Bolivia is approaching the elections on edge. The political atmosphere in the days prior to the October 18 elections has been charged with volatility due to the dozens of violent incidents between militants, protests against the Electoral Tribunal, threats from the Government to the Movement for Socialism (MAS), by former President Evo Morales, the promise of the two main parties that they will defend their eventual victories in the streets and a “last minute” judicial indictment against Luis Arce, the MAS candidate and favorite in the polls.
The interim government of Jeanine Áñez and the MAS accuse each other of conspiring against the peaceful holding of the elections. “If the violent ones provoke us there will be consequences,” said the interim president. “So better respect democracy, respect us Bolivians who want to live in peace, because we are not going to allow it,” he threatened.
Previously, a MAS leader had declared that “at the first attempt by the right to commit fraud, the Bolivian people in the streets will regain power.” He thus expressed his suspicion for the trip of the Minister of the Interior (Interior), Arturo Murillo, to the United States, where he met with representatives of the Government of Donald Trump and with Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States. This institution played a key role in denouncing fraud during last year’s elections, which ended in the overthrow of Morales and his exit into exile. Back in the country, Murillo once again defended his thesis that the MAS will not recognize its electoral defeat and that “it is creating a convulsion.” The minister warned that the police are being armed and that “democracy is going to be respected at whatever price it has to be.” In response, candidate Arce sent a letter to four international organizations to draw their attention to the risks that Bolivian democracy runs. He denounced that the Minister of Government of Bolivia intends to “derail the electoral process” with “provocations”.
Former President Carlos Mesa, who is second in the polls, also believes there is a risk that the MAS will convulse the country if Arce does not win the elections. “If this occurs, we will give an energetic and vigorous, peaceful and democratic response. We hope that sanity prevails and that Arce and Evo Morales understand that they are no longer dominating the country, that this is no longer a Masista farm and that the response of the citizens will be very clear and forceful, “he declared.
The president of the Electoral Tribunal of Santa Cruz, Saúl Paniagua, denounced that he and his family are being harassed by people he did not identify. Groups of protesters have been “on vigil” in front of the Paniagua office to demand that the electoral authorities disqualify the MAS and prevent it from participating in the elections. The various lawsuits that were filed with this objective were rejected by the courts or will not be processed before these elections for procedural reasons. So the MAS will continue in the race, but there could be subsequent allegations.
The parapolice group Resistencia Juvenil Cochala, which was an important protagonist of the protests that preceded the fall of Morales, accompanies the electoral campaign with noisy demonstrations in Sucre, the seat of the Bolivian Judicial Power, demanding the resignation of the attorney general, whom they accuse of protect MAS militants in hundreds of trials. Evo Morales is accused in more than a dozen of them, for a range of crimes ranging from fraud and terrorism to rape.
The candidate Luis Arce is also involved in several judicial processes and will now have to attend one more. The Government’s Financial Investigations Unit has just disclosed all the movements of his bank accounts from 2006 to the present and believes that there are enough irregularities to support a lawsuit for illicit enrichment. MAS spokespersons described the accusation as an “electoral maneuver” and recommended that the authorities deal with the serious crisis that the country is going through instead of “wasting public money” in continuing to try to harm Arce’s candidacy.
The confrontation between political parties is not only rhetorical and judicial, but also physical. International observers counted almost 30 violent clashes between party members in recent days. In some there were injuries and material damage. The violence has worried the so-called “troika” of mediators in the Bolivian crisis, made up of the European Union, the United Nations and the Catholic Church. “The capacity for dialogue and agreement must be the primary instrument so that, in an atmosphere of unity and respect, issues of conflict can be resolved and political polarization overcome,” says a public communication from these institutions.