Bolivian Future Hangs in Balance, MAS Vote Vital to Restore Peace, Indigenous Group Spokeswoman Says

© AP Photo / Juan KaritaАкция в поддержку Луиса Арсе в Боливии
Акция в поддержку Луиса Арсе в Боливии  - Sputnik International
The ongoing struggle to restore rule under the Movement for Socialism (MAS-IPSP) reached a crucial point in Bolivian history as voters took to the polls on Sunday to decide on the next president, determining the future of the Latin American nation led by former president Evo Morales for 13 years.

Miriam Amancay Colque, spokeswoman for the Bartolina Sisa Resistance movement in London, explained the tensions unfolding in Bolivia as Luis Arce Catacora was winning the election, according to exit polls.

Sputnik: What is the current mood on the ground in Bolivia leading up to the elections?

Miriam Amancay Colque: The situation is very tense as the Jeanine Anez and Arturo Murillo Prijic regime has launched a psychological war against MAS supporters with narratives of "false positives", as well as blamed the MAS for attacks and claimed the military and police are ready to "go out and defend democracy, at any cost".

Minister of Justice Alvaro Coimbra said at a recent conference that should MAS lose the elections, its members would "go out to kill people in the streets". They obviously want to smear the MAS-IPSP and are seeking to agitate sections of the population where there is already a lot of suspicion and uncertainty.

It is no coincidence that Prijic returned from his US visit with high-calibre weaponry to carry out his plans, and his strategy is to use deception to bring Carlos Mesa to power and provide the military, police and paramilitaries with weapons.

But should MAS win the elections, Prijic plans to spike tensions across Bolivia and declare a state of siege. Their paramilitary groups are experts in assaulting indigenous women and children, and are mobilised with impunity.

Sputnik: Can you tell us which regions are affected by ongoing tensions and how?

Miriam Amancay Colque: Jeanine Anez and her administration have deepened polarisation across the country, sowing intolerance, hatred, revenge, racism and discrimination. Bolivia lives in a constant state of fear since the government took power, with tensions skyrocketing during the electoral campaign period.

Anez once said that the city was "not for the Indians, [who] should go to the Highlands".

MAS supporters have suffered the majority of assaults, with opposition and paramilitary groups physically attacking them with baseball bats, stones, and other such tactics.

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Paramilitaries in Santa Cruz linked to Luis Fernando Camacho have done the same, destroying election materials and burning MAS campaign houses.

The police never get involved in these incidences as the regime has given them a blank check and boosted support for paramilitary groups backing their efforts to commit terrorist acts with total impunity.

The media also does not report this news as most are now backing the regime. Bolivia has deteriorated into a lawless 'no man's land' with complete disregard for our constitutional and democratic, civil, political, cultural and social rights.

Sputnik: Which special mechanisms, such as international observers and systems, have been put into place to ensure a transparent election cycle?

Miriam Amancay Colque: Numerous face-to-face and virtual observers have arrived to facilitate the election process, with groups such as the Mercosur Parliament (PARLASUR), the United Nations (UN), the Association of Ombudsman in Argentina (ADPRA), Party of the European Left, human rights lawyers and others joining the efforts.

But the Organisation of American States (OAS) has sent the same delegation from October last year who gave the disastrous report leading to the coup. Luis Almagro openly supported the Anez coup government and held meetings with Murillo and Camacho. So instead of safeguarding democracy, the OAS eroded it at the behest of the United States.

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International observers have continuously questioned military meddling in the election process after they took charge of transporting ballots. EU observer Maria Teresa Mola Sainz expressed similar concerns as the same military had carried out massacres in Sabaca and Senkata last year.

Murillo has threatened observers with arrest or deportation if they 'cause problems', and an Argentinian MP has already been detained at an airport by authorities, despite being allowed in the country.

USAID has also intervened and its operatives work with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), where Jeanin Anez's son, José Armando Ribera Áñez, is an employee.

The TSE withdrew its DIREPRE fast-counting system at the last minute and said it would only issue official results, and the government has restricted alternative media from covering the elections and denied the Electoral Tribunal a vehicle licence.

Sputnik: What can you tell us about the candidates standing in the elections? What are their backgrounds and what do you expect them to do for the Bolivian people if they are elected?

Miriam Amancay Colque: Five candidates remain in the contests after Anez, Tuto Quiroga and Maria Baya withdrew their candidacies.

Luis Arce Catacora, leader of the MAS-IPSP, was the economic minister to former president Evo Morales and applied many successful economic models in Bolivia, leading to regional growth after nationalising hydrocarbons in 2006.

His vice-president nominee, David Choquehuanca, is an anthropologist and representative of the Aymara people and former Foreign Minister to the Morales administration.

