Press release

EL delegation report on Bolivian elections – 18 October 2020

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Published on: 28.10.2020

*** aquí la versión en español ***

On 14 October 2020 the following EL colleagues left for Bolivia:

Fran Pérez, head of Internacional de IU (Spain), Maxime Ramírez, head of Internacional de Demain (Belgium), Daniel Sheffer, head of finance at EL (Belgium), Valentina Skafar, member of the International Commission of the EL and of the Levica (Left) Party (Slovenia) and Maite Mola, Vice President and Head of International affairs in the EL (Belgium) who coordinated the delegation.

We also had the online support of Marco Consolo, coordinator of the EL’s Latin America and Caribbean working group and head of International and Peace in the Communist Refoundation Party (Italy).

We were accompanied at all times by the deputy of Unidas Podemos (United We Can), Lucía Muñoz Dalda, and deputy of En Comú Podem (Together We Can), Gerardo Pisarello, both from the Spanish Congress of Deputies.

We also worked with the members of the Progressive International, Coppal, Parlasur, etc.

Our arrival was met with an unpleasant and unforeseen event shortly after we landed; it began with threats and discrediting remarks from the (now outgoing) Minister of the Interior Mr. Murillo in the first instance, followed by his Deputy Minister and continued by an extreme right-wing Spanish media entity, OK Diario, towards the four Spaniards that I mentioned: Muñoz, Pisarello, Pérez and Mola, referring to these as Bolivarian agents, left-wing extremists and possible promoters of disorder and violence in the country, distributing photos of us on networks and saying in which hotel we were staying and that we had lied saying that we were travelling as tourists or that we were not accredited for the role of observers…an accumulation of lies and threats that we complained about to the Electoral Tribunal, to ambassadors, the EU present and the UN, as well as to Heinz Bierbaum and our respective leaders in Spain of Podemos, Comunes, the IU and the PCE (Communist Party of Spain) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This meant that. in addition to the corresponding fear and the impossibility of leaving the hotel except under escort, we had to bring our return trip forward to 19 October to avoid even greater problems. However, fortunately both V. Skafar and D. Sheffer had the opportunity to stay. with the result that all the planned meetings could be held.

The visit began on Friday at 8 a.m. to the Asamblea del Estado Plurinacional (Plurinational State Assembly) where some fifty delegates were received by its president Eva Copa, when we were able to exchange views with her, the UN, Parlasur, EL and others both about the situation of the country and about the electoral process, pointing out some issues in said process that did not seem clear, such as the new method of rapid counting or the role of the army in the delivery of the election lists.

Later we went to the hotel where we met with the Electoral Tribunal so that we could be informed of the situation, and there we heard different points of view, more about the political situation than about electoral regulations, and later the European delegations went to listen to the only party that invited us out of the 5 who had been present, and that was MAS (Movement for Socialism).

At the meeting we were told about both the current situation in the country and their fears of fraud because, as we have pointed out previously, they had doubts about the role of the Tribunal and the armed forces in the context of a prospective victory for MAS.

Afterwards we took part in a press conference in which we tried to be as discreet as possible, when we did refer to some issues that we were not clear about.

We then continued in the hotel with several meetings from the programme with the international observers of the Electoral Tribunal and we made them aware of our doubts and criticisms about the suitability of the DIREPRE system (announcement of preliminary results), then unexpectedly ruled out by the SET (Supreme Electoral Tribunal) on Saturday evening, about custody of the electoral lists by the army accompanying state officials, decided upon by the dictatorial government of Áñez, a custody arrangement which up until that point was the responsibility of the police, and also about the purging of the electoral roll abroad, mainly in Spain and Argentina, from which 150,000 people had been removed.

On Saturday some of the delegation also had a meal with the embassy of Spain, the UN, and the EU, where general topics were discussed as well expressing our concern about the threats that we were continuing to receive.

That same afternoon we met for a couple of hours with around twenty colleagues from the Bolivian Women’s Alliance, when they pointed out, amongst other things, that the government of Áñez, installed as the result of a coup, has greatly harmed economic growth, that there is no strategic plan to combat the pandemic, and yet there has been a very high level of corruption, political persecution, and symbolic and physical violence in many cases against women and against the indigenous peoples and nations. They were very concerned about their own futures and that of the people, pointing out that in the last 11 months they had lost more than they would have done in 11 years.

On Sunday the four comrades mentioned previously remained in the hotel since they had sent photos of us with the intention that we might be attacked and with the minister himself expressing threats against us that same day, while the other three members of the delegation participated all day in monitoring the elections.

