An opposition senator has laid claim to Bolivia’s highest office with the country’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales, in exile in Mexico. Amid polarisation, street unrest is unlikely to relent. An orderly transition that avoids bloodshed will require external guidance, probably from the European Union.
Govt increasingly relied on security forces to enforce COVID-19 quarantine and political tensions continued between interim govt and Movement toward Socialism (MAS) party of former President Morales. Defence Minister Luis Fernando López 4 April announced wider use of military to control compliance with COVID-19 quarantine; Interim President Áñez 14 April extended quarantine until 30 April. After Áñez closed all borders in March in attempt to curb spread of virus, thousands of Bolivians remained stranded in border towns in Chile awaiting authorisation to enter Bolivia; military 8 April fired tear gas to repel at least 300 people trying to cross border near Chilean border village of Colchane. As police tried to return to their post in Chapare province (after having left area in late-2019 following confrontation with coca growers in aftermath of Morales’ resignation), residents in Shinahota town 16 April violently expelled them; interim govt next day accused Morales of masterminding attacks. Attorney General 15 April ordered preventive detention of MAS figure Faustino Yucra for alleged terrorism and sedition. Electoral tribunal 25 April asked Congress to choose date between 28 June and 27 September for general elections rerun.
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.
Bolivia and Peru are becoming a second, though compared to Colombia still relatively small-scale, pole of cocaine production in the Andes, feeding in particular a growing Latin American market in addition to the traditional U.S. and European markets.
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