BOLIVIA: New Elections Announced, Roadblocks Lifted

Photo: Self-appointed interim President of Bolivia Jeanine Añez

By Jakob Stein

This past Sunday interim President of Bolivia Jeanine Añez signed a bill into law that annuls the disputed October election and opens the country up to a new round of elections in the coming months.

The bill was drafted in an attempt to quell the uprising that erupted over the course of several weeks following the election, which included large protests, strikes, roadblocks, the resignation of President Evo Morales, and violent clashes with military and police that left at least 30 dead.

On Monday, many of the roadblocks that disrupted transport of goods were temporarily lifted as part of the agreement reached between the Añez government and the leaders of various groups involved in the protests, which included indigenous groups, farmers, and trade unions. Those who lifted the roadblocks said that they would re-impose them if protesters’ demands were not met, while others refused to lift the roadblocks at all until the government meets the demands, which included the release of all arrested protesters, compensation for the families of those who were killed, and protection of social leaders.

In exchange for the lifting of roadblocks and an end to the protests, the Añez government is withdrawing military personnel from most of the protest areas, while leaving some at strategic state companies like natural gas plant and repealing the law that gave the military impunity when using violence with protesters. Another condition of the agreement would be the barring of ousted President Morales from participation in the upcoming elections.

As the protests and strikes come to a temporary close, interim President Añez has attempted to realign the country geopolitically. She appointed former United Nations envoy Walter Serrate Cuellar as the country’s first ambassador to the United States in 11 years, a position that has been vacant since a dispute between the governments of Morales and George W Bush in 2008. She has also broken diplomatic ties with both Cuba and Venezuela, longtime allies of Morales’ government, while recognizing far-right opposition leader and lackey of US imperialism Juan Guaidó as the country’s legitimate president.

The actions of Añez over the past week demonstrate a clear desire to bring the country further under the control of US imperialism. She has used a counterinsurgency strategy that involves deploying military for violent repression, giving them free reign to use force at their discretion, while making deals with opportunist leaders and supporters of Morales, promising to withdraw the military if the protests and road blockades are lifted. By making these deals with “protest leaders” she has forced the opposition to recognize her as the legitimate executive, even though she was essentially self-appointed as the next lackey of US imperialism.