On Oct 18, the Bolivian country, at the heart of Latin America, went to the polls to elect a new president. This election was held following about one year of contentious and high stakes political developments among political parties, while the election date was postponed two times due to various reasons, including the Covid 19 pandemic. On Oct 23, eventually, the Bolivian supreme electoral tribunal declared that Luis Arce had won the election by winning 55% of the vote. Based on the final statistics released, of the two rival candidates, Carlos Mena won 29% of the vote, and Luis Fernando Comach, a right-wing conservative, won 14% of the vote.
In the last presidential election, Morales, who was in power since 2005, due to his attention to the natives as well as improving the economic situation of the middle and lower classes, especially among the natives, had managed to remain in office for three consecutive terms. He staged a series of electoral reforms which sparked protests among his political rivals. He won the first round of the elections held on Oct 20, 2019, by winning about 47% of the vote, a result which was not accepted by his rivals and led to nationwide protests. On November 9, 2019, in its report, the organization of American states declared the election was rigged, and due to the protests and various pressure, Morales was made to promise a new election, but the next day and after the police joined the protests, general Williams Caliman, commander of the Bolivian military forces, declared:” The chiefs of the army are of the opinion that for the expedience of Bolivia, Morale has to step down in order for peace and stability to be restored in the country”.
On Nov 12, following widespread struggle, also supported by some regional states and organizations, and contrary to his supporters’ expectations, Morales left Bolivia going first to Mexico and eventually taking refuge and residing in Argentina.
Morales and some allied states, including Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela declared the events that led to Morales losing power and leaving the country as a coup.
It is to be noted Bolivia is the second most exporter of natural gas in South America after Venezuela. Also, as one of the largest reserves of lithium in the world in the US backyard, Bolivia is a large and important source for the production and extraction of this strategic metal. Experts believe lithium is the future oil and engine of renewable energies in the years ahead. Previously talking to the Agence France-Presse, Morales said that the US had organized the military coup in November 2019, that resulted in his ouster, to exploit the huge lithium reserves in Bolivia. He also added:” The US staged the coup because I sought cooperation with China and Russia for lithium and we had started industrialization of lithium and were about, as a small state of 11 million population, to determine the price of lithium.”
In addition, Morales raised revenue taxes, and by its money considerably invested in public projects to reduce poverty and improve healthcare services in the country, much developing the economy. During his tenure, abject poverty fell to 17% in 2018 from 38% in 2006.
Event thought during his tenure the central bank reserves rose and the infrastructure in some sectors was developed, but Morales opponents accused him of the inability to curbing corruption.
After the right-wing coup against Morales, his resignation and transfer of power to Jeanine Anez, a right- wing senator and the interim president of the country, the relations between Bolivia and countries like Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela weakened, consequently, Bolivia completely cut its relation with Venezuela on Nov 15, 2019, and with Cuba on Jan 24, 2020. However, it did not cut ties with Iran, and the Iranian embassy was still active but due to the dramatic transfer of power the new Iranian ambassador did not manage to submit his credentials, which was to be submitted to Morales, also failing to hand it into the interim president.
The new president’s election was welcomed by the Iranian president and foreign minister. Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted:” Congratulations to the heroic people of Bolivia for their decisive victory over the destabilizing plans of the Yankee empire; congratulations to the president-elect Luis Arce and his vice president David Choquehuanca for the valuable victory of the people”. After which Zarif phoned Morales, leader of the MAS party, for the victory of a president from his party.
About Bolivia’s new developments some points have to be made:
- Luis Arce the president-elect is 57 years old and a graduate from England. He already served as the minister of economy in the administration of Morales and is considered a moderate politician.
- After winning, in an interview with the Spanish paper “AFE”, Luis Arce stated:” after power transfer and holding office as president(in the second half of November this year) I will resume diplomatic relations with Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela”.
- While over the past recent years leftist and leftist-oriented tendencies in Chile, Brazil, and Ecuador have been ousted from power, and in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba the leftist presidents are seriously embattled in keeping power and faced with economic hardships by the US sanction, taking power by the new president from Morales’ party in Bolivia is a new beacon of a new life of leftism in Latin America.
- Although by regard to the party origins and closeness to Morales, normally the new president should walk in the party lines of the Toward Socialism Movement, it seems the past 11 months’ problems along with political developments and the instability arising from the power struggle, have enormously damaged the Bolivian economy. Besides, the precarious Covid 19 pandemic situation has worryingly shrunk the Bolivian economy by 11 points in 2020. Therefore, the next movements by the new political leaders will be faced with limitations, and probably due to this, the new president has declared he is seeking a national unity government.
(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)