Press Release Bolivia Latin America and the Caribbean Organization of American States World

MAS Victory in Bolivian Elections a “Triumph for Democracy,” CEPR Co-Director Says

October 19, 2020

Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460Mail_Outline

OAS should be held accountable for its role in the 2019 coup

Washington, DC ― The apparently overwhelming victory of Luis Arce, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) presidential candidate, in yesterday’s elections in Bolivia is a triumph for democracy and against a military coup, racism, and political persecution that has marked the governance of the country for the past 11 months, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. 

While official results from yesterday’s vote have yet to be announced, unofficial quick count results conducted by private companies show Arce with more than a 50 percent vote, and a more than 20 point margin of victory over runner-up Carlos Mesa. This is far above the numbers needed to avoid a runoff. Mesa conceded defeat today, and de facto president Jeanine Añez congratulated Arce on his victory just after 12:30 a.m. The official results so far indicate that, based on historic voting patterns, Arce will easily secure a first-round victory.

“This is an important step forward in restoring democracy almost a year after a military coup,” Weisbrot said. “Nobody disputes that Evo Morales was democratically elected in 2014 and that his term was not finished when he was forced out of office; although for some reason many observers have avoided the word ‘coup.’ Elections are a much better way to determine who runs the government.

“But Bolivia still has some way to go to restore democracy, and to secure justice for people who have suffered under this regime, including the families of those who were massacred in November in the days following the coup.”

A recent study by the Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and the University Network for Human Rights (UNHR) found that the month of the coup was “the second-deadliest month, in terms of civilian deaths committed by state forces, since Bolivia became a democracy nearly 40 years ago.”

Most importantly for the hemisphere, Weisbrot noted, “The OAS needs to be held accountable for its central role in supporting the November coup. Policymakers, including US members of Congress, should ensure that the OAS doesn’t destroy another democracy while acting as election observers.” 

“There should be a thorough investigation — as US Congress members have called for — of the role of the OAS and its secretary general Luis Almagro, who provided the political foundation for the coup in a series of false statements and reports.

“It shouldn’t be that surprising that Arce would secure such a commanding victory,” Weisbrot said. “When he was economy minister under Evo Morales, Bolivia experienced impressive economic and social gains that benefited millions of people, including many of their government’s Indigenous supporters, who constitute nearly half the country and who had long endured high rates of poverty and social exclusion. Strong economic growth during those years allowed Bolivia to reduce poverty by 42 percent and extreme poverty by 60 percent.”

“The coup was an attempt to once again exclude Bolivia’s Indigenous people from a say in the government of the country, and for the traditional elite of its white and mestizo population to win what they could not win at the ballot box for 14 years.”


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