The real story behind Bolivia’s protests


Evo Morales, the exiled former president of Bolivia, said he is willing to sit out the country’s next presidential election if he can finish the last few months of his term and, together with the opposition, name a new electoral authority to oversee a fresh vote to choose a new leader, the Wall Street Journal reports (HT:FDD).

On Nov. 10, Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, resigned after almost 14 years in office. His resignation came after a disputed election on Oct. 20 and two weeks of protests and strikes that paralyzed the country, according to analysts Carew BouldingRaymond FoxworthCalla HummelJami Nelson Nuñez and V. Ximena Velasco-Guachalla. 

These dramatic events have elicited a lot of discussion and analysis. Unfortunately, much of this discussion relies on oversimplifications of what happened. The real story is more complex, they write for the Post’s Monkey Cage:

  • The military wasn’t the only force pushing Morales out: Much of the debate over Morales’s exit has centered on whether it was a de facto military coup. Those who see it as a coup note that the head of the military announced, on television, that Morales should resign. They also note the police decided to refuse orders to quell the anti-Morales protesters….But this interpretation misses something important: Many organizations and groups wanted Morales to step down. That includes major labor unions, (above), even those that had traditionally supported him, as well as civic groups, student organizations and more.
  • Indigenous Bolivians were increasingly divided over Morales: Another portrayal of the protests relies on a similar oversimplification: that it’s a battle between indigenous Bolivians and everyone else. In this telling, that indigenous supporters of Morales are blindly loyal, while his opponents are elites willing to bypass the democratic process to get rid of him….. Our research finds indigenous groups increasingly divided over Morales. According to data from the Latin American Public Opinion Project (right), support for Morales among indigenous groups had declined to 58 percent in 2018, down from 71 percent in 2010. Similarly, in a 2016 referendum on whether Morales should be allowed to run again for reelection beyond the constitutional limit of three terms, nearly 50 percent of indigenous people said no….

Carew Boulding is associate professor of political science at the University of Colorado and the author of “NGOs, Political Protest, and Civil Society” (above – Cambridge University Press, 2014). Raymond Foxworth, PhD, is vice president of the First Nations Development Institute and an expert on indigenous politics. Calla Hummel is assistant professor of political science at the University of Miami and author of several articles on Bolivia. @CallaHummel Jami Nelson Nuñez is assistant professor of political science at University of New Mexico and the author of several papers on local service delivery and the politics of development. V. Ximena Velasco-Guachalla is a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado and studies corruption and political protest. @vximenavg

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