BOLIVIA. Sucre. In accordance with their long-standing disregard for the law, The Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party hosted a crowded rally for supporters as part of their pre-election publicity campaign on 26 Sept. The event was a slap in the face to the current government-mandated restriction on public assemblies larger than 20 people.
An election confined and defined by COVID-19
Large scale parties with music and more are an important part of Bolivia´s pre-election culture. It´s normal for dominant political parties to invest hundreds of dollars to host these events. However, due to the pandemic, there are restrictions in place to help curb the spread of the virus.
Political parties like the MAS and Luis Fernando Camacho (Camacho), a right-wing conservative candidate from Santa Cruz, rely on these grand public spectacles and handouts to help secure votes. Both parties have been reported hosting large rallies in recent weeks.
Some political groups are taking the COVID-19 restrictions more seriously, like Comunidad Ciudadana (CC) and their candidate, Carlos Mesa. The local factions of CC have made efforts to follow the restrictions mandated by the electoral court and are keeping their group campaign activities small.
Facing retribution for the lockdown blockades
In early August, members of the MAS and the Centro Obrera Boliviana (COB) union shut down major roads throughout the country in protest, bringing the flow of vital supplies to a halt. This happened at a time when coronavirus cases were peaking and the country´s hospitals were desperately undersupplied. Oxygen tanks couldn´t reach the cities and in some cases, even ambulances weren´t allowed to pass.
The blockades were an extreme measure used by the MAS and COB to strong-arm the government into lifting the quarantine and letting more people go back to work.
These actions haven´t been forgotten by the people of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, whose hospitals suffered terribly during the blockades. Regular attacks have been launched on MAS campaign caravans in the past month in both cities as retribution. The assaults have included rock-throwing, angry mobs yelling, and vandalized property.
Closing the gap in a race for democracy
The nation´s presidential election will take place on 18 Oct. With less than three weeks left, the national polls show MAS party candidate Luis Arce, and CC party candidate Carlos Mesa as the clear front runners in a close race. Camacho has moved up into the third position, according to the polls, after interim president Jeanine Añez announced on 18 Sept. that she was dropping out of the election race.