Bolivian activists have decided to begin a hunger strike to demand a ruling from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) on whether or not to allow long-time authoritarian president Evo Morales to run in the presidential elections of 2019.
Olga Florez, one of the leaders of the strike, said that they want the TSE to determine “if the referendum of February 21, 2016 is going to be honored, or will not be honored”, in which the majority of Bolivian citizens voted against allowing Morales to run for an unprecedented (and unconstitutional) fourth term.
So far, the TSE has declared that both the referendum and the ruling of 2017 of the Constitutional Court (TC), which enabled Morales to re-election indefinitely, are binding, but have not explained how they would both be applicable for the next elections, and few days ago the electoral body issued a statement ratifying the schedule for the presidential primaries without giving further details on the Morales candidacy.
Given the lack of response from the TSE, the group of activists announced that they will remain on hunger strike, with tents and posters in front of the main headquarters of the electoral body, since this decision is of the utmost importance: so that the Bolivian people will know if the country really holds “clean elections.”
“I would prefer to die of hunger than to live in a dictatorship, I ask you to join with us for the love of democracy,” said the activist of the Todos Unidos platform and member of the Civic Committee of Cochabamba, Henry Rojas.
The struggle is not just for those on hunger strike
For now there are just five people who have joined the strike, but society and opposition politicians are still struggling to find a way to respect the popular will and give clear answers as to how to challenge the Morales regime, so it is expected that in the coming days and weeks, more people will join the cause.
“We will give our all to ensure that the popular will of the referendum of 2016 will be fulfilled. We will do this until the TSE fulfills its responsibility to respect the referendum, and issue a ruling against the presidential ticket which seeks to impose MAS (Morales’ ruling Movement to Socialism party),” said Vladimir Machicado, of the political movement “Bolivia said No.”
Also, Machicado warned that empowering Morales would generate a “terrible convulsion” in the country and would lead to the TSE members being prosecuted “morally and criminally” for failing to comply with the popular will of a referendum that they themselves organized.
“We demand that the Electoral Tribunal respect the political Constitution of the state and that its interpretations be a matter of the rule of law, not on a whim, nor at the convenience of the current government and of Mr. Evo Morales and Álvaro García Linera,” added Rojas.
Morales is a quintessential pillar of the “Pink Tide” which swept Latin America over the past fifteen years, along with other leftist luminaries such as Cristina Kirchner, Lula da Silva, Hugo Chavez, and Rafael Correa.
Morales is one of the few that still remains in power, although his popularity has waned, and he is increasingly viewed as authoritarian. He has won presidential elections in 2005, 2009, and 2014.
In 2005 he handily defeated former president Jorge Quiroga, 54% to 28%, and has since transformed Bolivian society, cultivating a cult-of-personality. He has proved popular with indigenous Bolivians, and defended the rights of coca growers, but has enjoyed an antagonistic relationship with the United States, and global financial institutions.
From all appearances, the court, which is packed with Evo loyalists, is unlikely to stand in the way of his fourth presidential term, despite the people of Bolivia opposing it in the 2016 referendum.