Press Release Bolivia Latin America and the Caribbean US Foreign Policy World

US Members of Congress Call for Investigation of OAS Role in Destroying Bolivian Democracy


09/04/2020 12:00am

Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460Mail_Outline

Washington, DC ― US Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL) called today for an investigation of the role the Organization of American States (OAS) played in delegitimizing Bolivia’s 2019 elections. In an op-ed published in The Hill, Schakowsky and García take aim at the OAS’s October 21 statement, made without evidence, that there had been “a drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results.” That claim and subsequent similar statements by the OAS have since been discredited by The New York Times and numerous academic studies, and several reports published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).

“Since the day after the vote, the OAS has helped direct a false narrative that the incumbent president, Evo Morales, and his party, “rigged” or “stole” the election,” Schakowsky and García write.  

The Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, stated publicly that he believed it was a fraudulent election. He also repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that the election was ‘stolen.’ Almagro, in his own bid for reelection as Secretary General, appeared to be courting the regions’ right-wing governments — including the Trump Administration. And, indeed, he received a new 5-year mandate in March. 

Schakowsky and García cite the New York Times’ conclusion that the OAS allegations had “‘fueled a chain of events that changed the South American nation’s history’ and helped ‘push Mr. Morales from power with military support weeks later,’” and concur.

The oped also notes that Schakowsky and García, along with other members of Congress, had sent a letter to the OAS “with basic questions about its statements and findings regarding Bolivia’s election.” More than nine months later, those questions have not been answered.

The OAS, along with Bolivia’s opposition, claimed that the election was fraudulent because Morales’s share of the vote increased after an interruption in the preliminary (not official) vote count. But according to various studies, as well as a statement from 133 economists and statisticians cited in Shakowsky and García’s oped, Morales’s share of the vote increased simply because the later-reporting areas had residents that were more supportive of Morales and his party than the areas that reported earlier.

One of the questions from the members of Congress that the OAS refused to answer was:

In its press statements and reports since the election, the EOM [Electoral Observation Mission from the OAS] does not mention the possibility that the later-reporting precincts contained voters that were, on average, more pro-Morales than the earlier reporting precincts. Aren’t such locational differences between earlier and later returns fairly common in elections? Shouldn’t the EOM have looked at, and mentioned this possibility?

In July, there were congressional briefings with top officials of the OAS. These officials were unable to answer simple questions raised by the members of Congress in November.

The US Congress “should investigate the role of the OAS in Bolivia over the past year, and ensure that taxpayers’ dollars do not contribute to the overthrow of democratically elected governments, civil conflict, or human rights violations,” Schakowsky and García write. 

Schakowsky is part of the House leadership, and serves on the House Budget Committee. The OAS receives approximately 60 percent of its budget from the US government.

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