Bolivia: Evo wins —amid indigenous protests

Exit polls show incumbent populist Evo Morales has emered victorious in Bolivia's presidential election, with 60% of the vote—well ahead of his closest rival's 25%, likely assuring a clear win with no need for a run-off. Morales, of the left-wing Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), had sought in the Oct. 12 vote to improve on his previous best showing—64% in 2009—and maintain a two-thirds control of Bolivia's Senate and assembly. That would let him change the constitution, which restricts presidents to two five-year terms, so he can run yet a fourth time. Amid specualtion in the opposition and foreign press about his intentions, Morales has not said whether he would seek a fourth term, only that he will "respect the constitution."

Morales' top rival, Samuel Doria Medina of the right-opposition Democratic Unity (UD), conceded defeat and publicly thanked his supporters—singling out Rubén Costas, the governor of eastern Santa Cruz department who led a seperatist initiative there in 2008. In his victory statement, Morales struck a conciliatory tone, saying, "What Bolivia wants, with these election results, is not confrontation, but to work together." (TeleSUR, BBC News, ABI, Oct. 13; WP, Oct. 12)

Two days before the elections, the suyus (self-governing indigenous regions) of Jacha Carangas, Killacas and Suras declared a "state of emergency," pledging protests over the lack of recognition for the suyus under the autonomy statute of Oruro department. Rolando Canaviri, traditional leader of Killacas, said the suyu leaders would challenge the law before Bolivia's Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal after the elections were completed. The leaders also protest that under the statute, only the Uru Chipaya indigenous group is guaranteed seats in the newly formed departmental assembly. Leaders of the Yampara indigenous people in La Paz department meanwhile started a hunger strike outside the departmental court offices to demand a judicial order granting them seats in the new departmental assembly. (Erbol, Correo del Sur, Sucre, Oct. 10)

  1. Bolivia: protests continue against mining law

    Despite Evo Morales' landslide re-election, protests continue against his new mining law, passed in May. The law is opposed by mining cooperatives, who reject measures forcing them into partnership with the government, as well as by indigenous activists who say the law gives the cooperatives too free a hand

    "The cooperatives are cooperative only in word. In practice they are small businesses that are like vultures," said Cancio Rojas of CONAMAQ, who was imprisoned in 2012 for his role in an anti-mining protest that turned violent. "They destroy everything and leave the land totally contaminated… The cooperative miners are in the government, and they define the law."

    Emilio Madrid of Colectivo Casa, an organization that works with communities affected by mining, charged that the new law restricts communities' right to be consulted on—or to protest—projects that affect their land.

    "Protest is the origin of this government, which came up from social movements, from resistance," Madrid said. "It would not exist if previous governments had criminalized protest to the extent of the present government." (Al Jazeera America, Oct. 10)