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PostOuster and Exile of Evo Morales (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 11/13/19 3:26 am)
Recently I wrote a WAIS post commenting on the protest events in South America, particularly Chile and Ecuador, and I dared to speculate on their possible causes.
Now, several other events in progress, such as Lula's release from prison (Brazil), the new Peronist president in Argentina, and most recently the collapse of the Morales regime in Bolivia, seem to describe a pervasive crisis in the region.
Before trying to look into possible general causes, the abrupt departure of Morales is worthy of comment. In fact, Evo resigned last Sunday and left yesterday for Mexican exile. Why? Troubles for him started after the past presidential elections, three weeks ago, when the results favoring him were under strong suspicion of fraud and apparent manipulations. It was not really a surprise that the Bolivian Electoral Council apparently distorted the outcome in favor of Evo. It was not the first time such political manipulations have taken place in that country.
Evo has been in power for more than 13 years, despite the Bolivian Constitution explicitly prohibiting presidential reelection for consecutive periods. The first attempt to circumvent this constitutional regulation failed in a national referendum, which later was reversed by the Bolivian Supreme Court, which under Evo's influence twice ruled that reelection was possible. These decisions allowed him to stay in power until now, something which pleased him much, an authoritarian and intolerant character, for which democracy was just a power instrument. For that reason he disrespected the constitution to please his power ambitions.
Anyway, the fraud was denounced by the OAS and other international sources, and raised popular indignation over the last three weeks throughout the whole country: violent protests, riots, looting and attacks on government officials' houses, including Evo's and his family members. At first the government claimed the popular insurrection was a coup attempt from the opposition, an argument difficult to believe at first because of the massive popular protests and the opposition's lack of influence in the armed forces. Later Evo tried to calm the protests announcing a new election, but the events brought down the government. The police forces launched a general mutiny in the main cities of the country and together with the army, always loyal to Evo and declaring itself "neutral," "suggested" that president resign, which he finally did last Sunday, together with hundreds of other public officials. He departed for Mexico, promising to return some day.
Was all this a coup d'état? Maybe it was, maybe not. If you consider the premise that Evo was a legitimately elected president and that the army´s suggestion was in fact an imposition, then it might be considered a coup. But there are other accounts. Considering the massive popular protests, the apparent fraudulent electoral process, the previous abuses of the constitution and that there was no use of military force, then the question is debatable.
Anyway, the situation in Bolivia is far from clear. There is a power vacuum, there are still protests and unruly demonstrations from Evo's sympathizers, and the solution to the impasse is not clear. More likely there are going to be new elections with uncertain results.
An important question concerns the real causes of the current situation. Evo's initial success was based on the crisis of social injustice and inequality, supported by the high international prices of commodities and the nationalization of the energy and mining industries. But lower commodities prices, a lack of public policies to improve local productivity and private business and industries, political uncertainties and corruption probably explain the present situation. Most of all, however, it was Evo's autocratic character and his ambition to remain in power at all costs that seemed to be an important cause of the current crisis.
Finally, another important question is: what are the causes of present turbulent times in South America? Trying to answer it would demand a longer analysis, but a preliminary answer that occurs to me is that people in the region are tired, frustrated and furious, of poverty, inequalities, corruption, bad economic performance from their (in most cases) abusive governments, basically because now they are much more informed and their general level of education has been improved in general.
JE comments: It occurs to me that Latin America's left autocrats of a decade ago, who numbered half a dozen, are all gone except Daniel Ortega. And things are far from stable in Nicaragua--Ortega may indeed be out before the end of the year. The Ortega regime by the way has called Morales's ouster a "coup."
(And of course, there's Maduro in Venezuela, but he was not one of the original leftist autocrats.)
Will historians be talking about the Latin American "fall" or "spring" of 2019? It's a tricky question for a continent divided between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.