2019 Bolivian political crisis

On 10 November 2019, after 19 days of civil protests following the disputed election results of October 2019 and the release of a report from the OAS, which alleged irregularities in the electoral process, trade unions, the military and the police of Bolivia suggested that president Evo Morales resign. After General Williams Kaliman Romero made the military's request for Morales's resignation public, Morales complied, accompanied by other resignations by high-level politicians throughout the day, some citing fears for the safety of their families. The government of Mexico offered political asylum to Morales the following day, which Morales accepted a day afterwards.[3][4]

2019 Bolivian political crisis
Jeanine Áñez assuming presidency.jpg
Conferencia de Prensa de Evo Morales en el Museo de la Ciudad de México 3.jpg
Jeanine Áñez assuming the presidency (left), Evo Morales speaking in Mexico, where he received political asylum after his resignation (right)
Date10 November 2019
Location
La Paz, Bolivia
MethodsBarricades, demonstrations, hunger strike
Resulted in
Parties to the civil conflict

Bolivian government

Lead figures
Casualties and losses
Death: 33 (26 November 2019)[2]
Injured: 715 (17 November 2019)

The second vice president of the Senate, opposition senator Jeanine Áñez, assumed the role of president on 12 November, being the next in line for the presidency after a vacuum had been left following a string of resignations. This was not without controversy as her initial appointment was made during a brief legislative session that lacked quorum, due to a boycott by Morales's party, Movement for Socialism (MAS).[5] Bolivia's Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal then confirmed Áñez's assumption of the presidency as legitimate and the ruling party returned most members to both chambers, with some assuming key positions such as Leader of the Senate.[6][7][8] They have also committed to working with the interim government towards new elections.[9]

Despite the return of his party to the role of government, Morales has called for the Bolivian people to reject the leadership of Áñez. He and his supporters argue that the event was a coup d'état. International politicians, scholars and journalists are divided between describing the event as a coup or a popular uprising.[1][10][11][12][13][14][15][16]

The Bolivian Congress, with the majority being members of Morales' MAS party, unanimously approved a bill on 23 November 2019 that annulled the results of the October 20 election, allowed for new elections and prevented Evo Morales from participating in the new elections.[17][18][19] The bill was signed into law the next day by president Áñez.[20]

On 4 December 2019, the Organization of American States released its final report related to the October 20 election, detailing what they called "deliberate" and "malicious" tactics to rig that election in favor of President Evo Morales.[21][22]

BackgroundEdit

2019 Bolivian general election and subsequent investigationsEdit

On 20 October 2019, the first round of voting for all government positions was held. After the polls closed, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal began to release the preliminary results of the presidential election; at 7:40 pm, when 83.8% of the votes had been counted, the preliminary count stopped. The Tribunal's president, María Eugenia Choque, said that the preliminary count had stopped because the official results had begun to be released. At the time that the preliminary count was stopped, Morales led with 45.3%, and his primary opponent, Carlos Mesa, had 38.2%. Less than a 10-point lead would have resulted in another round of runoff voting.[23] At 9:25 pm, President Morales declared himself the winner, stating that rural areas would guarantee his victory.[24][25]

Although uncounted votes in rural areas were expected to go his way, one body observing the election—the Organization of American States (OAS)—stated that even if Morales did win outright, his lead beyond the 10-point threshold would be so negligible as to warrant a runoff anyway. The OAS expressed concern about the day-long gap in results reporting: after 24 hours, the updates resumed, but with a surge for Morales at the first update.[26]

On 21 October, the Plurinational Electoral Organ reported a still-incomplete count,[27] suggesting that with only 95.3% of verified votes, Morales had too large of a margin above 10 points to overcome, avoiding a second run-off round, and so Morales would remain in power for a fourth term.[28][29] Based on this result, along with reported irregularities and the two-term presidential limit that the Bolivian Constitutional Tribunal had nullified, the Bolivian opposition and protestors as well as some foreign governments and international observers called for an audit of the process and results, to which Morales agreed.[30] The OAS audit of the election began on 31 October and was observed by Spain, Mexico, and Paraguay.[31]

