On Sunday, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of Bolivia declared that the country would hold a general vote on 3 May 2020 with the candidates having to be submitted to the electoral authority by 3 February.
The de facto government in La Paz, meanwhile, continues to crack down on Evo Morales' supporters and leftist media sources.
ATB (private outlet) was one of the only Bolivian TV channels that provided balanced coverage before the coup.— Ollie Vargas (@OVargas52) January 5, 2020
This is Marcelo Hurtado, their director. pic.twitter.com/uXPlzXusCk
Alberto Echazu, a journalist with the left-wing media outlet La Resistencia Bolivia, which has recently been subjected to arrests and intimidation, has described the unfolding situation as the country braces for new general elections.
Sputnik: The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) of Bolivia announced on 31 December that Evo Morales' MAS will be able to participate in the 2020 general elections. Why did the de facto interim government request TSE to decide the fate of MAS? Did they hope to somehow weaken MAS' positions or expel the party from the election race? What are MAS' chances in the upcoming May 2020 elections and what obstacles could the party face, in your opinion?
Alberto Echazu: The de facto regime is trying to block and nullify MAS' legal status as a national party so that it cannot be an electoral option in the upcoming elections. Using the false idea that MAS is the party of a government that committed fraud, the regime is trying to criminalise it and expel it from the election race. This is all because they are very aware of MAS' strength, it being the only party that can obtain a vote higher than 40 percent even without Evo Morales as its candidate.
Some media sources have performed surveys of how residents intend to vote, and despite MAS' candidate not having been decided yet, the party is leading in the polls against a group of right-wing candidates such as Fernando Camacho, Carlos Mesa, and others.
MAS has every chance of winning the elections as it is still the biggest and strongest party nationwide, however, the chances of the regime actually committing fraud in order to avoid a MAS victory are fairly high. The regime has not held back from using every resource at hand, regularly violating constitutional rights and even international treaties and international human rights.
Sputnik: Who are the most likely MAS presidential candidates to take part in the 2020 general elections? What's your take on the candidacy of Andronico Rodriguez, named by some media outlets as Morales political heir? Is he charismatic enough to unify the Left?
Alberto Echazu: The most likely MAS' pairing is Luis Arce as presidential candidate and Andronico Rodriguez as vice president. Luis Arce was Evo Morales' minister of economy and is seen as the one responsible for the country's economic stability and success in the last 14 years.
The economic model, labelled Modelo Económico Social Comunitario Productivo (Social Communal Productive Economic Model) was one of the most important reasons behind Bolivia's economic miracle, giving Arce a great reputation and prestige among the urban middle class, him being the main thinker behind it. He is also highly respected among MAS' supporters as he was not only a technical cadre in Morales' government but also very committed politically, having been a member of the Socialist Party before joining Morales' government.
Andronico Rodriguez has great charisma among MAS' supporters as he was named Morales' successor and is seen as an important young cadre. Because of his age he is not expected to be the presidential candidate (he is 30 years old).
This pairing has great acceptance among MAS' supporters and could receive a large number of votes, both of them being very respected figures and having Morales' trust and blessing.
Sputnik: Could you please shed light on the political persecution of leftist journalists, in particular, La Resistencia Bolivia, that provided the coverage of the Bolivian coup. Have any international human rights organisations or entities protecting journalists paid attention to these incidents so far?
Alberto Echazu: Political persecution against members of the alternative media platform La Resistencia Bolivia, of which I am a member, is due to our work broadcasting and informing about the coup in our country and all of the assassinations and violations of human rights during the coup and the de facto government.
Franco Garcia from the Popular Coordinator for Democracy (Cochabamba) condemns last night's jailing of @ResistenciaBo activist Orestes Sotomayor, who faces charges of spreading 'seditious' posts online that criticized the coup in Bolivia. @MintPressNews pic.twitter.com/JQeKXmZ7O4— Ollie Vargas (@OVargas52) January 3, 2020
The regime silenced the rest of the media that tried to inform with some kind of impartiality as soon as it took power and forced to halt the broadcast of any media outlet that refused to comply with the regime's policies of legitimising the coup and the de facto government.
Last night, the Bolivian government seized some equipment belonging to Chapare based union-run radio station, Kawsachun Coca.— Ollie Vargas (@OVargas52) January 8, 2020
The equipment is in the department of Beni and helped them transmit to indigenous communities in the Amazon. They want to silence alternative media. pic.twitter.com/hKKpDgnB7T
Two members of La Resistencia Bolivia were arrested on New Year's Eve. The charges are “sedition” and “misuse of state assets”, even though the police have no evidence. They have been unjustly detained for a week and spent New Year in judicial cells. It is all clearly for political reasons.
The timing of the detentions was strategically planned so that there was not any social protest or support against this injustice, but in spite of that there has been a lot of support on social media, and as people go back to normality after the festive period the denouncing of this abuse has increased, given that La Resistencia has gained a lot of respect and followers for being almost the only media outlet left that informs about what is going on in Bolivia.
In that regard, different human rights organisations have expressed their solidarity towards our detained members and the persecution against the platform like Defensoría del Pueblo (People's Defence), and Asociación de Madres de Plaza de Mayo from Argentina, but the police intimidation of society in general has stopped people from protesting, as happened in other cases of abuse and arrests as well.