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Is Bolivia ready to return to socialism? | Bolivia

ethe ardent Ticona Mamani felt despair and anticipation when Evo Morales was forced to leave his homeland in the Andes last November amid civil unrest, election failure and what supporters of Bolivia’s first local president called racist, a right-wing coup.

“I cried,” recalls the 56-year-old lawyer, an ardent supporter of Morales and his Movimiento al Socialismo (Mas).

“Evo represents the revival of Bolivia̵

7;s indigenous people. He gave us back our self-confidence, our pride to be local, to have local surnames, to feed … Evo Morales was the best president of Bolivia so far. “

After Morales was sentenced to exile – first in Mexico, now Argentina – believers like Mamani were left politically orphaned and the masses in disarray.

Janine Agnes, a right-wing senator who once called Bolivia’s indigenous people “satanic,” took office as caretaker president, ending abruptly and shockingly the nearly 14-year rule of the left, during which the country has long been excluded. original (local peoples) finally took center stage.

Activists have since accused the Annecy government of using the justice system to conduct a politically motivated witch hunt against Morales and his allies.

But nearly 12 months after last year’s convulsion, the Morales Movement for Socialism may be on track to provoke a sensational political comeback in Sunday’s twice-delayed presidential election.

Luis Arce, the candidate for president of the party of Evo Morales, holds a ball during the final rally in El Alto.
Luis Arce, the candidate for president of Evo Morales’ party, holds a ball during the final rally in El Alto. Photo: Gaston Brito Miserocchi / Getty Images

The vote is a repeat of the doomed elections in October 2019, which were overturned following inflammatory allegations of election fraud by the Organization of American States (OAS) fueling protests, and I saw Morales resign under pressure from security forces.

Polls show that Masse’s candidate, former British finance minister Luis Arce, has an advantage over his main contender, a centrist journalist and former president named Carlos Mesa.

“They [Mas] are in the driver’s seat, and if they can mobilize voters this weekend – and they are the only party with the capacity to do so – they could do very well, “said Eduardo Gamara, a Bolivian expert at Florida International University.

Gamara believes a second round – which the 67-year-old Mesa is likely to win – remains the more likely prospect. If no candidate secures an absolute majority or 40% of the vote with 10% breathing space, a run-off will take place on 29 November. The third main candidate is Luis Fernando Camacho of Creemos’ new right-wing alliance (“We Believe”). Áñez withdrew his candidacy last month, saying he did not want to split the Conservative vote.

But since Morales’ rivals had “atomized” the vote against Mas, it was no exaggeration to imagine that Ars, a quiet-speaking career official who boasted a master’s degree from the University of Warwick, could triumph for the first time. .

“There is a perfectly possible scenario in which Mas essentially continues where he left off, with only Luis Arce as president,” Gamara said.

Arce discussed the possibility on Wednesday at his final campaign rally, a celebration of the height of waving and dancing in El Alto, a bastion of Morales’ support over the de facto capital, La Paz.

Graffiti of former President Evo Morales in La Paz.  The exiled Morales still overshadows Bolivian politics.
Graffiti of former President Evo Morales in La Paz. The exiled Morales still overshadows Bolivian politics. Photo: Juan Carita / AP

“They thought they would kill the Movement for Socialism. But we are here in El Alto to tell them, “We are here and we are alive!” Said the 57-year-old candidate to supporters dressed in the group’s blue, white and black colors.

“The right has robbed people and shown their inability to govern,” Arce added, referring to allegations that Anus and her cabinet had seized power illegally and distorted the response to Covid-19, which killed thousands of Bolivians.

Mamani also hoped for a victory in the first round and believed that Arce could “restart” Bolivia.

But, like many voters in Mass, he fears a “monumental fraud” is being prepared with the consent of the United States and the OAS, whose disputed allegations of vote rigging in last year’s election played a key role in forcing Morales abroad.

This week, a senior US State Department official said Morales’ claim that he won the 2019 election was a “product of massive fraud” and hinted that support for President Arce was not fully guaranteed.

“We look forward to working with whomever Bolivians freely and honestly choose to be their president,” the official told reporters vaguely, praising protesters who rose up against Morales last year for “defending their democracy.”

If there is a prospect of a socialist revival Massists Rejoicing, these are nightmares for Morales’ detractors, who see him as an obsessive authoritarian desire to hold on to power and destroy Bolivian democracy.

Morales’ attempt to secure an unprecedented fourth consecutive term came last year, although voters denied him the right to a referendum in 2016, the result of which he ignored.

Presidential candidate Carlos Mesa delivered a speech during the final rally of his campaign in the lowland town of Santa Cruz on Tuesday.
Presidential candidate Carlos Mesa delivered a speech during the final rally of his campaign in the lowland town of Santa Cruz on Tuesday. Photo: Enrique Canedo / AFP / Getty Images

Libertad Gabriela Vaca Poelman, president of an opposition group called Unidos en Acción (United in Action), recalled her excitement when the former president fled to Mexico City on November 10 last year.

“I was relieved. I felt hope. I felt free, “said Poelman, 45, one of thousands of people who took to the streets of Bolivia last year to put pressure on Morales.

Twelve months later, she alarmed his movement to start something that once seemed unlikely, and called on voters to support any candidate they think is best placed to prevent it. “If Mas returns … it will be terrible for the country. As the saying goes, “People get the governors they deserve,” Poelman said.

Foreign diplomats and voters on both sides fear that another controversial outcome could lead to a repeat of last year’s violence, when at least 36 people, most of them Mas supporters, lost their lives. And tensions are mounting ahead of the vote with reports of paramilitary groups attacking Mas activists, and some panicked citizens say they are piling up food in anticipation of possible upheavals.

Observers are convinced that Morales will seek to return to Bolivia and possibly front-line politics if Arce wins.

– He is a political animal. His whole life is about politics. So he will try to come back and there may be some tension, “said Diego von Vacano, a Bolivian political scientist at the University of Texas A&M. “But for the good of the party … I think Evo can play a slightly more symbolic role, as opposed to a more active, commanding role,” he added.

Military police officers, guarded by military police, loaded a truck with campaign material to be distributed for Sunday's general election in La Paz, Fairday.
Military police officers, guarded by military police, loaded a truck with campaign material to be distributed for Sunday’s general election in La Paz, Fairday. Photo: AFP / Getty Images

Vacano denied that Arce was simply a proxy for Morales, who had been investigated for alleged acts of terrorism by Bolivia’s conservative governors and was barred from running alone.

“Arce is not a puppet,” insisted the academic, who unofficially advised the candidate’s campaign. “He is aware that Evo is the historical leader of Mas. But this is a new period and it requires a different approach. He was pretty clear that he wanted to do it his own way. “

Mamani said he also hoped the former president would back down, despite his attachment to Morales and the commodity-fueled social and economic progress he has seen since his historic 2005 elections.

“We need to see the rotation of power. No matter how good a leader he is, they should not stay in power permanently. You need a change. “

“He spent 14 years at work. Saturday, Sunday, public holidays. From 5 am to midnight, “Mamani told Morales. “It’s time for him to rest.”

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