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Bolivian Election Results Marred By Protests And Accusations Of Fraud

Opposition members challenge the landslide victory of presidential candidate Luis Arce

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Autumn Spredemann
Autumn Spredemann
I´ve traveled the world working as a freelance journalist, blogger, and English teacher. I specialize in remote travel, obscure cultures, and politics.

BOLIVIA. Santa Cruz: Thousands of angry residents gathered in the area of El Cristo on 20 Oct. to denounce the early election results released by the organization CIESMORI, which awaits final confirmation from the president of the electoral court, Salvador Romero. The results show Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) candidate Luis Arce as the winner of the tense presidential election.

Residents of Santa Cruz called upon members of the protest group Resistencia and other sympathizers from last year´s coup d´etat to join them in an indefinite civil strike.

Protesters in El Cristo, Santa Cruz. Photo credit: El Deber

Why many are reluctant to accept a MAS victory

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The election fraud and resultant coup that took place last October left people already sour on the MAS government with a bitter taste in their mouths. Deposed president Evo Morales was the leader of the MAS party for 14 years. While Morales styled himself as the backbone of the working class, he was also involved with the misappropriation of government funds, drug cartel activity, and as of August 2020, is being sued for child support and rape in a class-action lawsuit involving nine underage girls.

Also read: New Evidence Links Former Bolivian President To Underage Sex Scandal

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Though early years under the MAS showed economic growth and hope for the disenfranchised indigenous, the slippery slope of power inevitably took its toll. In February of 2016, Morales lost a constitutional referendum that allowed him to continue in office for a third consecutive term. He stayed in office regardless and also ran for an illegal fourth term last October under the flimsy pretext that it was what the people wanted.

Post election protesters in Cochabamba. Photo credit: Los Tiempos

Consequently, nationwide protests under the slogan ¡Bolivia Dijo No! (Bolivia said no) were the result of Morales refusing to leave office, proving the people wanted fresh leadership.

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Luis Arce is the current MAS party presidential candidate and was the minister of the economy under the stewardship of Morales. Recently, it was announced by El Deber that Arce will be summoned to testify in a government corruption investigation that took place during an official visit to Peru back in 2013. 

People believe Arce is a segue for Morales to return

This is the primary concern for many Bolivians. It´s the reason thousands of protesters have already taken to the streets. “Arce is just a means for Evo to return,” one Sucre resident proclaimed in a Transcontinental Times public inquiry. “Evo threatened revenge against his own people after last year. We´re afraid of what will happen if he returns.”

Revolution graffiti from 2019 depicting Evo Morales.
Photo credit: Autumn Spredemann

Though Arce has made no claims to support this, an undercurrent of fear among the general public remains. Another resident in the historic capital echoed the same concerns, “It will just be more of the same if the MAS returns. Also, we´ll get stuck with Evo again. Just watch.”

Camacho is behind the whispers of fraud

Luis Fernando Camacho is a right-wing political activist and lawyer from Santa Cruz who came in third after Luis Arce and Carlos Mesa in the presidential race.

On Tuesday, sources close to Camacho leaked information saying the presidential candidate has proof that fraud was committed during the election and he intends to reveal the evidence once the electoral court confirms Arce as the winner. This mirrors the circumstances which led to the ousting of Morales last year with one key difference: no actual evidence of fraud has been presented.

Many residents took to social media, decrying Camacho and claiming the leaked information was nothing more than a ploy to gain national strike support in the nation´s wealthiest state.

Revolution graffiti in Sucre. Photo credit: Autumn Spredemann

Social media campaigns denouncing Camacho and his running mate Marco Antonio Pumari as traitors have already been seen on Facebook and Instagram. Their refusal to step down from the close election race split a critical portion of the vote that would´ve gone to Carlos Mesa, giving the defeated political centrist a greater chance of victory over the MAS.

Pumari was attacked by a public mob upon arrival to Potosi yesterday amid cries of traitor and threats to burn down the vice-presidential candidate´s home. Video footage of this harrowing incident can be viewed here

Arce calls for unity in the divided nation

Acutely aware of the social and economic crisis facing his country in the wake of the pandemic, Arce implored citizens to embrace peace and unity while his party works to restore solvency. He announced plans for a second stimulus bonus as one of his first presidential acts in a statement released by El Deber.

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SourceEl Deber
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