First national strike in 12 years
What happened yesterday at the national level is unprecedented. In 12 years of the MAS government there had not been an event of that size, a national civic strike and blockades that completely paralyzed the country. Some 30 or 40 large and intermediate cities organized the protests, which included large demonstrations, with a unique message: to reiterate to Evo Morales that the people will not allow him to be a candidate in 2019 and that will defend democracy against all odds.
The MAS made efforts so that its defeat yesterday was not complete. They took people to the streets, mobilized public officials and manipulated their shock groups to confront citizens. But the result was clear, evident to any more or less objective person: millions of people went out to mobilize and paralyzed the country in a way that had not been seen in a long time.
Moreover, in 2003, when the resignation of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada was achieved, La Paz and El Alto were paralyzed, along with the La Paz and Chapare altiplano, while the rest of the country showed tranquility. The 21F of 2018, however, covered the entire national territory. The day was qualitatively different from last year’s 21F since now the demonstrations were even more numerous and there was the addition of the national stagnation.
The spokesmen of the Government will be able to lie before the TV cameras, to say that the mobilizations were not conclusive, to assure that “the right” is the one that is behind them, that the orders arrive “of the empire”, or whatever, but they cannot lie to themselves. The evident thing is that the reign of the MAS has ended and that, after many years of having full control of the governmental policy, now what the regime faces is an adverse situation, with little popularity, decreasing legitimacy, almost null discursive force and every time less credible arguments as to why they want to stay in power.
Only in La Paz there were 115 blocking points on Wednesday. No attendance tickets, no pressures and pure use of WhatsApp. If that does not tell them anything, then they are blind.
The ballot boxes, in addition to the polls, also indicate the difficulty for the ruling party. The result of 51% of 21F was repeated almost exactly in 2017 in the judicial elections, but with one caveat: if in the referendum the Yes obtained 49%, a year and a half after the “valid” vote, it only reached 34%. There is a net reduction of 15 points. Surveys of several media also show that support for Evo Morales has dropped from the 25% barrier. That of Pagina Siete places it at 22%.
The possibilities of the ruling party, therefore, are small. As his discourse of change, of fight for mother earth, of rejection of “imperialism”, no longer has the effect it used to have, the MAS has been left naked in front of the citizenship. The truth is that now two things are driving their leaders to persist: one, continue to thrive on power, with millions of commissions and an already shameless corruption.
Two, partly due to that, the impossibility of leaving power “for good” due to the possible legal consequences that must face in the future. No one steals or harms without hoping that it will be unpunished forever.
They are not easy, therefore, the options of the Government and the President, but not to present the candidacy of Evo in 2019 is the best of them. It will not be an easy scenario, but it will be better than facing in a very uncertain way the elections of 2019. That Evo, his best record, can lose in the first round, and not even in the second, shows the seriousness of the situation. And trying other options, such as suspending the elections, would be almost suicidal.
Today all their hopes are placed on the Hague ruling, but even if this were favorable for the country, as we all hope, this would not necessarily be reflected in greater support for the Government. In fact, in September 2015, the first failure of The Hague in favor of Bolivia was known, and a few months later, the No vote was won in the 21F referendum. And if that was the case when Morales was in the best of his management, it will be even more so now.
Raúl Peñaranda U. is a journalist. Twitter: @ RaulPenaranda1