Bolivian President Evo Morales acknowledged the country’s national referendum results on Wednesday.
The Bolivian government promised its supporters Wednesday February 24 that it would continue to adopt progressive political policies, despite the outcome of the country’s national referendum.
We may have lost a battle, but not the war
“We may have lost a battle, but not the war,” said President Evo Morales, referring to the national referendum results on presidential term limits, which prevents the Bolivian leader from running for reelection in 2019.
During a press conference Wednesday, President Morales acknowledged the referendum results but promised to continue governing in the “interests of the poor and marginalized.”
Right-wing opposition’s coordinated media campaign
In his speech, Morales accused right-wing opposition groups of launching a coordinated media campaign in efforts to undermine and discredit his administration.
“Some media outlets fulfilled the interests of political parties,” Morales stated.
Moving forward, Morales announced that various high-ranking members from his administration will meet with leaders from Bolivian social movements in order to evaluate the political implications following the referendum outcome.
Official final results will not be announced until Thursday. However, with 99.5 per cent of the votes counted, the “No” side holds a 3 per cent lead over the “Yes” with 51.3 per cent versus 48.7 per cent.
5 things to know about Bolivia’s referendum to alter term limits
(January 21) – Bolivia’s referendum on February 21 determined whether President Morales can seek a third consecutive term in 2019.
1.The referendum is NOT about keeping Evo Morales in power indefinitely
As with other efforts in Latin America to change term limits for politicians, there is a lot of misinformation floating around regarding the upcoming referendum in Bolivia.
The opponents of the social change brought by the government of President Evo Morales, both domestically and abroad, are deliberately trying to confuse the public by suggesting that Morales is seeking to stay in power indefinitely.
The referendum will decide whether a constitutional term limit for presidents and vice presidents should be amended, and the outcome will decide if Morales, who has been president since 2006, will be permitted to run for office again.
The actual text of the referendum question reads: “Are you in agreement with the reform of Article 168 of the Political Constitution of the State so that the president and vice president of the state can be re-elected twice for consecutive terms?”
The constitution currently only allows for one consecutive re-election, the change would allow for three consecutive terms for the president and vice president.
Of course, should the referendum be approved, President Evo Morales and Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera would still need to win the election in 2019 in order to remain in office.
Even after a decade in power, the Morales government remains immensely popular, and his political opponents fear that he will once again win overwhelmingly. Despite their pronouncements about Bolivia’s democracy, this is why many in the opposition have chosen to campaign against the approval of the referendum.
2.The push to change term limits is driven by the grassroots
Supporters of Evo Morales and his Movement Toward Socialism were still celebrating their dramatic victory in 2014 elections when the president was already being asked if he was considering running for president in 2019. Morales responded that he was too busy thinking about the upcoming term and had not yet considered an additional term, saying that “the people will decide.”
It is a position that he has steadfastly maintained. The push to change term limits has instead come from the grassroots, who say that Morales is deserving of an additional term in order to complete the work his government began when it first came to power in 2006.
In fact, the actual request for a constitutional referendum was made by thousands of Bolivians who marched through the streets of La Paz in order to hand deliver their request to the country’s Plurinational Legislative Assembly.
“Workers and social organizations will not jeopardize this process of change, and that is why we are supporting the reelection of President Morales,” said Rolando Borda of the Santa Cruz Regional Workers’ Center in September 2015.
Morales has said that even he has been taken by surprise by the outpouring of support from social movements for his re-election.
3.The United States is allegedly funding the ‘No’ camp
President Evo Morales has charged that the United States is funding the campaign calling for a “No” vote in the referendum.
According to Morales, the country’s right-wing politicians are even fighting with each other over their share of the money.
In a de facto recognition of the unpopularity of opposition politicians in Bolivia, the U.S. embassy has recommended that Bolivian opposition leaders avoid appearing publicly during the campaign in order to give the appearance that the rejection of Morales’ re-election mainly comes from the population.
Bolivian Communications Minister Marianela Paco affirmed the allegations leveled by President Morales during a press conference on Jan. 19, where she also showed links between opposition politicians and questionable characters from Bolivia’s past.
Paco showed evidence that the opposition is still in contact with Carlos Sanchez Berzain, a minister during the government of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, who fled Bolivia amid mass protests. The former president is in self-imposed exile in the United States and considered a fugitive. Bolivian authorities are seeking his extradition but the U.S. Department of State has been uncooperative.
“I am not sure whether (the money) is sent by the corrupt criminals who fled to the United States, or by the U.S. State Department,” said Morales, referring to the Bolivian opposition leaders that have found shelter in the United States.
U.S. support for the “No” side would be unsurprising as the Morales government has a volatile relationship with the United States. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was expelled from Bolivia and the U.S. has not had an ambassador in the country since 2008, when the last ambassador was expelled.
Diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks revealed that the U.S. had plans in 2008 to either topple the government of Evo Morales, or allow his assassination.
Morales is a steadfast critic of U.S. foreign policy, especially when it comes to the war on drugs, including the rights of Bolivians traditional coca growers. Morales cut his teeth in politics as leader of coca growers.