ProtestsEdit

 
Anti-Morales protests in La Paz on 23 October 2019

Protests intensified following the electoral councils decision, with electoral offices being burned in multiple regions across Bolivia.[32][33][34] By 24 October, Morales began describing the actions taken against him as a coup.[35] On 25 October, when the results were officially announced with Morales as the winner, various countries in Latin America, as well as the United States and European Union, had called for the second round to go ahead regardless.[36]

On 31 October, two deaths were announced by the government.[37]

The third death during the protests occurred on 7 November when a 20-year-old student called Limbert Guzman was killed during clashes.[38]

EventsEdit

Allegations of electoral fraud and OAS auditEdit

On 6 November, the Bolivian opposition published a 190-page long report containing fraud accusations, including irregularities such as mistaken electoral acts additions, data swiping and electoral acts where the ruling party obtained more votes than registered voters, expecting to send it to international organizations such as the OAS and the United Nations.[39]

Although a complete report was not yet due, mounting tension in the country prompted the OAS to release a preliminary report on 10 November concluding that they had discovered sufficient evidence of election fraud to warrant new elections.[40][41] This led to a string of events culminating in the resignation of Morales. The OAS uncovered multiple irregularities, including failures in the chain of custody for ballots, alteration and forgery of electoral material, redirection of data to unauthorized servers and data manipulation.[42] They added that it was statistically unlikely that Morales had secured the 10-percentage-point margin of victory needed to win outright, saying that election should be annulled after it had found "clear manipulations" of the voting system, and that "The manipulations to the computer systems are of such magnitude that they must be deeply investigated by the Bolivian State to get to the bottom of and assign responsibility in this serious case."[1][43]

An analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) disputed the OAS's preliminary findings and criticized what it called a "politicization of the electoral observation process."[44] The co-director of the think-tank, Mark Weisbrot, stated the OAS showed "no evidence – no statistics, numbers, or facts of any kind" to support its claim of electoral manipulation.[45] CEPR concluded that due to Morales' voter base being in more rural regions, the results from peripheral areas received towards the end of the count were more likely to be in his favour.[46] The New York Times noted, however, that this criticism has "not addressed the accusations of hidden data servers, forged signatures and other irregularities found by the O.A.S. observers, nor have they tried to explain the electoral council’s sudden decision to stop the count".[47]

On 5 December, the full 95-page OAS report [48][49] was released along with 500 pages of corroborating details as appendices. These included that an outside user who controlled a Linux AMI appliance with "root privileges" — conferring the ability to alter results — accessed the official vote-counting server during the counting and that in a sample of 4,692 returns from polling stations around the country, 226 showed multiple signatures by the same person for different voting booths, a violation of electoral law. On those returns, 91 per cent of votes went to MAS, approximately double the rate recorded elsewhere.[50]

On 21 December, the Technical Mission of Electoral Experts sent by the European Union published a 67 page report made similar observations and conclusions to that of the OAS. They noted that "there were minutes with an unusually high number of null votes, blank votes and a hundred percent participation of voters in a series of polling stations" and highlighted the general failure of the TSE to declare these irregularities. [51][52]

On 3 January 2020, at a meeting of the Committee for Latin America of Socialist International, it was declared that they accepted the findings of the OAS and that Morales was not a victim of a coup. A document containing discussions of the Bolivian political crisis states that "“After a broad mobilization of citizens in that country in protest of electoral fraud that was informed and verified by an audit conducted by the Organization of American States (OAS) of the elections that took place on October 20, the president Evo Morales did not suffer a coup d'etat.” [53]

Authorities abandon MoralesEdit

After weeks of repelling protesters at the Casa Grande del Pueblo presidential palace, units of the Police Operations Tactical Unit (UTOP) tasked with defending Morales assembled a meeting on 8 November.[54] UTOP officers ultimately decided at the gathering to abandon their posts and to call for the resignation of Morales.[54] According to Reuters, UTOP turned away from Morales for multiple reasons: complaints of alleged orders to suppress opposition protestors while avoiding Morales loyalists; resentments over perceived preferential treatment given to the military; and the exhaustion of combating protestors.[54]