Election day on 18 October began with the launch of the polling day in the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in the presence of the President of the SET, Salvador Romero, the President, installed as the result of a coup, of the Plurinational State of Bolivia Jeanine Añez, the President of the Legislative Assembly Eva Copa, among others, and which was also attended by delegations of electoral observers, the diplomatic corps and the media.

At the end of the launch we went to visit electoral districts: in El Alto, in the central area of Miraflores and in Alto Obrajes in the south of La Paz. We observed that voting process place in a calm manner, and in line with the health protection measures due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The police and the military were present in all the districts, and they controlled the entrances and exits and helped people by giving them information. There were also representatives from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal whose role was to clarify any doubts and answer questions from the people. We saw that, as permitted by the electoral laws in Bolivia, delegates from the political parties taking part in the elections were also present at each polling station, and in particular delegates from MAS and the Comunidad Ciudadana (Citizen Community). We also spoke with Bolivian observers of the elections, in particular Observa Bolivia. In the final electoral district we also witnessed the closing of the polling stations, including examination and counting of the votes, which was public; each box was shown to the people attending the count and in accordance with the results the lists were prepared with the results of the votes cast at each polling station. It should be noted that there were no irregularities or major cases of complaint; however, there were cases where the opening of the polling stations had been delayed, or the location of the voting districts had been changed at the last minute which, due to a lack of information, saw dissatisfied voters registered with certain polling stations. It should also be noted that we received a lot of thanks for having come as international electoral observers. According to our contacts our presence was a guarantee that the elections were transparent, fair and also respected, and that by focusing international scrutiny on Bolivia, the possibility of violent and oppressive protests – as was the case last November – was also reduced. It is also important to say that the Bolivian people wanted to vote in a calm and peaceful manner and that they were hoping that the country’s problems would be solved through the electoral process.

At 6 p.m. we met up at the electoral centre where we were to be given information at 8 p.m., but surprisingly it did not turn out that way, and inexplicably we received the first exit poll at midnight, which gave rise to a considerable suspicion of fraud.

What we saw was a quiet day and a historic victory for MAS with a lead of more than 20 points over the second candidate Mesa, and according to MAS itself a result better than expected because, although all the polls since May had indicated that MAS candidates had at least a ten point lead over the party in second place, the actual result was more than 20 points higher.

A part of the EL delegation also held meetings after the election day, with ambassadors from Germany and Mexico, the latter with the intention of sending solidarity greetings to the 7 isolated officials of the previous MAS government in the residence of the Mexican Embassy, due to political persecution by the Añez government.

We also met with Nadia Alejandra Cruz and her team, from the Ombudsman’s Office, who gave us a summary of the situation in relation to human rights in recent years, and who highlighted the deterioration in the respect for human rights in the last year under the government of Jeanine Añez. The human rights issue was also one of the topics of conversation with Senator Ciro Zabada, president of the Constitutional, Human Rights and Electoral Commission. In addition, we met with representatives of the Pacto de Unidad (Pact of Unity), an evolving national alliance of Bolivian grassroots organisations, which support indigenous and peasant farmers’ rights, land reform, the restructuring of the 1967 Bolivian Constitution through a Constituent Assembly and a transformation of the Bolivian state by the indigenous left. In the context of this meeting we were interviewed live on the intercultural radio station “Radio Unión” where they asked us to share our experiences as international observers and of course, on behalf of the entire delegation, we received emotional thanks from two people who called the programme.

On Friday 23 October V. Skafar attended the official announcement of the final results of the elections, made by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of the Plurinational State of Bolivia at the electoral centre.

To finish, V. Skafar attended the celebration held by MAS in El Alto on Saturday 24 October, and on behalf of the EL congratulated the new president and vice president, Luis Arce and David Choquehuanca, on their election victory.

We understand that, as women told us, people were able to make a comparison after a year of de facto government versus what was achieved in the 14 years of Evo Morales’ government and that was definitive.

In addition, the political repression rebuilt the social movement as was seen in the mobilisations of peasants in August.

The de facto government in the hands of a Minister of the Interior, Mr. Murillo, has used threats and repression as the only weapon, with a language more typical of a dictatorship or of the colonial era, provoking rejection even in sectors on the right.
The victory in Bolivia is important because it confirms that there has not been an end to the progressive cycle, as was said last year at the Sao Paulo forum in Venezuela, and it may have a positive influence in Chile, in the referendum on the National Constituent Assembly or in Ecuador next February.

What happens in the US is also important; we only have to look at the OAS which appeared with its hosts, but we were there with a good number of European observers, from parliaments of Latin American countries, the Carter Foundation, the Foundation of former presidents, so that the OAS had to recognise, along with Añez and Murillo himself, the victory of MAS.