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Bolivian President Morales Resigns and Stirs Up Controversy

By: Jessica Hernandez Blanco

Bolivia’s ballot-counting procedures for the election held Oct. 20, 2019, left the country with a resigned president and uncertainty about its democratic process.

Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia and candidate for re-election, resigned after the completion of his third term. This was shortly after a report from the American States Organization (OAS), the institution in charge of the Bolivian electoral process, came out stating that a Morales win was suspicious.

Vote counting had stopped for more than 20 hours and the OAS did not legitimize the accuracy of the results. They suggested that new elections be held.

After Morales resigned, other government members followed suit.  Vice president of the senate Jeanine Añez Chavez became interim president of Bolivia.

Morales left the country hours after his resignation and said that a coup against him was performed. There is much debate on whether his resignation could be considered a coup.

Bolivia Protest *Stock image retrieved and edited by Tamica McKenzie*

Dr. Leah Blumenfeld, Barry professor of Latin American politics, stated that there is much more behind Morales’s words and actions.

“Morales himself has called it a coup and says he has been forced out illegitimately. He wanted to keep himself and his supporters in power but there was enough resistance to the way he was going about it. And, it didn’t happen,” said Dr. Blumenfeld.

She also noted that coups are interpreted subjectively and what happened in Bolivia could be a popular uprising.

Junior finance and international business major Martina Muñoz Chalan also agrees that a coup did not take place. She is a Bolivian citizen who lived there for most of her life.

“Evo Morales was president for 14 years. He was running for the presidency on illegal terms because the Bolivian people said no on his last referendum. It was evident there was a lot of fraud,” said Chalan. “I do not believe it was a coup; he resigned because he wanted to, and it shows all of the bad things that he was doing for the country.”

Chalan also believes that Morales’s resignation was positive for the country after recently traveling there.

“Bolivia seemed very different. The environment felt a lot more peaceful and everyone seemed to be more united, kind, and friendly. A sentiment of hope for the [upcoming] election was shared," said Chalan.

Still, the resignation of Morales has serious implications for Bolivia. There have been major changes in the country during the tenure of the interim president.

Women caught in chaos during Bolivian protest *Photo edited by Tamica M.*

“A lot of what she's done policy-wise is pushing back at Morales’s agenda, both as a socialist but also as a representative of the indigenous population. So, there's certainly a cultural tension,” said Dr. Blumenfeld when asked about the changes in the new Bolivian political era.

She also added that the actions of the transitionary government of Chavez have been alluding to Catholic symbols during her short tenure in the presidency. This can later become a religious issue among the indigenous population.

Elections in Bolivia will be held on May 3, 2020, without Morales as a candidate. One thing, however, is clear. With or without Morales, Bolivia is entering a new political era.

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