On 9 November, Morales organized a meeting and ordered the military to put down protesters, with officers present rejecting Morales' orders according to former general Fernando Sánchez.[19] According to Wall Street Journal, following this meeting, officers feared of "violent military suppression" similar to 2003 protests during the Bolivian gas conflict, which happened before Morales become president.[19] At this time, all UTOP officers had left their positions, leaving Morales vulnerable to protesters.[54] At a police station near the presidential palace, officers climbed onto the roofs and chanted "The Police with the People".[55] Police nationwide began to retreat from protesters, returning to their stations, while other departments began to mutiny against the Morales government, arguing that they did not want to be an "instrument of any government".[55] Head of the Bolivian Armed Forces, General Williams Kaliman, refused to suppress demonstrations, saying that the military would "never confront the people among whom we live" and that the events unfolding were "a political problem and it should be resolved within that realm".[55]

After police left their posts at the presidential palace, Morales never returned and was forced into hiding in an improvised office protected by a small group of his guard.[19] He ultimately held a press conference at the Bolivian Air Force's presidential hangar in El Alto International Airport later in the day, leading some to suspect that Morales had already lost control of the government.[56] Franklin Pareja, a professor of the Higher University of San Andrés, said that because of the abandonment police, the Morales government "lost its shield" and that "it was totally vulnerable and couldn’t go on".[54]

According to members of the Bolivian military quoted by the Wall Street Journal, authorities had questioned Morales' actions for some time.[19] Morales had performed multiple actions that had offended officers within the armed forces, including glorifying Che Guevara after his guerrillas killed 59 Bolivian troops during their insurgency in the 1960s and forcing officers to attend the Anti-Imperialist Military Academy that was led by a convicted former rebel.[19] General Tomás Peña y Lillo, who was chief of the Bolivian armed forces until 2010, stated that officers within the military were traditionally conservative and had refused plans proposed by Morales to be guided by Cuban military and intelligence agents, damaging Morales' hold of the military.[19] Roberto Ponce, former chief of staff of the Bolivian military, also explained that Morales spent little on the country's armed forces as he feared that he would be overthrown, which frustrated military officers.[19]

Protesters overrun La PazEdit

By the night of 9 November, violence escalated throughout Bolivia.[57] The Morales government called on supporters to gather in the capital city of La Paz "defend" him, with reports of pro-Morales groups attacking buses of opposition protesters.[57] However, anti-Morales protesters had already overrun the streets of La Paz, with some groups of police joining in protests against Morales.[57] Demonstrators began to overrun government offices, with protesters flooding the stations of Bolivia TV and Radio Patria Nueva, accusing them of serving Morales.[57] Relatives of Morales had their homes attacked by protesters, with his older sister's home in Oruro being burned while other regional governors had their homes torched as well.[57] The next day, two miners from Potosí were shot and injured, reportedly by snipers, when cooperative miners where marching to join protests in La Paz.[58]

Calls for Morales to resignEdit

After the release of the 10 November OAS audit, multiple Bolivian entities called on Morales to resign. Morales had initially relied on support from civil organizations to protect him from protests instead of the military since he enjoyed popular support.[19] However, the two main civil groups of Bolivia had begun aligning themselves with the opposition to Morales; the Bolivian Workers' Center (COB), Bolivia's largest trade union and a traditionally pro-Morales entity, and the Single Trade Union Confederation of Workers (CSUTCB), an indigenous workers union.[59][60][61]

CSUTCB had already met with opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho, announcing an alliance[60] and in the morning of 10 November, the leader of COB suggested Morales resign if it would help solve the violence, and called for new elections.[60] Indigenous and Aymara leader Nelson Condori, the director of CSUTCB, intensified his condemnation of Morales later in the day while at an event beside Camacho, stating, "Evo, we have cried, you have made our lives bitter, you have lied to us. ... When have you forgotten the slogan of our ancestors, do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy?"[62] Condori also called for a "purge" of the Bolivian government, demanding that Morales and his governmental allies be jailed for electoral fraud.[62]

After the COB and other civil groups formerly supportive of Morales called on him to resign, Morales held a second press conference at the presidential hangar, changing his position on the October election results and announced that new elections would be held.[63][64] Morales released a statement, saying "As President, my main mission is to preserve peace, social justice and economic stability. Listening to the Bolivian Workers' Center (COB), the Pact of Unity and other social sectors, I have decided first to renew all the members of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal".[64]

