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The long-awaited visit of the Secretary General of the OAS to Bolivia

On 17 May, the OAS General Secretary Luis Almargo visited Bolivia on an official visit. The known for his uncompromising attitude towards the “left” regimes of Latin America, the General Secretary was eagerly awaited in the South American country. The visit of Almargo became symbolic at once for two reasons. First, he arrived in Bolivia on the eve of an unprecedented action to support the candidacy of Morales in the upcoming presidential elections in October of this year. Secondly, together with the “inflexible” leader of the “left” wing, Almargo went to the tropical region of Chapare, famous throughout the world for its endless coca plantations. What do you remember about the visit of the OAS General Secretary to Bolivia? How could the meeting between Almargo and Morales influence the regional alignment of forces in the region?

The General Secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS, Spanish – Organización de los Estados Americanos) Luis Almagro (Spanish – Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes) paid an official visit to Bolivia on 17 May. In the morning, he held a series of meetings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Plurinational State, and then visited the Chapare region in order to learn more about the anti-drug model of Bolivia, launched in 2006 by Evo Morales (Spanish – Juan Evo Morales Ayma). The visit of the General Secretary was widely covered not only by regional, but also by international media. This level of attention to the arrival of Almargo is quite understandable, because already when planning this trip, the “right” flank of Latin America began to get nervous. After all, the main item on the agenda, of course, was the question of the “Movement to Socialism” Party (Spanish – Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS) nominating Morales for the upcoming presidential election in October. It is worth recalling that, based on the Political Constitution of the state adopted in 2009, Evo Morales was re-elected twice (in 2010 and 2014), however, according to the country’s main law, the same candidate does not have the right to be elected for the third time in a row of the president. On February 26, 2016, the current government held a General Referendum so that the current leader could again be promoted to the post of head of state. However, thanks to a campaign launched by the opposition against the re-election of Evo Morales, 51.3% of the country’s population voted against violation of the Constitution, defending the foundations of Bolivian democracy. In December last year, despite such results of the General Referendum, the Supreme Electoral Court, on the basis of more than 1 million signatures of “Don Evo” supporters, decided to allow the incumbent to stand for election again. In the past two years, Morales has been looking for support for such an outcome everywhere, so the visit of Almargo very harmoniously fit into the chronicle of the events of recent years.

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On May 17, already in the morning, in the framework of meetings in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bolivia, Luis Almagro called for supporting the re-election of Evo Morales, saying that the “absolutely discriminatory decision” would be that the current president of the South American country would not be able to run for office. Of course, such words instantly caused the euphoria of the ruling party and the anger of the opposition.

According to Almargo, if today the problem of re-election of Morales would be solved in the inter-American system in favor of the fact that he cannot take part in the electoral race, this state of affairs would become absolutely illegal in relation to other presidents who participated in the electoral process basis of recognition of a judgment. It should be noted that only a year ago, the General Secretary spoke very negatively about the re-election of Morales. In September 2017 and April 2018, he ruled against re-election of Evo, demanding respect for citizens’ votes. However, on May 17, the specific question of one of the leading Bolivian newspapers “Los Tiempos” about why he changed his position, he replied that he never said that he had changed his position, but noted that he relied on real political situation in the country.

As part of the meeting with the scandalous Bolivian leader, Almagro signed an agreement that the OAS will monitor the elections next October, according to him, this will become a fair act of trust and transparency of the electoral process. The signing was replaced by a speech in which Almargo defended the position that Morales has the same right as other Latin American presidents who were re-elected on the basis of a court decision. It is worth remembering that this legal tool was used by Oscar Arias (Spanish – Óscar Arias Sánchez) in Costa Rica, Daniel Ortega (Spanish – José Daniel Ortega Saavedra) in Nicaragua and Juan Orlando Hernández (Spanish – Juan Orlando Hernández) in Honduras.

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“Welcome, brother,” – “Don Evo” was greeted with these words to the OAS General Secretary, and not so long ago they belonged to quite opposite “camps” in relation to their position with respect to Cuba or Venezuela. As part of Almargo’s visit to Bolivia, the current president and his long-awaited guest traveled to the tropical region of Chapare, world-famous for its coca plantations, which is employed by “cocaleros”. Morales showed the General Secretary his favorite places, spoke about the trepidation of this agricultural crop in Bolivia, which according to the Bolivians themselves is sacred. On the margins of the visit of Almargo to Chapare, the main points of the Bolivian anti-drug strategy adopted with the coming to power of Evo Morales in 2006, were presented and demonstrated.

After the visit of Almargo to Bolivia, the reaction of the opponents was not long in coming. Many of the opposition representatives called the General OAS Secretary “bipolar” and “hypocritical”, while others reminded him of his opinion expressed in 2017, when he asked Morales to respect the results of the referendum on February 21, 2016. A number of political experts stressed that official support expressed in Bolivia, stating the candidacy of Evo Morales, could lead to a new branch of the Bolivian people.

However, the very next day, on May 18, the ruling party launched the election campaign of its candidate. Hundreds of thousands of supporters of the incumbent president gathered in the tropical region of Chapare to demonstrate their unlimited support to Evo Morales. Time will tell how events will develop during the pre-election race, but one thing is quite clear that the current head of state will fight for every vote and will not leave the political arena so easily.

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