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.
Amid ongoing protests against arrest of right-wing opposition leader and Santa Cruz Governor Luis Fernando Camacho, opposition-led “national assemblies” took place across country.
Santa Cruz unrest continued, protesters launched opposition assemblies. Following arrest of Luis Fernando Camacho late Dec, protests persisted in Santa Cruz province during Jan amid clashes between police and protesters; Civic Committee of Santa Cruz president, Rómulo Calvo, 1 Jan stated that blockades around Santa Cruz would remain in place to deny province’s resources to capital La Paz. Yet as concerns grew over economic impact of blockades, Civic Committee 16 Jan announced opposition-led “national assemblies” would take place 25 Jan in all regional capitals to discuss “new measures” to demand Camacho’s release. Ahead of assemblies, protesters 18 Jan lifted blockades. Judge 19 Jan ruled Camacho must remain in detention while awaiting trial. Thousands 25 Jan attended Santa Cruz “national assembly”, which pressed for Camacho’s release via proposed Amnesty Law and called on all opposition forces to form political party to oppose ruling Movement for Socialism party in 2025 elections. Minister of Government Eduardo del Castillo 26 Jan dismissed “national assembly” resolutions as Santa Cruz citizens’ “new coup adventure”, Minister of Justice Iván Lima same day called them “unconstitutional”.
Govt and protesters faced criticism for violence. Ombudsman’s office 10 Jan reported 25 alleged human rights violations since protests began late Dec, and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and its Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression 17 Jan condemned “excessive use of force by the security forces and the acts of violence perpetrated by organised groups”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.