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Viva Evo - Morales wins!

THE Trump administration increasingly has ‘regime change’ in mind when it comes to Bolivia, writes Tim Young

Evo Morales has won a clear victory in the Bolivian presidential election. Morales, leader of the Movement to Socialism (MAS), gained 47.07 percent of the nation’s popular vote, enough to put him 10 percentage points above his closest rival, Carlos Mesa who gained 36.51 percent of vote

Under the constitution, by winning at least 40 per cent of the vote and 10 per cent more than the second candidate Morales is declared the winner without the need for a second run-off round of voting.

Movement for Socialism has also won majorities in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. 

But the day after voting took place, as it was becoming evident that Morales was on course for a first-round victory over Mesa, violent protests by the right-wing opposition erupted.

Attacks included burning down vote counting centres, vandalising Morales’s party headquarters and assaulting indigenous supporters of Morales and the MAS. 

These actions are a continuation of the violence against MAS supporters and especially indigenous people seen during the election campaign, and part of a wider drive to call into doubt the legitimacy of the elections and roll back the progressive reforms of Morales’s presidency. 

On Wednesday morning Morales warned that this amounted to an attempted right-wing coup to stop the full vote count and try to annul the result of the elections.

The right-wing opposition were no doubt encouraged in this attempt by a statement by the Organisation of American States (OAS) on Monday October 21 expressing “its deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results after the closing of the polls.”

However, no international observers in the 92-strong OAS team led by the former Foreign Minister of Costa Rica, Manuel Gonzalez which scrutinised the election in all its stages and throughout the country, had raised any issues.  

Additionally, a number of other international observers praised the legitimacy and transparency of the process.

One of the leading observers, Rixi Moncada, who is the president of the electoral court in Honduras, praised the level of independent monitoring that took place, saying that “The vote count is open to all who want to see it… we could see the noting down of each of the votes from each ballot paper.”

Another observer, Spanish MEP Manu Pineda, also spoke to media praising the legitimacy of the process, saying that “in Spain ballots are counted and assigned very quickly, however in Bolivia, each ballot paper is held and shown to all, so there cannot be any manipulation, the vote is then recorded publicly on a board for all to see. The count takes a very long time, but we can see that it’s a positive thing because it stops any possibility of fraud.”

“Everything has taken place with total normality and regularity,” Portuguese MEP Sandra Perreira added.

The OAS charge was also comprehensively rebutted by Mark Weisbrot of the Washington-based Centre for Economic and Policy Research, who pointed out that the OAS statement “provides absolutely no evidence — no statistics, numbers, or facts of any kind — to support this idea. And in fact, a preliminary analysis of the voting data at all of the more than 34,000 voting tables — which is all publicly available and can be downloaded by anyone — shows no evidence of irregularity.” 

As Weisbrot explained, “the change in the vote margin in the later-reporting voting centers is a result of geography — ie, pro-government areas, on average, reported later than those that have a higher proportion of voters who are against the government.”

A passing acquaintance with Bolivia’s electoral geography would confirm that the rural indigenous areas which tend to be the last to be counted have traditionally been in favour of Morales. 

This hasn’t stopped Trump supporters and administration officials from weighing in, with Senator Marco Rubio asserting the day after the election, before all the votes were counted, that Morales had not won enough to avoid a second round and expressing his concern that “he will tamper with the results or process to avoid this.” 

To combat these attacks, Morales has invited international bodies, including the OAS, to audit the full results. 

Meanwhile, CONALCAM, a coalition of indigenous groups, social movements and workers’ unions, took to the streets for peaceful mobilisations to defend democracy from right-wing violence and any attempts to subvert the electoral process, and in support of social progress and Evo Morales.

This support is not surprising when one considers that in recent years Bolivia has broken free from the neoliberal economic model, sought independence from the IMF and the powerful global corporations that once controlled its natural resources, and been at the forefront of countries in the region breaking from historic US domination. 

This positive example to the world – that people and planet can come before corporate profit - has inevitably provoked strong opposition from powerful external sectors, including the Trump administration.

Progressives and the labour movement internationally are calling for Bolivia’s election results to be respected. There must be no external intervention or threats of a coup aimed at overthrowing the president.

You can sign a statement in solidarity with Bolivia at http://bit.ly/nocoupbolivia 

You can follow the newly launched Friends of Bolivia at www.twitter.com/boliviafriends and www.facebook.com/boliviafriends 
There will be a special session with speakers including Bolivian trade unionist Manuel Bueno at the Latin America Conference on Saturday November 23 in London. Other speakers include MPs Dan Carden, Karen Lee and Richard Burgon, plus guests from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Tickets and information at www.latinamericaconference.co.uk 

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