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LatinNews Daily - 02 July 2020

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BOLIVIA: MAS denounces electoral exclusion efforts

On 1 July, Bolivia’s Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) opposition party issued a statement accusing the interim government of seeking to exclude MAS presidential candidate, Luis Arce, from competing in the upcoming general election.

Analysis:

Before the election was suspended in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the MAS had repeatedly accused the interim government led by Jeanine Áñez (herself a presidential candidate) of using judicial persecution as a strategy to exclude MAS candidates, including Arce. Ongoing judicial processes have also been suspended during the pandemic, but with the election date rescheduled for 6 September (despite Áñez’s resistance), the interim government has appealed for these cases to be reopened, and filed a new corruption complaint against Arce. Tensions are still high following the resolution of the election date debate, and any genuine attempt to exclude Arce from the electoral process would unquestionably lead to renewed protests.

  • As well as requesting the reopening of a previous embezzlement investigation relating to Arce’s work with the country’s indigenous development fund while serving as economy minister (2006-2019), interim justice minister Álvaro Coimbra filed a new complaint on 30 June, regarding alleged irregularities in the procurement of a US$10m computer programme for the country’s pensions system.
  • Arce yesterday called a press conference in response, at which he repeated his claim that the previous complaint had been fabricated. Regarding the new complaint, he confirmed that the contract in question had indeed been breached by the suppliers, but claimed that a legal process to retrieve the money had been underway when the interim government took over from the MAS in November 2019.
  • He then read a statement on behalf of the MAS, saying “we denounce to national and international public opinion that the de facto government intends to disable our candidate for the presidency, Luis Arce”, calling for the attorney general’s office to act impartially, and for the electoral tribunal (TSE) to intervene to protect his candidacy.

Looking Ahead: The statement also called on MAS-aligned social organisations and indigenous groups “to remain vigilant in the face of these attempts to suppress our rights”, seemingly raising the threat of renewed protests if Arce is excluded from the presidential contest.