BOLIVIA. Sucre, Chuquisaca. The smell of gunpowder and the sound of explosives announced the arrival of the largest and most widespread protests the South American nation has experienced since the post-election riots in October 2019.
The people want an election in September.
The presidential election that was set for 6 Sept. was canceled for the second time last week due to the surge of COVID-19 cases within the country. However, pandemic concerns were not enough to keep people from taking to the streets and demanding the delayed election take place as scheduled. The current president Jeanine Añez has been accused by citizens and politicians alike for using the coronavirus as an excuse to stay in power.
Spikes in unemployment and poverty are underlying factors.
Since the arrival of COVID-19, Bolivia implemented one of the strictest lockdowns on the continent. This lasted for nearly two months before any non-essential businesses were allowed to open. In that time, hundreds of small businesses were forced to close their doors due to a lack of revenue. Many farming operations, particularly the meat industry, suffered heavy losses due to the tight regulation of the transportation of goods between departments during the lockdown. The lack of any significant financial support for the ailing population complicated matters further. A one time bonus of 500 bs (approximately $72 USD), was issued in an attempt to stem the economic hemorrhage but made little difference in the ability of working-class Bolivians to make enough money to survive. Once the economy began to reopen in June, many families were faced with bills they were unable to pay due to a lack of work. As a result, the homeless population began to spike drastically.
Protesters intend to blockade the cities if their demands are not met.
Protest leaders in the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party have announced that their supporters intend to block the roads between the cities, cutting off vital trade routes for food and medical supplies, if the electoral court refuses to reinstate the September presidential election. It remains to be seen whether these maneuvers will influence the decision of the electoral court.
Live footage of the protests can be viewed here.