Bolivia: ‘dirty war’ fears as Evo seeks third term

Bolivia's President Evo Morales will run for re-election in October, the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) announced July 14. But the opposition accuses Morales of defying the constitution, which allows a president two consecutive terms in office. Morales was first elected in 2006 and then again in 2009. The term limit was adopted in 2009, with the constitutional reform overseen by Morales himself. In 2013 the Plurinational Constitutional Trbunal (TCP) ruled that his first term should not be counted as it preceded the new constitution. Morales is the clear frontrunner, polling at about 44%. His nearest rival, cement tycoon Samuel Doria Medina of the Unidad Demócrata (UD), trails by almost 30 points. Morales, anticipating a contentious campaign, appealed to MAS supporters for restraint, saying "I ask you all not to enter into a dirty war." (La Razón, La Paz, July 17; Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, July 16; EFE, July 15; The Guardian, July 14)

As Morales made the appeal, the MAS senatorial candidate for Cochabamba department, Adolfo Mendoza, announced he is dropping out of the race, citing threats of violence against him and his family. The threats came amid a public exchange of insults between Vice President Álvaro García Linera and the UD senatorial candidate for Cochabamba, Arturo Murillo. (Eju!, Santa Cruz, July 19)

Indigenous leaders from the departments of La Paz, Oruro, Cochabamba, Potosí and Chuquisaca meanwhile announced that they will begin a hunger strike outside the doors of TCP in Sucre, where Bolivia's judiciary is based, to demand their inclusion in the reform of department-level legal codes now underway. Representatives of the Qhara Qhara, Yampara, Quillaca and Chuwi indigenous peoples began the vigil on July 15, and said they wold begin fasting a week later if they were not given a voice in the process. TCP president Efrén Choque responded that the judicial body can only decalre the "autonomous statutes" unconstitutional. The statutes are being worked out by Bolivia's congress in conjunction with the new Departmental Assemblies established by the Autonomy and Decentralization Law passed five years ago. (ABI, July 18; Erbol, July 17; Los Tiempos, April 21; ANF, Sept. 29, 2013)

  1. Whither Evo’s ‘dirty war’?

    Are Evo Morales and his VP Álvaro García Linera playing a game of good-cop-bad-cop—and, more cynically, is Evo's call to refrain from a "dirty war" actually a coded message to start one? That is clearly how it is being read by Bolivia's opposition. Yes, we know the opposition is by and large an ugly lot. But what are to make of Evo's loopy play to facile populism with his proposal to start running the country's clocks backwards (ICTMN, June 29)—right on the heels of a new law legalizing child labor from the age of 10 (with the proviso that it not interfere with the child's education)? The report on this measure on Al Jazeera America July 18 notes that it was signed into law by García Linera in the absence of Morales, who was travelling. A convenience that also plays into the good-cop-bad-cop theory… If this kind of law was passed in one of Latin America's "Washington Consensus" countries, the left would be up in arms about it.

    We'll also point out that while Morales' fellow left-populist Hugo Chávez of Venezuela likewise used the first-term-doesn't-count trick to justify remaining in office after his own constitutional reform imposed term limits—so did Peru's right-wing strongman Alberto Fujimori back in 1999. We lefties didn't like it very much in that case.

    Just sayin'.

  2. Bolivia: dirty electoral season gets dirtier

    Mario Orellana, senatoral candidate with the opposition Movimiento Sin Miedo (MSM), was imprisoned in Cochabamba on charges of forging documents to prove his residency in the department beyond the required two years. MSM leaders charge he was "humiliated" in prison nad had his head shaved against his will. Fabián Yaksic, MSM's La Paz candidate for the lower-house Chamber of Deputies, has shaved his own head in solidarity with Orellana. (ANF, ABI, Sept. 2; Página Siete, La Paz, Sept. 1)