Apeksha Bagchi reports for Latin Times:
Even as the number of deaths owing to the coronavirus pandemic surge in Bolivia and hospitals continue suffering acute shortages of medical supplies, the demonstrations in the nations over continuously delayed presidential elections are showing no signs of abating any time soon.
Demonstrators have continued to hold marches and established more than 100 roadblocks which include blowing up Andean passes, blocking highways with boulders, and digging trenches along rural roads. The demonstrations have been carried out by workers’ union and indigenous and campesino movements under the alliance of Morales’s Movement Towards Socialism (Mas). They are protesting against the repeated delays in rerunning the last presidential elections that took place unseating long-serving leftwing president Evo Morales.
The intensity of the demonstrations recently spiked after the electoral authorities postponed the elections for the third time citing the need to curb the rising coronavirus infections as the reason. The elections are now supposed to take place from 6 September to 18 October but there is no guarantee that they won’t be pushed back again. After Morales lost, Jeanine Áñez – a rightwing senator came to power with an interim government and promised that fresh elections would be conducted within 90 days.
The continued backlash has only burdened Bolivia which is already facing an immense economic instability, trying to beat the pandemic, and managing its rising political feuds. Áñez has warned the demonstrators that she will force to dismantle the roadblocks, which she claims have prevented oxygen and ambulances from reaching hospitals and have killed at least 31 people.
“We’re not doing this out of choice,” said Jaime Quiñones Veliz, 35, one of the protestors.
“The people are desperate to know who their president will be, no matter who wins at the polls. We need a stable government,” he added. “We’re demanding that they respect the election date of 6 September. If not, things are going to get even uglier.”
“Bolivians, let’s not be manipulated, let’s save lives. I beg you with all my heart: life first, then we’ll sort out our political problems … We won’t allow this group of orcs, this group of crooks that has taken control of a party, to defeat us and bring us to death,” said public works minister, Iván Árias in an audio message.
But according to Luis Arce, formerly Morales’s economy minister and presently the frontrunner in the polls, the demonstrations are the result of public anger at the widespread corruption under Áñez.
“The interim government wants to continue in power for eternity. They’ve demonstrated it various times,” he said. “Every time they fix a date, the health minister says that will be the [coronavirus] peak. We’ve had so many supposed peaks, it’s a plateau.”
“We want someone to genuinely guarantee us that there’ll be elections this year.”