The political instrumentalization of the judiciary is a recurring practice for all Bolivian governments. The country was caught in a vicious circle: permanent abuse of the state against the individual.
Currently, with Luis Arce’s government, no one is immune and many are wary of the promise of a “new era”.
The vice-president, David Choquehuanca, announced in his inaugural speech: “We must overcome the division, hatred, racism, discrimination between compatriots, no more persecution of freedom of expression, no more judicialization of politics” .
However, after four months in power, the government’s actions only contradict his rhetoric.
Based on the hypothesis of the coup against Evo Morales in November 2019, the government of Arce and Choquehuanca constructed a narrative to justify its actions.
For “sedition, conspiracy and terrorism”, ex-president Jeanine Áñez was arrested on Saturday March 13, with a large demonstration by the national police under the leadership of her commander-in-chief, as if she were a dangerous criminal.
The government’s aim was to show the public some sort of war trophy which once again has a monopoly on legitimate violence to attack political opponents.
A tweet from Evo Morales illustrates the political conception prevalent in the MAS (Movement for Socialism): “For justice and truth for the 36 fatal victims, the more than 800 injured and more than 1,500 illegally detained during the coup. State. The authors and accomplices of the dictatorship which plundered the economy and attacked life and democracy in Bolivia “.
Why is the arrest of Jeanine Áñez based on a hypothesis?
November 2019 cannot be understood without February 2016
Since February 21, 2016, the date of the referendum in which the majority of voters rejected the fourth nomination of Evo Morales, until November 10, 2019, the date on which he resigned from the presidency, a series of socio-political events have taken place. took place which contributed to the build-up of social unrest against corruption and authoritarianism in the third consecutive MAS government.
The irregularities committed by the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) before, during and after the elections of October 20, 2019, denounced by the electoral observation mission of the OAS (Organization of American States), were the spark that ignited the accumulated collective anger.
In other words, it was a citizen rebellion, which erupted in the department of Santa Cruz and spread throughout the country, against authoritarian power and the manipulation of the electoral process.
In the face of protests, Evo Morales had to resign from his post, which was followed by a string of sackings of senators and MAS deputies.
This created a power vacuum for 48 hours which led Jeanine Áñez, in her capacity as opposition senator – second vice-president – to be summoned to the presidency by applying the principle of administrative continuity.
The fact that Evo Morales stepped down from the presidency at the suggestion of the military is at the root of the idea of a coup.
However, this speech denies the visibility of the citizen rebellion and what happened after the constitutional transition in which the military remained in their barracks, Parliament continued to fulfill its functions and new elections were called, suspended in twice due to the pandemic.
Following this succession of events, Luis Arce himself, in May 2020, when he was a presidential candidate, considered Jeanine Áñez to be a “transitional constitutional president”.
According to Bolivian human rights expert Luis Yañez, “there are four concrete proofs that the new government was constitutional and not in fact”.
First, the Plurinational Legislative Assembly – with a Masista majority – unanimously approved Law 1,266, which nullified the results of the fraud and called for new elections.
Second, the Constitutional Declaration (001/2020) extended the tenure of the President and members of the Assembly themselves.
Third, Law 1.270 also provided for the aforementioned extension.
Finally, the MAS group accepted the resignation of Evo Morales the next day.
An eye for an eye
The political turmoil provoked by the apprehensions, ideologically justified in the false thesis of the coup and the “passion for justice”, has imprisoned Bolivia in a vicious cycle under the logic of one eye for an eye.
This social polarization has exacerbated and paved the way for muddy terrain that makes public management more difficult during a pandemic.
In the interim government of Jeanine Añez, there were also persecutions and arrests. And the authoritarian line of the former government minister Arturo Murillo has collaborated in the degradation of democracy during the year 2020.
But there is no doubt that the current MAS government is repeating the scenario in a recharged fashion. Confident in his electoral majority (he was elected with 55% of the vote), he believes he has the green light to commit human rights violations and despise the opposition minority.
Is it democracy?
When political actions are determined by ideological assumptions and by revanchist motives, there is no room for agreement and respect.
The vicious eye-for-eye cycle binds the government and their rhetoric – based on unfounded assumptions – becomes justifications for abusive practices against their political opponents.
The arrest of Jeanine Áñez once again shook the political system in times of pandemic and reactivated the discursive polarization that could prevent inter-institutional coordination between the national government and the newly elected autonomous territorial governments, where the MAS lacks strength.
This could complicate public management to start overcoming the socio-economic crisis caused by the pandemic in Bolivia.