Bolivia has captured the attention due to the 4th re-election of Evo Morales as President. First elected in 2006, he became the first indigenous president of the country. He sought to eradicate poverty and better conditions for the multiple indigenous communities of the State. During his rule, extreme poverty rates fell from 38 per cent in 2006 to 15 per cent in 2018.
Bolivia also experienced an unprecedented growth in GDP, surpassing that of neighbouring countries. Morales was even said to break with neoliberal economic policy and become the first president to break with the United States neo-colonialism. However, he made a mistake many Latin American rulers have made: he sought to remain in power longer than the constitution allowed.
Morales enjoyed overwhelming support in his previous re-elections but began losing popularity in 2016 when a referendum was held. The referendum sought to get the popular support on reforming the constitution so the President could run for a fourth term in 2019. The results did not favour Morales’ ambition as 51.3 per cent of Bolivians rejected modifying their constitution.
In October 20th 2019, Evo Morales won in elections that the Organization of American States marked as containing ‘serious irregularities’. The event threw Bolivia into massive protests and civil unrest. On November 10th, Morales resigned and fled to Mexico in seek of asylum. Nonetheless, the resignation was not enough to put an end to the chaos in Bolivia.
The Bolivian former president has said that he was ousted from the country via a coup organised by the opposition. Amid the confrontation created by Morales’ declaration and the power vacuum created in his absence, Bolivia is now heading down a dangerous path of division. Jeanine Añez, a senator, has assumed interim presidency but has been declared illegitimate by some. Adding to the unrest, Morales has announced that he intends to return to help his fellow Bolivians, creating further animosity.
Evo Morales’ actions have not only undermined his country’s democratic institutions, but he continues to divide Bolivian society by maintaining the declaration of a coup. This tactic has been commonplace in Latin American politics when long-standing leaders have been accused of breaking the law in attempting to remain in office. Paraphrasing a Batman film, it could be said that in Latin America you “either retire a hero or remain in office long enough to become the villain”.