Since popular social groups had abandoned Morales, the military was the only group protecting him from protesters.[19] Officers who feared punishment if they deployed troops against civilians pressured General Williams Kaliman, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Bolivia and Morales loyalist, to turn away from Morales.[19] Later,[who?] announced that the military had suggested[65] Morales resign to "help restore peace and stability" after weeks of protests over the vote, adding that the military was calling on the Bolivian people to refrain from violence and disorder.[43] The military also said it would conduct operations to "neutralise" any armed groups that attacked the protesters.[1][66] The military press release invoked[67] Article 20, paragraph b, of Law No. 1405[68] which states:

Article 20. The attribution and responsibilities of the military high command are: [...] b. To analyze inner and foreign troubled situations to suggest to whom it may concern the appropriate solutions.

Morales resignsEdit

After Kaliman's statement, Morales took the presidential plane from El Alto International Airport to an undisclosed location, announcing his immediate resignation on television, stating that he was resigning to "protect the families" of Movement for Socialism members.[69] He concluded by stating that he believed Carlos Mesa had "achieved his objective", and asked protesters to "stop burning down the houses of [his] brothers and sisters".[70][71][72] Vice President Álvaro García Linera also resigned after consulting with Morales.[1]

Shortly thereafter, it was reported that Morales was on a plane to Argentina;[73] however, the Argentine foreign minister, Jorge Faurie, said that Argentina would not grant him asylum.[74] Commander Yuri Calderón assured that there was no warrant for Morales' arrest, though armed individuals had entered his home.[75]

Later in the day, Adriana Salvatierra, the President of the Senate, Victor Borda, the leader of the Chamber, and Rubén Medinaceli, First Vice President of the Senate, also all resigned.[76] Mexico's foreign minister declared that twenty members of Bolivia's executive and legislative branches were at the official Mexican residence in the capital seeking asylum following the resignation.[77] Following the resignation of Morales and his allied successors, protesters called for a board to be convened to oversee the government and new elections, though Mesa disagreed with the proposal, stating protesters should not "violate the Constitution so as not to give Evo Morales an excuse that he was the victim of a coup d'etat" and that the Legislative Assembly should determine the constitutional successor.[78]

Later on 10 November, BBC Mundo published an article suggesting that five main reasons combined to force Morales to resign: the audit results, the opposition from the military and police, the ongoing protests, the growing radicalization of the political opposition, and the public distaste towards his continued re-elections.[79]

OEP detentions and TSE arrestsEdit

At 8:20 pm, the Associated Press reported that Bolivian police had detained 38 members of the Plurinational Electoral Organ (or Órgano Electoral Plurinacional (OEP)) on suspicion of falsification and other electoral crimes, including the former president and vice president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), Maria Eugenia Choque and Antonio Costas. According to police commander Yuri Calderón, Choque was apprehended whilst disguised as a man. The attorney general’s office earlier announced that it was opening an investigation into allegations raised by the OAS report. [75] An election official in Santa Cruz, Sandra Kettels, was arrested Monday morning, with arrest warrants issued for the remaining TSE officials.[80]

Succession of presidencyEdit

Assumption of presidency by Jeanine ÁñezEdit

 
Jeanine Áñez, pictured here in 2016, was the next in the line of succession and became interim president

On the evening of 10 November, Jeanine Áñez, the second vice president of the Senate and the highest-ranking official remaining in the line of succession after the resignations, announced she would be assuming the presidency on a temporary basis from 11 November onward, with the responsibility of calling new elections. She stated that she would assume the office once the Senate had formally recognized the previous day's resignations. Upon inauguration, Áñez would officially become the President of Bolivia.[81][82]

The Bolivian Constitution does not make specific provisions for the process of a Senator assuming the presidency; article 169 says that "In case of impediment or definitive absence of the president of the State, he will be replaced in office by the Vice President and, in his absence, by the President of the Senate, and in the absence of this by the President of the Chamber of Deputies. In the latter case, new elections will be called within a maximum period of ninety days." It also establishes the line of succession.[83]

The following day, Áñez arrived at La Paz-El Alto airport and was taken in a military helicopter to a nearby Air Force base; from here she traveled in convoy to the Senate.[84]

