The Andes
Luis Arce

Bolivia: back to ‘socialism,’ or meet the new boss?

Luis Arce, candidate of the party of ousted president Evo Morales, has seemingly swept to victory in Bolivia’s¬†presidential elections. While the official count is technically still pending, results place him with more than 50% of the vote‚ÄĒwell above the second-place center-right contender Carlos Mesa and with far more than the required majority to avoid a runoff. This represents a significant recoup of losses for the Movement Toward Socialism-Political Instrument for the Peoples’ Sovereignty (MAS-IPSP), which Morales nominally still leads from exile in Argentina. As news of the victory broke, supporters gathered outside Arce’s campaign office to chant “The pollera will be respected!”‚ÄĒa reference to the traditional skirt that has become a symbol of the MAS-IPSP indigenous base. But¬†when Arce assumes the presidency, he will be taking over a country debilitated by deep recession. “We will have to have austerity measures. There’s no other option if we don’t have enough income to cover our current expenditures,” Arce admitted to reporters.¬†(Image via Carwil without Borders)

The Andes
Oruro

Bolivia: street confrontations in prelude to elections

Tensions are escalating in Bolivia ahead of the first post-coup elections, which after numerous postponements are now slated for this month. In one incident, a¬†youth meeting of the Movement to Socialism (MAS) in the Manufacturing Complex of the working-class city of El Alto was attacked with tear-gas bombs by unknown assailants, causing an exodus from the cavernous space. Days earlier, MAS supporters in the mining hub of Oruro hurled stones at a vehicle caravan of the right-wing Creemos (We Believe) coalition, forcing it to retreat from their barrio, known as the Mining Helmet for the strength of organized labor there. The protesters shouted “Out, out, out! Oruro must be respected!”¬†(Photo:¬†Bolivia Prensa)

The Andes
Mauricio Jara

Rights group sees ‘political persecution’ in Bolivia

Human Rights Watch released a report¬†asserting¬†that Bolivia’s interim government, led by President Jeanine A√Īez, uses the judiciary to attack former President Evo Morales, his supporters, and former members of his administration. The report claims A√Īez’s government “has publicly pressured prosecutors and judges to act to further its interests, leading to criminal investigations of more than 100 people linked to Morales government and Morales supporters for sedition and/or terrorism.” The report states that these investigations “appear to be politically motivated.” Among those charged is Morales himself, who was accused of terrorism after he fled the country last November. (Photo:¬†Guider Arancibia¬†via HRW)

The Andes
Mamani

US court rules against Bolivian ex-prez in rights case

The US Court of Appeals of the Eleventh Circuit in Miami vacated a lower court judgment that had exonerated former Bolivian president Gonzalo S√°nchez de Lozada and his defense minister Carlos S√°nchez Berza√≠n of responsibility for the killing of protesters during the 2003 “Gas War.” The pair fled to exile in the United States after repression failed to put down the protests. In 2018, surviving relatives of eight killed in the repression brought suit against the two exiled leaders in a US district court under the Torture Victims Protection Act. The case, Mamani et. al v. S√°nchez de Lozada, marked the first time a former head of state was brought to trial for human rights violations in a US court. The jury found the two liable under the TVPA and awarded plaintiffs $10 million in damages. But in an unusual move, Judge James I. Cohn set aside the jury verdict and entered its own judgment, holding the defendants not liable based on insufficient evidence. The Eleventh Circuit has now reversed Cohn’s ruling, and remanded the case to the district court. The lower court is instructed to weigh whether the jury verdict should be reinstated or if a new trial should be held. (Photo of¬†plaintiffs Eloy and Etelvina Mamani, center, and legal team via¬†Harvard Law Today)

The Andes
Bolivia protest

Mass protests paralyze Bolivia

Protesters have launched blockades across main roads through Bolivia over the past days, effectively cutting of La Paz and other cities, to oppose the government’s postponement of new presidential elections. The blockades have raised fears of food and gasoline shortages, with throngs of La Paz residents lining up outside markets and petrol stations. Chancellor Karen Longaric portrayed the protests as being masterminded from exile by ousted president Evo Morales, saying “Ex-president Morales and groups aligned¬†with the Movement Toward Socialism have initiated violent and inhuman acts.” (Photo: P√°gina Siete)

The Andes
COB cabildo

Bolivia: general strike to protest postponed elections

A thousands-strong march through the Bolivian highland city of El Alto was followed by a cabildo, or mass meeting, in which unions and popular organizations agreed to immediately begin an “indefinite” general strike, demanding that new elections be held on schedule. The country’s first elections since the ouster of president Evo Morales last year were slated for Sept. 6, but the government of interim president Jeanine A√Īez has postponed them to Oct. 18, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. The cabildo was called by the Bolivian Workers Central (COB), the country’s main trade union bloc, and included representation from campesino organizations and El Alto’s powerful alliance of working-class neighborhood organizations. COB leader Juan Carlos Huarachi affirmed: “If we join together as miners, campesinos, the middle class and El Alto, we can be dynamite.” (Photo: ERBOL via¬†Opini√≥n)

