The triumph of President Evo Morales and his party, the Movement for Socialism (MAS), in the Bolivian elections this past Sunday guarantees, with more than two-thirds of the vote, the reelection of the indigenous leader and the domination of his political organization in Bolivia’s legislative chambers.
Beyond these numbers, MAS’s victory over the disintegrating and retreating parties of the right-wing oligarchy marks a historic landmark for a country that has been characterized by the racist marginalization and exclusion from power of the majority of its own people: the Quechua and Aymara ethnic groups. The commanding margin with which the president took power on Sunday represents both an indisputable expansion of the mandate that he received a little less than four years ago, and a validation of the ambitious political project to eradicate the oppression and discrimination that has blighted the nation for years.
Seen in this light, Sunday’s elections, far from opening the door to dictatorship – as some foreign and domestic anti-Evo media outlets have suggested – were a faithful reflection of the true composition of the country, and a faithful expression of its aspirations.
As in Venezuela, and, to a lesser extent, in other Latin American nations, Bolivia’s proposals of radical social transformation have passed through and been overwhelmingly approved by the irrefutable authority of the ballot box. The impulse to label these governments as “dictatorial,” then, can only be explained in terms of the glaring stubbornness of ideological animosity, funded and fueled by an alliance of political and corporate power.
In Bolivia, the Right was dealt a devastating blow on Sunday. But the future of the regional and separatist movements organized by conservatives in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Beni and Pando remains to be seen. Manfred Reyes Villa, who ran against Evo on the the Progress Plan for Bolivia-National Convergence (PPB-CN) ticket, garnered more votes in these regions than the president. Obviously, this does not affect the outcome of the election, but it is a testament to the entrenchment of the oligarchic forces in these areas, forces that could potentially continue to oppose the Morales government with threats of secession.
In any event, these elections are of historic importance for Bolivia and for the rest of Latin America, where democracy has not always been a faithful instrument in meeting the wants and needs of the majority, and has often been manipulated by the media, interest groups, and corporate and political forces bent on maintaining their inherited power structures and imposing paradigms onto people that result in the looting and devastation of entire nations.