On 12 November 2019, in a brief legislative session without quorum, due to the ruling party's boycott,[5] Áñez declared herself as acting president of Bolivia while holding a large bible, stating that "the bible has returned to the government palace".[85] Áñez obtained the favourable vote of the opposition parties, a third part of the parliament, while the Movement for Socialism ruling party did not participate in the voting, rejecting the succession.[5]

Añez's assumption of the presidential office was supported by Bolivia's Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal, which interpreted citing articles referring to the presidential succession of the 2001 Constitutional Declaration, that the next person in the succession line assumes the presidency ipso facto despite not having the required quorum, stating that "the functioning of the executive should not be suspended".[86][6][7][87] Other legal experts argued that at least some of the steps for Áñez to take office required congressional approval.[87]

Reactions and anti-Añez protestsEdit

 
A demonstration in support of Morales in El Alto on 11 November 2019

Reactions to the transfer of power and to Ms Áñez's assumption of the presidency have been mixed, being met with both celebrations and protests.[88] Demonstrators celebrating the removal of the government chanted "yes we can" and set off fireworks.[89] Hundreds of supporters of Morales made their way toward the center of La Paz from the mountains surrounding the city, some of them armed with sticks, chanting "here we go, civil war".[90]

The police said the armed group had vandalized police offices, causing panic in some neighborhoods where people blocked their doors with furniture to protect stores and houses. After receiving requests for help from the national police and politicians, the armed forces announced that night they would mobilize to defend gas, water and electricity services around the capital, and also begin joint patrols with the police around the city.[90]

On November 13, a dozen MAS senators were blocked by police from entering the National Assembly building during the session.[91][92][93]

The next few days were marked by protests and roadblocks on behalf of Morales' supporters. In Cochabamba, Sacaba and Senkata, civilians were killed during clashes with security forces.[94][95][96]

On 20 November, Evo Morales offered not to run for reelection if he was allowed to return to Bolivia and finish his presidential term. [97]

Capital shut downEdit

The drinking water supplies to parts of both La Paz and El Alto, the second and third largest cities in Bolivia, were cut off.[98] According to Gen. Williams Kaliman, it was the plan of insurgents to leave these cities without water or fuel and counteractions to guard public services were covered under the so-called "Sebastián Pagador" plan. [99][100]

La Paz's legislature closed down the capital's infrastructure, schools, and workplaces, for public safety.[80] Supporters of Morales also built barricades on roads that lead to the airport.[80]

Barricades were placed around the Senkata refinery in El Alto by Morales supporters, cutting power and fuel to El Alto and La Paz. Pro-Morales demonstrators stormed the premises and set fire to vehicles within the compound.[101] The Bolivian military re-took the site on 19 November using armored vehicles and helicopters,[102] killing three protesters and injuring 22 in the process.[103]

As a result of blockades from various protests surrounding the city, some goods were also not able to enter.[102] Food supply was affected, leading to rationing and controlled prices in El Alto and La Paz. [104]

Interim government response to protestsEdit

In the face of protests against the interim government, Áñez called for police to restore order and, on 14 November, issued a decree that would exempt the military from any type of criminal responsibility when maintaining order, when acting in a "legitimate defense or state of necessity."[105][106][107][108] On 15 November, security forces fired upon coca farmers protesting against the government in Cochabamba. The clash left nine dead and dozens injured.[107]

Human rights concernsEdit

José Miguel Vivanco, head of Human Rights Watch in the Americas, said that the decree "sends a very dangerous message to the military that they have carte blanche to commit abuses".[109] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned Añez's government for issuing the decree.[110]

UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet issued a statement, saying that "while earlier deaths mostly resulted from clashes between rival protestors", the latest incidents appear to be due to the "disproportionate use of force by the army and police", stating that "in a situation like this, repressive actions by the authorities will simply stoke that anger even further and are likely to jeopardise any possible avenue for dialogue." Bachelet also expressed concern that "widespread arrests and detentions" were adding to the tensions; according to her office, more than 600 people had been detained since 21 October. Furthermore, Bachelet also declared being concerned that the situation could "spin out of control if the authorities do not handle it sensitively and in accordance with international norms and standards governing the use of force, and with full respect for human rights", stating that it couldn't be solved through "force and repression".[111] The decree was later repealed by Áñez.[112]

