tit has been a torturous week since Evo Morales was expelled from Bolivia, and in his vice president’s recently released cells, one of their party’s rising stars sat crushed and exhausted.
“It hurts,” admitted Eva Copa, the 32-year-old Senate chairwoman of the Morales Movement for Socialism (Mass). “What happened will leave scars.”
Visibly exhausted, Copa admitted that the prospects were uncertain for her movement and Bolivia in general. “The last thing the people of Bolivia want is more chaos,” she said.
But the young senator was adamant that Mas could and would recover. “We do not need to recover. “What we’re going to do is reorganize,” Copa said. “We have faith that we will do it.”
This faith was well established. On Friday morning, authorities confirmed a stunning political comeback with Mass’s candidate, former Finance Minister Luis Arce, winning Sunday’s presidential election by an outright 26.3% margin.
His closest rival in the run-off annulment last October, centrist former President Carlos Mesa, received 28.8% of the vote of 6.48 million against 55.1% of Arce. There was a record turnout of 88.4%.
Bolivian sociologist Jorge Derpic recalled that in the midst of last year’s turmoil, he thought that a “complete collapse” of the Morales movement was possible.
“That’s why this moment is so impressive and unexpected,” Derpic said. “They showed [the ability] to overcome the worst moment of their 25-year history. Not every party is able to survive [something like that]. It’s really impressive. “
There are many intricate threads in the tale of Mas’s bounce from last year’s nightmare when security forces drove Morales into exile after he tried to extend his 14-year tenure as president in the wake of the 2016 referendum.
But at the heart of the story are a series of grandiose mistakes and mistakes by Mas’ opponents – and above all, the official administration of Jeanine Áñez, which took power two days after Morales left Bolivia on November 10, 2019.
As interim president, Áñez had a simple mandate: to lead Bolivia peacefully to new elections. Instead, with the help of his staunch interior minister, Arturo Murillo, the conservative Christian set out to persecute Morales supporters and alienate the local majority in Bolivia with biblical defeat and brute force.
“They showed so much revenge against Mas and the blow [on indigenous voters] it was dramatic because a lot of people basically said, “Look, these guys are not just going to go after Evo, they’re going to go after everyone who looks like Evo,” Gamara said.
Derpic said Áñez’s decision to run for president – only to withdraw on the eve of the election – had raised further concerns. Some feared the law would return Bolivia to a dictatorship and used Sunday’s vote to refuse. “There was a part of Bolivian society that, despite frustration and anger and frustration with Mas, wanted to preserve democracy,” Derpic said.
But Mass’s resurrection also speaks to his own strengths: his powerful connection to Bolivia’s indigenous people and the working class, and how she wisely rediscovered herself to win back the votes disappointed by Morales’ refusal to relinquish power.
“They ran a smart campaign … and maybe the most important thing was that they separated from Evo,” Gamara said.
After Morales was exiled to Argentina after supporters of a coup, Arce presented himself as an effective and careful leader who could bring social and economic stability to a divided nation facing dire economic prospects and one of the worst crises in Covid- 19 in the world.
“It’s a soft pot.” He is not an antagonist. He is not full of rage and rhetoric – and that went well, “said Gamara, who thought Arce’s reputation as finance minister, who had seen a boom in Bolivia in the 2000s, was key.
“Janine could become the woman who stabilizes the country,” he concluded. “Instead, I think she is already politically dead and Murillo will probably be charged and have to leave Bolivia because he has antagonized so many people.”
One person who will almost certainly return is Morales, although Arce insists that Bolivia’s first local president will not play a role in his government.
Jim Schultz, founder of the Bolivia-focused Center for Democracy, said the hot question was whether Bolivia was running for president of Arce or Morales: “I think there may be a struggle for an answer.”
The prospect of Morales continuing to exercise influence would worry many Bolivians, including some Magists who complain of authoritarian drift and growing corruption in recent years in power.
Derpich, however, felt that Arce’s triumph – which was even more convincing that the 2005 landslide that brought Morales to power for the first time – was so convincing that it gave him the upper hand.
“Arce defeated not only the opposition, but Morales as well,” he said. “The idea that they couldn’t win [and election] without Morales it is broken and I think this is a great thing for the society of the masses and Bolivians in general. “
Derpich said voters’ message to Morales was crystal clear: “Here, rest, relax in Argentina – or Chapare, if you like. [But] do not try to be at the center of government.
“I think it’s something to celebrate,” he said. “We’ll see if things stay that way.”