By Rupert Sorhaindo
One year, almost to the day, after Evo Morales was forced out of office as president of Bolivia and had to seek refuge in Mexico and Argentina, his Movement For Socialism Party (MAS) was swept back into government with a strong mandate in fresh elections held on October 18, 2020.
On October 20, 2019, president Morales was on course for his election to a fourth term, when an Organization of American States (OAS) Election Observation Mission issued a report claiming electoral fraud, that set the stage for violent protests from right-wing elements, including evangelicals who were opposed to the policies of the MAS that favoured indigenous Bolivians who constitute the majority of the population.
In the wake of the bloody clashes that left several supporters of the MAS dead at the hands of right-wing mobs, the police and military, president Morales left the country for Mexico, so as to spare the country from further bloodshed. And while the United States president Donald Trump welcomed the departure of Morales describing it as “a significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere”, US Senator Bernie Sanders and several progressive members of the US Congress were critical of what they characterized as a military coup.
An interim government dominated by right-wing elements headed by a fervent evangelical was installed, and members of MAS and the indigenous community continued to be subjected to acts of repression. A resolution condemning the interim government for its treatment of the indigenous community which was debated in the OAS General Assembly received strong support from CARICOM representatives, provoking the ire of the US ambassador to the OAS, who accused CARICOM of hypocrisy.
Meanwhile, independent experts conducting a thorough analysis of the October 2019 election data concluded that the OAS report was severely flawed, that there was no fraud and that president Morales was the clear winner. The detailed findings were published in the New York Times and Washington Post newspapers and led several high profile figures to demand an apology from the OAS secretary-general. To date, the OAS has not satisfactorily responded to the experts’ findings.
During the Dominica 2019 general election campaign, opposition spokespersons made pointed references to the ouster of president Morales, alluding to the possibility of the OAS being asked to intervene to remove Roosevelt Skerrit as was done with Morales – “if Skerrit was to steal the election”.
In another instance, the leader of an evangelical organization threatened that “missiles harder than stone” would be used if the Dominican government did not implement the electoral reform recommendations made by the OAS, referring to the events in Bolivia.
In the October 18, 2020 elections in Bolivia, the MAS candidate, and former minister of finance in the Morales government Luis Arce, won a resounding victory with 55 percent of the votes cast, some 26 percentage points higher than his closet rival, former president Carlos Mesa.
The Western media outlets that had reported widely on the 2019 elections in Bolivia, portraying Morales as a dictator, has paid scant attention to the MAS victory which has repudiated the unjust treatment of the indigenous leader, whose policies had transformed the Bolivian economy and raised the standard of living of Bolivians, especially members of the indigenous community that had been marginalized for centuries.
It is widely believed that the United States has a strategic interest in the vast deposits of metal Lithium in Bolivia. That resource is in great demand for use in batteries, as the world seeks to transition to non-fossil energy sources to power automobiles. Morales had nationalized Bolivia’s petroleum and lithium industries and had used the increased revenues derived from that policy to improve the living conditions of the Bolivians – at the expense of profits for multinational corporations.
In the wake of the MAS victory, there have been calls for the resignation of Luis Almagro, secretary-general of the OAS who has been accused of promoting the regime change agenda of the United States and its allies in the hemispheric organization.
Almagro was reelected to a second term earlier this year in a controversial meeting held in Washington, DC in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. His reelection bid was strongly supported by the US, whose president and secretary of state had directly lobbied selected CARICOM leaders in a manner that had infuriated then CARICOM chairperson prime minister Mia Motley of Barbados, who publicly condemned the approach as an effort to divide the region.