Events In Bolivia Impact Latin America

Events In Bolivia Impact Latin America

By Julieta Pelcastre / Diálogo
December 16, 2019

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Evo Morales’ resignation as Bolivia’s president, amid electoral fraud and a serious administrative crisis, has worsened the social and economic unrest that afflicts Latin America. As a response, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela have intensified repression against their citizens.

The former Bolivian president was a member of the so-called Pink Tide, when a wave of leftist regimes reached power in Latin America in the early 2000s.

“The events in Bolivia are creating a negative reaction against the regimes of the so-called 21st century socialism, which [in 2019] worsened their repression against the population, because they are not capable of [carrying out] their governing agenda,” said Daniel Pou, associate researcher at the Latin American Social Sciences Institute (FLACSO, in Spanish) in the Dominican Republic.

Morales tried to win the presidential elections for a fourth consecutive term on October 20, 2019, with 46 percent of the votes, refusing to accept a runoff. His opponent, Carlos Mesa, got 37 percent. Electoral law in Bolivia states that a candidate needs to get 50 percent of the votes plus one, or to get 40 percent and be at least 10 percentage points ahead of their closest rival, to win the elections.

The events in Bolivia are encouraging the opposition in Nicaragua and Venezuela to restore democracy, but they inconvenience Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.

During the VIII Extraordinary Meeting of the Political Council of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA, in Spanish) on November 14, 2019, Ortega said that if he didn’t win the elections by electoral means, “the people should feel entitled, even obligated, to seize arms and take power by revolutionary means,” said State-owned Nicaraguan portal El 19 Digital.

On November 11, Maduro threatened the Venezuelan opposition through State-sponsored media outlet Telesur, discouraging the opposition from getting enthusiastic about Morales’ demise. “I tell the fascist right: They know who we are, don’t make a mistake, don’t miscalculate with us.” Venezuela will have legislative elections in 2020, to renew the Venezuelan National Assembly.

“Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela are isolated, with weakened international organizations,” said Pou. “Three regimes with little capacity to extend this political agony of a lack of democracy, of making consensus that favor their close entourage. Faced with this lack of capacity, their only resource is repression.”

“These regimes are sustained by models of internal social control, such as a monopoly on violence and constant military surveillance,” said Eliseo Núñez, an activist belonging to Nicaragua’s Broad Front for Democracy.

With Morales’ exit, Bolivia’s current interim government broke relations with Venezuela, left ALBA, and is considering leaving the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR, in Spanish). These institutions  don’t have an impact in terms of regional and economic policy, and they are a “political safeguard of socialist leaders, not mechanisms for regional integration,” Pou and Núñez agreed.

For Jorge Serrano, a scholar at the Center for Higher National Studies in Peru, the most important thing to do now is to strengthen democracy in Bolivia. He added that the resistance we see to the transitional government is a plan B, designed and implemented with Cuban guidance.

“Latin America is now in upheaval; Cuban and Venezuelan intelligence services are also trying to destabilize Chile and Colombia with the help of large transcontinental powers like China, Iran, and Russia,” Serrano said. “Latin American countries need to strengthen their intelligence agencies, both in legal and structural terms.”

The Bolivian situation is part of a regional trend where the panorama is changing, with instability that negatively affects the dynamics and balance of some economies, Pou said. “This scenario forces the Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan regimes to reconsider a negotiated exit, which will bring the benefit of new democratic processes,” he concluded.