2019 Bolivian political crisis

A political crisis occurred in Bolivia on 10 November 2019, after 21 days of civil protests following the disputed 2019 Bolivian general election in which incumbent President Evo Morales was initially declared the winner. The elections took place after a referendum to amend the Bolivian constitution, which limits the number of terms to two, was rejected in 2016. In 2017 under political pressure and a legal demand from the Morales government,[3] the Constitutional Tribunal (TCP) ruled that all public offices would have no term limits despite what was established in the constitution and allowing Evo Morales to run for a fourth term.[4]

2019 Bolivian political crisis
Jeanine Áñez assuming the presidency (left); Evo Morales speaking in Mexico, where he received political asylum (right)
Date10 November 2019
La Paz, Bolivia
Caused by
MethodsBarricades, demonstrations, and hunger strikes
Resulted in
Parties to the civil conflict

Bolivian government

  • Pro-Morales protesters
  • Anti-Áñez protesters
Lead figures
Casualties and losses
Dead: 33 (26 November 2019)[2]
Injured: 715 (17 November 2019)

The TCP's basis for this anti Constitutional decision was the Pact of San Jose regarding human rights[5] and Article 411 giving international treaties preeminence over the Constitution text itself. Challenges to this 2017 decision made by Bolivian citizens and constitutional experts were subsequently denied by the TCP,[6] and at the time of the 2019 election a query to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) was pending. In 2021, the CIDH set the matter to rest in a consultative opinion requested by Colombia, which states that re-election is not a human right.[7] Rather, the decision states that breaking a Constitutional mandate of term limits to allow indefinite re-election attacks the human rights of citizens. According to Articles 13 and 411 of the Bolivian Constitution,[8] this CIDH decision overrides any contrary ruling by the TCP or Legislative Assembly. The Constitution of Bolivia[8] grants the TCP authority to interpret, but not to modify the Constitution.

An audit by the Organization of American States (OAS),[9] which released a full report afterwards, concluded that significant irregularities happened during the electoral process.[10][11][12] Observers from the European Union released a report with similar findings and conclusions as the OAS.[13][14] The military and the police of Bolivia, along with the Bolivian Workers' Center (COB), recommended President Evo Morales to resign. He did, accompanied by other resignations by high-level politicians throughout the day, some citing fears for the safety of their families. The government of Mexico offered political asylum to Morales the following day, which Morales accepted a day afterwards.[15][16]

The second vice president of the Senate, opposition senator Jeanine Áñez, assumed the role of president on 12 November. This was not without controversy, as her initial appointment was made during a brief legislative session that lacked quorum, due to a boycott by Morales's party, Movement for Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo; MAS).[17] Bolivia's Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal then endorsed Áñez's assumption of the presidency, and the MAS ruling party returned most members to both chambers, with some assuming key positions such as Leader of the Senate.[18][19][20] They also committed to working with the interim government towards new elections.[21] In addition to the controversy around her appointment, Áñez's government began a campaign against Morales's supporters. Newly appointed Interior Minister Arturo Murillo vowed to pursue members of Morales's administration[22][23] and Áñez's government charged Morales with "terrorism and sedition".[23][22] Áñez introduced Christian religious symbols into state procedures, a move perceived by The New York Times as directly related to Morales's 14 years of support for Indigenous culture.[24]

Morales called for the Bolivian people to reject the leadership of Áñez. He and his supporters argued that the event was a coup d'état. International politicians, scholars and journalists were divided between describing the event as a coup or popular uprising.[1][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][excessive citations] The Bolivian Congress, with the majority being members of Morales's MAS party, unanimously approved a bill on 23 November 2019 that annulled the results of 20 October election, allowed for new elections and prevented Evo Morales from participating in the new elections.[32][33][34] The bill was signed into law the next day by president Áñez.[35] The unrest would ultimately lead to the Senkata and the Sacaba massacres.[36]

On 4 December 2019, the OAS released its final report related to 20 October election, detailing what they called "deliberate" and "malicious" tactics to rig that election in favor of President Morales.[37][38] Analysis by the progressive, left-leaning US thinktank Center for Economic and Policy Research rejected the OAS statistical analysis of election data, arguing that a basic coding error resulted in inexplicable changes in trend.[39][40][41] In August 2021, a report commissioned by the OAS and carried out by independent human rights experts concluded that the Añez government's path to power came with "irregularities" and serious human rights abuses by security forces.[42][43][44] In June 2022, the Bolivian courts convicted Áñez for charges committed during the political crisis. She was sentenced to ten years in prison.[24][45]

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