In a stunning reversal of fortune, Bolivian voters returned the party of former President Evo Morales to power one year after his ouster. The new government should use its remarkable mandate to heal wounds at home and build cross-ideological bridges in its South American neighbourhood.
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.
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