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has expressed concerns over human rights violations that occurred after the 2019 Bolivian general election.[113][111][109][2] Paulo Abrão, who heads the IACHR, declared that due to the "massive" number of human rights violations amid post-election violence, the country may need outside help to investigate the situation and recommended Bolivia coordinate with an international panel of experts to ensure findings are seen as credible.[2] On 5 December 2019, Añez approved an act to provide compensation to the families of those killed and injured during the conflict.[114] On 10 December, the government and IACHR signed an agreement to investigate the acts of violence that occurred.[115] On 30 Dec, Eva Copa, MAS head of the Senate, stated that a report had been filed with Arturo Murillo to give an account of the deaths in Sacaba and Senkata after the Assembly recess in the new year. [116]

Interim government activitiesEdit

New electionsEdit

Áñez stated on 15 November that in order to restore faith in the electoral process, a vote would first be held to elect a new Electoral Commission, before having a new vote for president.[117]

On 20 November the interim government presented a bill that aimed to forge a path to new elections. The two chambers congress were expected to debate the bill which would annul the October 20 election and appoint a new electoral board within 15 days of its passage, paving the way for a new vote.[118] The bill, drafted jointly by MAS and anti-Morales legislators, was approved on November 23; it also prohibited Morales from participating in the fresh election.[119] In exchange, Áñez's government agreed to withdraw the armed forces from all protest areas (although some servicemen were still permitted to stay at some state companies to "prevent vandalism"), revoke her decree which granted the army immunity from criminal prosecution, release arrested protesters, protect lawmakers and social leaders from attacks and provide compensation for the families of those killed during the crisis. She approved the bill shortly thereafter.[120]

Domestic policyEdit

The Áñez administration appointed government ministers between 13 November and 18 November.[121][122][123][124] The first eleven members of the interim cabinet, appointed 13 November, did not contain any indigenous members.[125][126] The Guardian described this partial cabinet as showing "no signs that [Áñez] intended to reach across the country's deep political and ethnic divide".[125] Áñez did, however, designate two persons of indigenous origin as ministers of culture and mining as the remaining positions were filled.[127][128] Morales' cabinet had included two indigenous persons.[129] Among the senior ministers in Áñez' cabinet were prominent Bolivian businesspeople.[125] Shortly after taking office, Áñez also appointed a new military high command.[91] The new commander of the armed forces, General Carlos Orellana Centellas, pledged to take orders from Áñez.[91][130]

On 20 November, Áñez granted safe-conduct to Evo Morales' daughter, Evaliz, to receive political asylum in Mexico.[131]

From early on, the interim government took the decision to fly the patujú in addition to the wiphala and Flag of Bolivia.[132] The patujú is a symbol of the Eastern indigenous peoples of Bolivia and of Santa Cruz, Bolivia's largest city. This flag was also adopted by indigenous opposition to Morales during the TIPNIS protests. [133]

The government renamed the state newspaper, known as Cambio under president Morales, as Bolivia on 17 November.[134] On 25 November, the Áñez met with civil groups Bolivian Workers' Center, the country's largest union, and the Pact of Unity, a prominent indigenous grassroots group, to sign agreements on how to pacify Bolivia following previous violent events.[135]

 
Patujú flag representing the eastern peoples of Bolivia

In the week following the inauguration of Áñez, the new government came under criticism. The New York Times described Áñez as "reaching beyond her caretaker mandate of organizing national elections by January".[107] Javier Corrales, a Latin American politics professor at Amherst College in Massachusetts, said "without a popular mandate, [the government] are pushing forward some of the most objectionable aspects of their agenda".[clarification needed] Oliver Stuenkel, associate professor of international relations at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo, said that "the only thing this government was supposed to do was calm things down and call elections, and that’s just about the only thing it has not done".[109]

By late November and December, progress was made in passing legislation for new elections,[136][137] appointing a new electoral body,[138] entering dialogue with representatives from protesting factions in El Alto [139] and cooperating with Morales' MAS party in joint participation in the coming elections,[140] albeit without Morales as a presidential candidate. A survey by Bolivian newspaper, Página Siete, showed that 43% of Bolivians approved of how Áñez has handled the presidency, while 23% disapproved. [141] On 13 Dec, Áñez approved an agreement between the three main parties over a so-called "Law of Guarantees" formulated to restore faith among political actors in the process of moving forward, including reparations for those killed and injured after she came to power. [142] This act was welcomed by the Secretary General of the UN. [143] A previous incarnation of this legislation, passed in both chambers by the MAS majority, had not been given presidential approval due to articles that implied immunity from prosecution for representatives of the previous government. This version was described by opposition lawmakers as an attempted "cover up" on behalf of the MAS party [144][145] and caused friction among members of MAS itself.[146]

