The Bittersweet Renunciation of Evo Morales
The former president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, stepped down on November 10th after continuous pressure from the opposition. His bittersweet renunciation can be divided by four propositions. First, Morales had actually improved the conditions of people categorized under extreme poverty. The majority from indigenous descent. Second, the economy under his term increased at a slow rate without having to abide by United States economic interventionist policy. Third, the environment continued to cripple under an anti-neoliberal agenda. And finally, Morales wanted to retain power which is seen by the international community as anti-democratic.
Under Morales’ presidency, Bolivia’s economy grew at a slow rate of 4.5% during the 2006-2010 international financial crisis. Aside from that, he was the key agent who curved inflation which saved the Bolivian state from resembling the state of Venezuela. In response to the water crisis prior to his presidential term, there were several advancements under his presidential terms in urban development such as building roads, providing water and electricity to areas that lacked them. Under his presidential terms, welfare programs designed to help the elderly and the poor reduced extreme poverty from 37% to 15%.
Even though there was progress in social welfare, Bolivia’s natural resources started to degrade under Morales’ presidency. In a deforestation study that took place in Bolivia, it shows that there was an increase in deforestation in ‘hotspot’ areas (meaning that they were concentrated in areas with a vast number of trees) due to a lack of regulation on the part of the Bolivian government. Even though he accused environmental activists that consume products that contaminate the environment, his actions are contradictory and questionable.
Electorally, Morales tried to remain in power for the next presidential term. The OAS stated that the signatures that were entered on the ballot were redeemed as fraudulent. This announcement permitted the opposition, the conservative party, to take action against Morales and his administration. Protestors from the right side of the political spectrum gathered on the streets to demand Morales to renounce his presidential term. What is still in doubt is whether the conservative party will democratize Bolivia or perpetuate their political power as Morales did.
As of now, Jeanine Áñez, the proclaimed interim president of Bolivia, an apparent supporter of democratic elections, announced that the next general presidential elections will occur in the next 90 days. This is an opportunity for the conservative party to demonstrate if they are truly committed in democratizing Bolivia. If that is the case, they would have to come into an agreement with their opposition instead of ignoring or antagonizing them.
The majority of the conservative party has already made negative remarks on indigenous Bolivians which makes everyone question whether the ultra-right political group is just as fallible as the other extreme. Áñez stated that the “Bible is returning to the Palace again” as if it were a symbolic act of defying indigenous traditions in a country where 88% of the combined population is mestizo and indigenous. As she becomes one of the leaders of the conservative party, her religious dogmatic rhetoric is used to repress her opposition and antagonize the leftist groups.
Aside from her dogmatic rhetoric, she requested that the military pacify the protests that oppose the overthrow of Morales’ government. The police, on the other hand, blocked lawmakers on Wednesday, November 13th to prevent them from gaining access to the parliament where she named members of her administration. This antagonizing behavior will allow for a reoccurrence of political polarization within Bolivians’ political views due to a lack of compromise between both sides.
The issue behind Morales’ desire to remain in power is undemocratic which makes it feasible for political scientists to distinguish whether in reality was a coup d’etat. Morales should be recognized as a leader who initially had good intentions for his movement but at the end of his presidential term, he became a greedy dictator who sought an eternal superior position. Scholars should explore how this overthrow of the Bolivian government can become a path to democratization or a path of perpetual dictatorship- this time, empowered from the far right.