The Amazon
TIPNIS

Bolivia: IACHR to hear TIPNIS case

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) formally agreed to hear a complaint filed by 64 indigenous communities in Bolivia’s eastern rainforest, accusing the Bolivian state of violating their territorial rights under the administration of ousted president Evo Morales. The complaint charges that Bolivian authorities undertook to build a highway through the Isiboro-S√©cure National Park & Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS) without consulting or obtaining the consent of indigenous inhabitants. It also alleges that the government illegally used force to break up the cross-country “VIII Indigenous March” that was called to protest the road construction in 2011.¬†(Photo via Bolivia Diary)

The Andes
Paradita

Politicians exploit COVID-19 in Peru, Bolivia

Peru’s right-wing opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, who had been jailed while corruption charges are pending against her, was released from pre-trial detention, ostensibly on fears she could be exposed to the coronavirus. Of course there has been no general discharge from Peru’s dangerously overcrowded prisons, and anti-corruption prosecutors are protesting her release as “illegitimate.”¬†Ironically, Fujimori’s release comes just as¬†the Peruvian government issued a decree authorizing mining operations to resume in the country. Bolivia has likewise ordered operations to resume at the country’s mines‚ÄĒwhile¬†interim president Jeanine A√Īez, who came to power after Evo Morales was ousted last year,¬†has invoked the pandemic to indefinitely postpone new elections.¬†(Photo:¬†Diaro Uno)

Watching the Shadows
PNP_Checkpoints

Global COVID-19 police state escalates

Mounting police-state measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are now resulting in stand-offs between executive and judicial authorities. In El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele is openly defying¬†Supreme Court rulings to respect fundamental rights while enforcing the lockdown. His¬†security forces have arbitrarily detained hundreds in containment centers, where rights observers charge they face an increased risk of spreading COVID-19.¬†Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the government may not continue using tracking capabilities developed by the internal security service Shin Bet in efforts to contain COVID-19, imposing a deadline for¬†Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu¬†to seek legislative approval for the practice.¬†In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte, already threatening to shoot lockdown violators, has escalated to warning of an imminent declaration of martial law. (Photo: Philippine National Police via Wikipedia)

The Andes
riberalta-marcha

Protesters demand food across Bolivia

Ten days into a national “quarantine” declared in Bolivia, protesters are taking to the streets to demand food in working-class districts of cities across the country‚ÄĒin defiance of lockdown orders. Residents are calling for either flexibility in the lockdown, which has paralyzed the economy, or food distribution in their barrios. The interim government of Jeanine √Ā√Īez has pledged one-time payments of $60 for elders, the disabled, pregnant women and others with special needs. Her supporters on social media are portraying the protests as fomented by the ousted Movement Toward Socialism (MAS). (Photo via Los Tiempos, Cochabamba)

The Andes
Chapare

Bolivia: regime targets Chapare for eradication

Bolivia’s National Council to Combat Illicit Drug Trafficking (CONALTID) has issued a new strategy paper calling for changes to the country’s General Coca Law that would allow eradication operations throughout the Chapare region in the eastern lowlands. The change would overturn a reform of the law made under Evo Morales that permitted coca cultivation for the legal domestic market throughout most of Chapare. The CONALTID strategy asserts that 91% of Chapare coca production is being diverted to the illicit market.¬†In announcing the policy change, Defense Minister Fernando L√≥pez issued a stern warning to the inhabitants of the Chapare: “We are not playing, we are ready for anything.” Chapare, a heartland of support for the ousted Morales, has been a de facto autonomous zone outside the control of La Paz since last year’s coup d’etat. (Photo:¬†P√°gina Siete)

The Andes
Chapare

Bolivia: regime threatens autonomous Chapare

The new Bolivian regime’s Government Minister Arturo Murillo is threatening a military invasion of the eastern lowland region of Chapare, heartland of support for ousted president Evo Morales, which has become a de facto autonmous zone outside the control of La Paz. Murillo implied to reporters that planned new elections will not proceed until control over Chapare has been re-established. In the aftermath of the November¬†coup, the Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba, the cocalero alliance once led by Morales, mobilized to resist the new regime. The region was cut off by cocalero roadblocks, and several¬†National Police statons burned. The roadblocks have since been relaxed, but large areas of the province are without any police presence and effectively independent. (Photo: Ollie Vargas via Twitter)