On 1 January 2020, Áñez presented a change in the law that would it make it mandatory for presidential candidates to engage in public debate with their opponents to support "the strengthening of informed democracy". Morales has never taken part in such a debate. [147]

Foreign policyEdit

Karen Longaric, appointed as foreign minister by Jeanine Áñez, announced the formal departure from the country of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and breaking all diplomatic relations with Venezuela's Maduro government,[148][149] recognizing Juan Guaidó as acting president of Venezuela in the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis.[150] Longaric also announced that the interim government was considering leaving the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).[148]

A month later, the country announced its entry into the Lima Group, a regional bloc established in 2017 with the purpose of finding a way out of the Venezuelan crisis. The Bolivian foreign ministry said in a statement that it hoped to “contribute to a peaceful, democratic and constitutional solution to the crisis in Venezuela, which must be guided by the Venezuelan people.”[151] On the same month, the interim government announced that they would give refuge to 200 Venezuelans "who have fled their country for reasons of political order, of political persecution promoted by the Nicolás Maduro government."[152]

Diplomatic row over Mexican EmbassyEdit

Since the resignation of Morales, several members of the past administration have taken diplomatic refuge in the Mexican Embassy in La Paz. Several of these are facing accusations and prosecution under the interim government, the most senior being the former Minister of the Presidency, Juan Ramón Quintana. Anti-Morales protesters have routinely gathered at the doorstep of the Embassy to voice their discontent and demand that they be turned over to the Bolivian authorities.[153] An increased security presence by police and army in the vicinity of the Embassy has led to accusations of harassment and a "siege". On 27 Dec, tensions were further increased visiting Spanish diplomats were stopped by police during a visit to the Embassy. The Mexican Embassador accused the Bolivian government of María Teresa Mercado violating the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.[153] Longaric responded by saying the presence of masked and armed guards aroused suspicion that there would be an attempt to smuggle Quintana from the Embassy to another location. "No country in the world could tolerate what happened last Friday. In that case, the Vienna Convention empowers the host State to declare those diplomats who violate the rules of the conventions themselves personas non gratas," Longaric said.[154] On 30 Dec, Áñez made an announcement giving a number of Mexican and Spanish diplomats 72 hrs to leave the country, Spain responding by declaring that three Bolivian diplomats likewise must leave the country. [153] Eva Copa, MAS head of the Senate, criticised Áñez for the expulsion of diplomats of countries who helped bring stability to Bolivia and urged her to reconsider the action. [155]

CounteractionsEdit

On 15 November, Longaric expelled 725 Cuban citizens, mostly medical doctors, after she raised concerns about their alleged involvement in protests.[148][156] The government announced it arrested nine Venezuelans in the border city of Guayaramerín (near Brazil) with boots and insignias of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB), identification cards of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and microchips containing photos of themselves with other people armed with guns. After the arrest and the discovery of the microchips, the interim government suspected the men had participated "violent acts" in the country, who transferred to the Bolivian Special Crime Fighting Forces to conduct a preliminary investigation.[157]

Arturo Murillo, Áñez's new interior minister, vowed to "hunt down" his predecessor Juan Ramón Quintana, a prominent Morales ally, stoking fears of a vendetta against members of the previous administration.[125] He later announced he would start arresting certain members of the previous government who he accused of "subversion".[158] Roxana Lizárraga, Áñez's communication minister, stated that she had a list of journalists who were "involved in sedition" and threatened them with prosecution.[107]

On 22 November, after an audio recording, allegedly of Morales, leaked in which Morales supporters were directed to block main roads to La Paz in order to starve out the city, the interim government opened an investigation into Morales for "terrorism and sedition".[159] Hours later, the vice-president of MAS-IPSP was arrested for allegedly using a car of the ministry of the President; in the car, according to Télam, police discovered computers and biometric devices that belonged to the electoral commission.[160][161]

ReactionsEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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