Bolivians’ patience is wearing thin as La Paz is yet to deliver on its vow to hold snap elections in the country after the military forced ex-President Evo Morales to step down and flee the country. Although the government scheduled a new vote for 18 October, MAS supporters remain on alert, says Bolivian journalist Alberto Echazu.
The de facto Bolivian government’s decision to postpone the country’s general elections in late July for the third time in a row under the pretext of the COVID pandemic prompted nationwide protests spearheaded by Evo Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) supporters, the Bolivian Workers’ Central (COB), and trade unions.
Starting on 3 August, Bolivians kicked off marches, rallies, and erected road blockades across the country urging La Paz to deliver on its promise and let people cast their ballots for the first time since the November 2019 coup d’etat. According to Nodal.am, within just 24 hours, more than 75 major roads and highways in the provinces of La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Oruro, and Potosi were fully or partially blocked by the protesters. After 10 days of blockades and rallies, the de facto government struck an agreement with MAS on a law that mandates a vote to be held on 18 October and envisages criminal penalties for any effort to change the date.
Protests Suspended, But MAS & Unions are on Alert
“The protests have stopped”, says Alberto Echazu, a political analyst and journalist with La Resistencia Bolivia. “The Bolivian Workers’ Central (the worker’s union that encompasses all Bolivian workers) and the Pact of Unity (peasants and indigenous worker’s organisations from all of the country) instructed their affiliates to lift the blockades after an agreement was reached between the Legislative Assembly and the Electoral Tribunal to establish the definitive and immovable date for the elections on 18 October”.
Bearing in mind the de facto government’s previous political manoeuvres, Bolivian trade unions and MAS remain “in a state of alert” to prevent any new attempt to suspend it, according to the journalist. He believes that if Jeanine Anez postpones the election once again, it will surely trigger a new uprising “that will be impossible to contain”. Although tensions have scaled down, La Paz’s intentions to crack down on trade union leaders is keeping the tension high.
ALERT: Bolivia’s regime has ordered the arrest of union leaders @AndronicoRod, @LeonardoLoza18 and COB leader Juan Carlos Huarachi, for taking part in protests that called for free elections, says Vice-Minister for the Interior Regime Javier Issa. pic.twitter.com/svrI1HgHp6
— Kawsachun News (@KawsachunNews) August 19, 2020
Previously, Echazu voiced concerns about the apparent attempt by the Anez cabinet to stay in power as long as possible. Taking the reins of the country in November 2019, Jeanine Anez vowed to hold snap elections and ruled out taking part in the upcoming vote, explaining that her only goal was to unite the fragmented electorate. However, in January 2020 Anez abruptly announced that she would run, while the elections have been repeatedly delayed too.
The journalist recollects that La Paz first warned that the peak of the COVID pandemic would be around May, so the date was pushed to August. Then they said the peak would be in August, so they moved it to September, and once more they said the peak would be in September so the date had to be moved to October. It is hardly surprising that the people started to suspect “a strategy to keep postponing the elections in an attempt to remain in power for as long as they can”, he points out.
“That dishonest and deceitful use of the pandemic by the regime in order to postpone the elections indefinitely is the reason why the social movement decided to mobilise its affiliates”, Echazu explains.