Wednesday, on the 21st of February, again, as in 2016, this time became a “red” date in the calendar of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. On that day, by order of the Bolivian government, police cardoons with a total of more than 10,000 people were deployed on the streets of La Paz and Santa Cruz de la Sierra to prevent clashes between opponents and supporters of the president Evo Morales.
The protests are connected with the anniversary of the referendum on the possibility of nominating Morales for the fourth presidential term in the elections of 2019, which was held on the 21st of February of 2016. Then the majority of the country’s residents did not support the initiative of the president, about 51.65% voted against. Before this referendum, it should be noted that among the Latin American states: Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Venezuela – countries that in recent years, thanks to their presidents, have become associated with left-wing political orientation, recent elections – presidential or parliamentary – have shown that people tired of the promises of social justice and democracy, which ended in financial and social tensions. Evo Morales stood out against their backdrop with his absolute support of the population: in the last elections in November of 2014 he convincingly won in the first round, gaining 61% of the vote.
After the referendum of February of 2016, events developed rapidly: Morales attempted to remove the restriction that the president could be elected for only two terms. This restriction was introduced under the term of Morales, who was first elected head of state in 2005. But after the adoption of the new Constitution of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, by the Court decision, the first term was not credited to him, so after that he was elected president twice more (in 2009 and in 2014).
By 2018, Bolivia came up with a difficult political scenario: the supporters of Evo Morales demanded a re-referendum and justify the loss in 2016 by the fact that the opposition could “defile” the image of the people’s president. Then, according to the defenders of the ruling party “Movimiento al Socialismo”, the oppositionists were able to “spin” a whole series of scandals, the main one of which was connected with accusations of his former lover Gabriela Zapata, who declared a couple of weeks before the referendum on the love affair with Morales, and they have a joint child. According to her, the child died, but the fact that the president was lying about the existence of the boy and did not recognize paternity then discouraged the public.
The general picture was supplemented by the “untold” wealth of the former lover, as well as her high position occupied by a large Chinese-Russian corporation. In February of 2016 Bolivian “soap opera” allowed the opposition to achieve its victory and push aside the prospect of the re-election of Evo Morales in 2019.
However, the 2016 referendum forced party “Movimiento al Socialismo” to think about other possible instruments of political influence in order to allow Evo Morales to re-nominate himself in the upcoming presidential election. Such an instrument was the Supreme Constitutional Court of Bolivia, which at the beginning of December of 2017 allowed Evo Morales to nominate his candidacy for the election of the head of state again for the term he wished. In November-December of 2017 large-scale marches were held in Cochabamba and La Paz in support of the re-election of Morales, in which hundreds of thousands of supporters of the ruling party “Movimiento al Socialismo” took part.
However, the beginning of 2018 was marked by a number of major strikes organized by the opposition. In early February, in the department of La Paz, there were protests of farmers who grow coca, which in Bolivia is called “cocaleros”. They are dissatisfied about the decision of the government, adopted in November of 2017, to control the unquestioning implementation of the law of 2016 on limiting the cultivation zones of the plant. The new law on coca, adopted in the spring of 2016, recognizes the coca as a cultural heritage of the country and increases the area of legal landings from 12,000 to 22,000 hectares, which, according to the “cocaleros”, is inadequate. Farmers continue to protest for the second week in a row. According to official sources, “angry farmers” throw stones and fire-fighters into the police. The police responded by using tear gas, and also detained about a hundred and fifty people. Coca is a plant that is traditionally grown by Bolivian farmers “cocaleros”. The plant is used in traditional medicine and spiritual rites of the indigenous population. Also from coca through chemical processing cocaine is obtained, which is one of the most popular drugs in the world. It should be noted that at the beginning of the political career of Evo Morales, it was the “cocaleros”, who provided significant support for his nomination for presidency in 2005. Morales himself once worked on collecting coca leaves and is still headed by one of the “cocaleros” farmers’ trade unions.
The largest strike on the 21st of February of 2018 again split the Bolivian society into two camps. Symbolically, on the two-year anniversary of the “failed” referendum for the ruling “Movimiento al Socialismo” party, Morales’s opponents decided to take to the streets, block roads and demonstrate their civil position to the government. Increasingly, in various Bolivian media “fierce” debates about the course of the state political process. The main themes of the debate are: the place and role of democracy in the modern political system of the country; continuation or termination of the process of change proclaimed by Morales; as well as fatigue and some frustration with the left regime, in which Bolivia sharply “stepped” in the early 2000’s.
If Evo Morales, despite clashes with the opposition, still succeeds in submitting his candidacy for the presidential election in November of 2019, he will remain in power until at least 2025, noting his 19th anniversary as president. However, at the moment more and more representatives of the Bolivian intelligentsia and experts are thinking about what will be Bolivia without the legendary Evo? Will the line be drawn under the long return of leftist ideas to Latin America?
In turn, the ruling party “Movimiento al Socialismo” is determined resolutely, since it believes that modern Bolivia is not possible without Evo. Now Morales faces a serious choice – to recognize the loss and stay in the history of the country as one of the few presidents who agreed with the will of the people, or to “close eyes” to the intrigues of the opposition and at all costs try to remain in power, preserving the great postulates of his mentors “left camp” – Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.