministers Rodrigo Guzmán and Álvaro Coimbra on charges of terrorism, sedition and conspiracy during 2019 political crisis, which led then-incumbent President Morales to resign and Áñez to declare herself interim president; authorities 11 March also issued arrests warrants for former general and ex-police chief who had both urged Morales to resign. Áñez 15 March transferred to prison for four-month pre-trial detention. Tens of thousands of Áñez supporters same day protested across country, including at least 40,000 in country’s largest city Santa Cruz. Organization of American States 15 March said “judicial mechanisms […] have been transformed into instruments of repression by the ruling party”. Thousands 18 March demonstrated in capital La Paz in support of govt and President Arce, asked for “justice” for what they consider “coup d’Etat” against Morales in 2019. Court 20 March extended Áñez’s pre-trial detention to six months. In letter posted on Twitter, Áñez 23 March accused police and govt of “abusive” actions, said she had been denied proper medical treatment while in detention.
Controversy over the 2019 election and its violent aftermath continues to haunt Bolivian politics. As fresh polls approach, outside actors should supply technical advice and monitoring, as well as push rival parties to pledge to keep any disputes off the streets.
President Evo Morales’s efforts to consolidate sweeping reforms on the basis of a controversial new constitution have steered Bolivia into a cul-de-sac.
Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales, will complete a year in office on 22 January amid rising civil unrest.
The first-round victory of Evo Morales in the December 2005 presidential election profoundly altered Bolivia’s politics and the way South America’s poorest nation is seen abroad.
Every year Crisis Group publishes two additional Watch List updates that complement its annual Watch List for the EU, most recently published in January 2021. These publications identify major crises and conflict situations where the European Union and its member states can generate stronger prospects for peace. The Spring Update of the Watch List 2021 includes entries on Bolivia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Ukraine and Yemen.
Amid political turmoil around Bolivia’s election last year, protesters from both sides took to the streets, and election-related violence killed at least 36 people. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to work closely with all political parties to make sure a timely and credible presidential election takes place.
Originally published in La Razón