Bolivia: Rupture or Consolidation of the Coup?

Katu Arkonada
https://peoplesdispatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/lucho-choquehuanca-2.jpgWith five weeks remaining until Bolivia’s October 18 general elections, the panorama is becoming more and more complex.

The polarization between MAS and the coup plotters is sharpening, while Carlos Mesa is trying to keep a low profile that will help him win votes from a right wing that is disenchanted with the transitional government that is collapsing after almost a year of corruption scandals and mishandling of the health crisis.

The latest polls are favorable to MAS-IPSP with former Economy Minister Luis Arce Catacora as its presidential candidate. Evo Morales’ party movement obtained 26.2 percent in Mori’s recent study (the only one that got the result right for the February 21, 2016 referendum), which, when measured by filtering only valid votes, transforms into 37.3 percent, compared to 24.2 percent for Carlos Mesa or 14.4 percent for Jeanine Áñez. In other words, Luis Arce would be close to being elected President in the first round, as long as he reaches 40 percent of valid votes with a 10-point difference over Mesa, which can happen with a good election campaign and if the coup leaders do not remove Áñez from the presidential race. In the event that 40 percent is not reached, or the current President declines and Mesa approaches less than 10 points of difference, the second round would be inevitable and in that scenario, 14 percent from the coup plotters, added to Fernando Camacho’s “civic” votes (12, 4 percent) who is leading the vote in the country’s most populous city, Santa Cruz, the conservative Chi Hyun Chung (5.9 percent) or the State Department man in Bolivia Tuto Quiroga (3.8 percent) would unite against Evo Morales and Luis Arce, causing the certain defeat of the MAS.

Two weeks before the election, on October 4, the debate between the presidential candidates will be held, organized by the National Association of Journalists of Bolivia, the Confederation of Private Businessmen of Bolivia, the Jubilee Foundation, the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés and a media network. The 14 days following the debate will be crucial both for different sectors to consolidate their vote, and for the possible departure of Jeanine Áñez.

Meanwhile, the coup government is striving by all means to clean up its image and sully the image of Evo Morales and the MAS; and they have promoted a denunciation by the State Attorney General’s Office before the International Criminal Court, accusing Evo of committing crimes against humanity. The physical and intellectual authors of the massacres of Sacaba and Senkata, where more than 30 people were killed by bullets from the security forces, accuse the former Bolivian president of the death of more than 40 people due to lack of oxygen during the roadblocks in August.

At the same time, and after a trip to the United States by Arturo Murillo, Minister of Government, where he met with OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, representatives of the State Department and Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, US company CLS Strategies, linked to the gringo intelligence services, has begun to operate in Bolivia, supposedly to give advice to the Bolivian “transition” government on issues related to “democracy”.

Furthermore, according to leaks from the cabinet, the coup plotters have on the table a proposal to eliminate the legal registration of MAS-IPSP, together with an analysis of what that act would imply in terms of mobilization and social response. The aim is clear: a second round between Carlos Mesa and Jeanine Áñez, where there would be only one winner: the United States and its interests in Bolivia.

In the streets, at least among the urban middle class, the sentiment was that change was needed, but not this way, making Mesa shift to the right to win the more ultra-conservative vote that no longer feels represented by Áñez, which in turn could make the more moderate center vote closer to the MAS. So between considering whether they were better off in September 2019 (the elections were in October and the coup in November 2019) or in September 2020, it is clear that this urban class had much better social and, above all, economic conditions a year ago.

The economic crisis has led people to prefer life in September 2019. During 14 years of the process of change people were paid on time and could save. In just 9 months people have lost their jobs and spent their savings. This is the new common sense that is being developed among a good part of the Bolivian population.

If that common sense becomes greater by tipping the balance in favor of MAS-IPSP, then the alternative of those who govern today seems to be a new coup within the coup that prevents Evo Morales, the campaign leader of the Movement Towards Socialism, from returning to a Bolivia governed by Luis Arce Catacora.