The MAS campaign closed on 14 October in El Alto, the historic site where the siege by Bartolina Sisa and Tupac Katari took place against Spanish colonialists.

Arce pledged at the time to "recover democracy, political, economic and social stability in Bolivia" as well as provide opportunities to youth and guarantee employment universal insurance, and renationalisation of lithium, among others.

Luis Fernando Camacho, right-wing oligarch who fuelled the coup last year and is more familiar with violence than politics.

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Carlos Mesa, Communidad Ciudadana leader and vice-president of the former Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada administration. He is a neoliberal who would sell out Bolivia to imperialists and has the backing of paramilitaries.

We've learned that Mesa has inked an agreement with the Trump administration to build a military base in the Uyuni salt fields where the nation's lithium is located, in order to receive backing as Bolivia's president. Many financing his campaign are businesspeople from the US such as Juan Carlos Lopez and others.

Other candidates include Feliciano Mamani of Accion Nacional, right-wing businessman and government minister Arturo Murillo Prijic as well as Chi Hyun Chung, pastor and doctor from the Frente Para La Victoria party.

Sputnik: A Jubileo Foundation poll found 40.3 percent of Bolivians said they would vote for MAS candidate Luis Arce. Why is this important given the Western backing for Carlos Mesa and his predecessor, Jeanine Anez?

Miriam Amancay Colque: In reality, all of the polls, including those of the opposition, give Arce the lead in the election, and is a clear testimony the MAS has the support of the majority.

MAS is the only party with a work programme meeting the needs of the people faced with difficulties due to this regime's incompetence, which is willing to continue with neoliberal programmes such as privatising state-owned oil company Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) into near-bankrupcy to the benefit of transnational companies.

Sputnik: Moving forward, if Arce wins the election cycle, do you see a return to law and order in Bolivia under the MAS, or do you believe there will be fierce division and polarisation in the country?

Miriam Amancay Colque: We are optimistic that we can recover the nation's institutions as well as stability with Lucho Arce.

His policies have been successfully implemented under Morales and he is responsible for the economic growth, new industries, schools, roads, and other infrastructure from the Morales administration. We hope that with him in power, that development will continue for the benefit of the entire Bolivian people.

We recognise that there are winners and losers in democracy and will accept the results if they are fair, not fraudulent.

Sputnik: What is the best way for Bolivia to heal the tensions after the elections?

Miriam Amancay Colque: Above all, respect. In our diverse, multicultural country, most of us want peace, progress and stability which is impossible with reactionary elite forces and right-wing destroying our progress, which is our duty to recover.

We also need justice, as there are so many social wounds that need time to heal. Remember this regime massacred indigenous people in Sacaba, Senkata and Pedregal and crimes against humanity cannot go unpunished.

Sputnik: What do indigenous groups feel about a potential return of sovereignty, or conversely, if the right-wing were to keep their power?

Miriam Amancay Colque: Indigenous, native and peasant people cautiously back their MAS-IPSP candidates. They are the majority in Bolivia and most affected by this neoliberal system that exploits and increases poverty. They are determined to defend their land, dignity, sovereignty and, as the great majority, their self-determination.

Should the right wing candidates win the elections, the future would not be promising. We have proof that this incompetent Anez regime has been privatising strategic companies, proliferating corruption, and eradicating medical care, education, social benefits as well as abolished the Ministry of Cultures, in addition to its political repressions and persecutions.

The neoliberal economic model will always bankrupt humanity as it is more concerned about profits than human beings.

Sputnik: Anything else you would like to add?

Miriam Amancay Colque: Despite a disastrous year, where many have been assaulted, murdered, imprisoned, persecuted and abandoned during the pandemic, the election outcome will have profound geopolitical implications at the national and regional levels. Keep in mind Bolivia has the world's largest lithium reserves and imperialists crave their exploitation.

The Bolivian people wrote their Political Constitution 14 years ago, giving birth to the Plurinational State of Bolivia, where for the first time, over 36 indigenous groups were included and given rights.

In 14 years, extreme poverty was reduced, infrastructure was increased and wealth redistributed to the majority. Modern state industries were built, but in less than a year, they are being embezzled by the coup administration.

Both Anez and Murillo have openly said they will not hand over power if the MAS-IPSP wins, but last Wednesday the Legislative Assembly stripped Murillo of his role as a government minister for failing to attend the body for the fourth time.

The future of the country is in our hands for the sake of our children and grandchildren. We have the duty to deepen the political struggle and process of change with Arce and Choquehuanca.

We also call on workers of the world and the international community to proactively show solidarity with the Bolivian people at this critical time until democracy is restored, with the hope of liberating Bolivia from the claws of racism and imperialism.

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