On Wednesday Bolivia saw jubilant celebrations as the ex-president Evo Morales crossed the border from Argentina where he had been in exile for nearly a year. The election of socialist president Luis Arce marks the end of a contentious and tense period in Bolivian politics and hopefully a step forward so the country can heal and the government can focus on those in need.
Jeanine Áñez, who was a right wing Evangelical Christian, became interim president after the resignation of Evo Morales amid a disputed election in 2019. The elections to elect a new President were scheduled for May 2020, which, due to the pandemic were postponed until October. During this time Bolivia underwent a great deal of political stress due to mass protests of Morales supporters, which were met with violence by security forces, and the Coronavirus crisis leading them to shut their borders and impose a curfew to control it. Even though she was only an interim president, she acted decisively and controversially in both foreign and domestic policy. She lowered taxes on big companies, severed ties with the Maduro government of Venezuela and supported Juan Guaido as President. Áñez has also launched repeated attacks on indigenous communities, with her cabinet not having a single indigenous person despite indigenous communities making up 40% of the population. Some of her supporters were also caught burning the Wiphala flag, an important symbol of indigenous communities in Bolivia.
It is clear that a far right evangelical was far from the right person to unite a bitterly divided country. However, she dropped out of the race for fears it would split the vote and lead to the election of MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo), the socialist party formerly led by Evo Morales. They are a socialist party whose focus is on improving life for the working classes and they have considerable support among indigenous people. Áñez said that if they didn’t unite to make sure that Mas couldn’t get into power then democracy would lose.
His policies are broadly left-wing and his focus is on calming the social tensions that have been exacerbated by the Coronavirus crisis and the disputed election of last year.
Regardless, the MAS candidate for president, Luis Arce, won in an election widely regarded as free and fair. Arce has already criticised the Áñez government for trying to subvert democracy and for their attacks on protesters but on a more hopeful note has declared a new era in Bolivian politics. His policies are broadly left-wing and his focus is on calming the social tensions that have been exacerbated by the Coronavirus crisis and the disputed election of last year. He has also set out to improve Bolivia’s foreign relations, particularly with the US after the election of Biden.
Regardless of factional politics, this is a positive thing. The people of Bolivia have at long last had their voices heard and the answer was resounding. Whilst the Arce presidency is bound to be somewhat turbulent and rife with crises that emerge in a challenging political landscape at least the period of conflict seems to be drawing to a close.
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons.
Last modified: 19th November 2020