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.
Political tensions continued but unrest in streets appeared to subside as electoral court formally called for new elections. Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) early Jan set general election rerun for 3 May. Constitutional court 15 Jan approved extension of mandate of national and local authorities, including president, deputies and senators until inauguration of new govt. Former President Morales, leading Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party’s electoral campaign, 19 Jan named former economy minister Luis Arce as MAS presidential candidate, and former FM David Choquehuanca for VP, after TSE late Dec dismissed requests to stop MAS from participating in election. Indigenous activists expressed discontent, and demanded Choquehuanca leads ticket. Judicial authorities 20 Jan launched investigation against Arce and other MAS leaders for alleged corruption. Interim President Jeanine Áñez 24 Jan announced her candidacy in presidential election after having ruled out running, sparking criticism from allies and opponents; after asking all ministers to resign for “new stage of democratic transition”, Áñez 28 Jan unveiled new cabinet, replacing three ministers. Interim govt 17 Jan deployed army in several cities and regions known to be Morales’s strongholds ahead of planned protests by indigenous groups on occasion of Plurinational State Day 22 Jan, also day that should have seen new govt take office following last Oct general elections; indigenous groups protested against interim govt notably in El Alto city and Chapare province but no major clashes reported. U.S. 23 Jan said it would send ambassador to Bolivia for first time in a decade. Interim govt 24 Jan cut diplomatic relations with Cuba in response to Havana’s alleged “constant hostility”.
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