On November 10, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales Ayma, who had been re-elected on October 23, resigned from office. On November 9, rumours suggested that the police would open a corridor for right-wing militias to enter the presidential palace and kill Mr. Morales. Tension gripped the country. Mr. Morales called for fresh elections, but the political parties of the oligarchy, led by Carlos Mesa, rejected the offer. Mr. Mesa had called for “permanent protests” after he had lost the election. These protests escalated into a rebellion, with the police joining the ranks of an insurgency of the oligarchs. Mr. Morales might have remained in power had the military stayed neutral. But General Williams Kaliman demanded that Mr. Morales step down, leaving him with no choice.

History of Bolivia under Morales

When he came to power in 2006, Mr. Morales was the first indigenous President of Bolivia. Two-thirds of Bolivia’s population come from various indigenous communities who have lived in poverty and suffered humiliation from those who claim descent from the Spaniards. Mr. Morales had won a landslide in 2005, which enabled his Movement for Socialism (MAS) to push for dignity for the indigenous communities.

Mr. Morales also put forth a socialist agenda. MAS was formed by a range of social and political movements, which included organisations of the indigenous communities and trade unions. His predecessor, Mr. Mesa, was hit hard by protests against gas and water privatisation and against the destruction of coca crop. Mr. Morales, a leader of the coca growers, was rooted in these movements.

Mr. Morales won his first election to the presidency when the ‘pink tide’ had been established from Venezuela to Argentina. When commodity prices fell, many of these Left-leaning governments lost power, but Mr. Morales remained popular and won election after election. But he faced opposition from Bolivia’s oligarchy and from the U.S., which had long wanted him removed from office.

Run up to recent elections

The lead-up to the election of October 20 was fraught with tension. Mr. Morales had sought a fourth term, for which he got judicial sanction. He beat Mr. Mesa by over 10 percentage points, but Mr. Mesa refused to accept the result.

Plans to destabilise the government

When he assumed power, the U.S. embassy in La Paz called Mr. Morales an “illegal coca agitator”. Plans to destabilise the government began immediately. The U.S. said it would delay all loans and discussions on debt relief until Mr. Morales displayed “good behaviour”. If he tried to nationalise any of the key sectors, or if he rolled back the anti-coca policies, he would be penalised.

Mr. Morales has been granted asylum in Mexico. Meanwhile, in Bolivia, armed men have begun to arrest cadre from MAS and indigenous organisations. The Wiphala is being removed from government buildings and from the uniforms of the armed forces; it is being burnt on the streets to chants of “Bolivia belongs to Christ”. This is a direct attack on the indigenous majority.

Source: The Hindu

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; IOBR