4.‘No’ campaign engaged in dirty tricks
In January, opposition politician and three-time defeated presidential candidate Samuel Doria Medina attempted to smear President Evo Morales by alleging that he had recently received a US$200 haircut, presenting a receipt as “proof.”
The receipt shared by Doria Medina on Twitter turned out the be false and the politician deleted his tweet.
The episode served to show the depths the opposition is willing to go to in an effort to defame the president, especially during this electoral period.
Bolivian President Evo Morales has accused the opposition of carrying out a “dirty war” against him. Another opposition politician, Filiberto Escalante, claimed that Morales’ “entire family” was managing the state-run oil company YPFB, and that the “nepotism” Morales used to criticize when campaigning for the presidency was actually worse now.
That charge also turned out to be false, as Morales’ sister works at a hospital and his other siblings abstain from politics.
“We’ve heard so many slurs in the past days that the only word that comes to mind is the dirty war and opposition’s policy, although this is not so surprising – they used to call me the Andean Bin Laden,” said Morales in December 2015.
The “Yes” campaign on the other hand is running a positive campaign, focused on the achievements of the Morales government since 2006 in a door-to-door effort.
The campaign is deliberately targeting Bolivia’s young people to talk to them about life in Bolivia before the Morales government. They even created a humorous parody video of the trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
In the video, the Evo Morales’ face is overlaid on several Star Wars characters that represent “the Force,” or the good guys. The “Dark Side” is represented by former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and former Defense Minister Carlos Sanchez.
5.Millions of Bolivians are expected to vote
Bolivia’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced that 6.5 million people were registered to vote in February’s national referendum, representing a 3 percent increase in the number of new voters since the last referendum in September 2015.
Voting is compulsory in Bolivia, thus there is little doubt that the will of the people will be expressed on Feb. 21.
Nonetheless the opposition is trying to undermine the legitimacy of the electoral body and the vote, a standard tactic in the region.
With polls showing the “Yes” side with more support, by questioning the legitimacy of the vote ahead of the referendum, the “No” side is seeking to lay the groundwork for allegations of fraud should they lose.
Some private media outlets inside Bolivia have suggested irregularities in the electoral register.
“We can ensure not only the reliability of our data but also the access to this information by any citizen,’’ says Katia Uriona, president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
In a statement posted on its website, the tribunal invited Bolivians to verify for themselves the electoral register.
Thirty-seven organizations have registered to campaign: 22 support the “Yes” side, which seeks to modify the constitution, while 15 will campaign in favor of the “No” side.
Campaigners do not need to register but those that do register are entitled to benefit from free campaign publicity in state broadcast and print outlets.
Source: teleSUR, January 21, 2016
Ten important accomplishments under Evo Morales
- Since 2005 Morales has managed to help facilitate the passing of a new constitution and implement a variety of state funded social programs which have reduced extreme poverty from 38.2 percent in 2005 to 21.6 percent in 2012.
- Morales’ government has adopted several macro-economic policies, to increase state revenue from the country’s natural resources in order to invest in social programs. Morales’ strategy helped increase Investment in public spending by over 750 percent over the last nine years.
- Under the Bolivia Changes, Evo Comes Through initiative, Morales’ government provided small-scale infrastructure projects to many underprivileged communities, allocating over US$1 billion for over 5,000 projects throughout the country including the construction of medical clinics, schools and gymnasiums.
- Since Morales came to power in 2005, the Bolivian government has increased its hydrocarbon gas production from 33 million cubic meters to 56 million cubic meters in 2013. As a result, the Bolivian government estimates that it will become completely self-reliant on natural gas production by 2015.
- Another factor that has contributed to the reduction in poverty is the increase to the real minimum wage. According to International Labor Organization (ILO), the last two years Bolivia has achieved the highest increase (104 percent from 2005-2013) in real minimum wage than any other Latin American country.
- A central component of the Morales poverty reduction strategy was the creation and promotion of strong food security policies. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization he report states that as a result of inclusive and pro-poor food security policies, Bolivia saw a rapid decline of hunger by 7.4 percent during 2009-2011 and 2012-2014. The study also noted that Bolivia experienced a sharp decrease in chronic undernourishment in children less than three years of age, which fell from 41.7 percent in 1989 to 18.5 percent in 2012.
- Another significant political achievement under Morales was the approval of a new constitution which incorporated many important changes including, granting Bolivian investment priority over foreign investment, and increased autonomy and political participation for the country’s indigenous population.
- In 2009, the Morales administration pushed forward a new constitution, which recognized the traditional uses of the coca leaf for the first time in Bolivian history. Bolivia then successfully petitioned the United Nations for a reservation that legally permits coca growing and its licit uses within its borders. In July 2014, the United Nations issued a report, which found that that coca cultivation in Bolivia fell nine percent last year, and a massive 26 percent in the past three years.
- Since 2005, industrialization has become a key aspect of Morales’ economic policy, particularly in the area of transportation and energy production. The industrialization initiatives also form part of a broad strategy to transform the South American nation into a regional energy hub.
- From a macroeconomic perspective, Morales’ government has made significant progress. From 2005-2013, it’s total GDP growth tripled. Bolivia has also managed to increase its international reserves to 48 percent of it’s GDP.
Source: teleSUR, October 9, 2014