THE stunning presidential election victory — delivered by the Bolivian people to their Movement for Socialism (MAS) — is a major setback for both domestic reaction in that country and for imperialism.
It looks like Luis Arce, the MAS standard-bearer, has secured well over 50 per cent of the vote, with his main opponent Carlos Mesa on less than a third of the votes cast and a bunch of also-rans trailing far behind.
A measure of just how convincing this election victory is was demonstrated by the muted tone of the country’s interim president, Jeanine Anez, who herself dropped out of the race last month.
This disreputable representative of a minority political formation — even the Washington Post said she was known for her “racist, anti-indigenous views” — assumed the presidency in 2019 when Evo Morales was forced to resign in a coup de etat that put the country’s indigenous people, who provide a big part of the mass support enjoyed by MAS, on the back foot.
Last year mineral-rich Bolivia chose China’s Xinjiang TBEA Group for $2.3 billion lithium extraction project.
On July 24 this year Elon Musk, boss of the electric car firm Tesla whose products depend on lithium, commented on the Bolivian events: “We will coup whoever we want.”
The strategy of tension created by a combination of external and internal forces is just one variation in the techniques of terror deployed across Latin America every time its insurgent people’s claim a portion of popular power.
In last year’s election Morales’s opponents ran a spurious campaign alleging that the vote had been manipulated to give him an inflated margin of victory.
The US-based Organisation of American States questioned “the integrity of the results” and a US-style colour revolution of sorts created enough tension for a pliant police force to revolt against constitutional authority.
It was popular resistance which forced a compromise that — in exchange for Morales staying out of new elections — the Anez regime would agree to withdraw troops from insurgent regions and revoke her decree which gave immunity to the military from prosecution for their criminal acts.
Guarantees were given for the personal security of MAS activists and its parliamentary representatives, who still dominate the Camara de Diputados. This was along with a promise of compensation for the families of those killed.
What is distinctive about this present electoral process is that the discipline and unity of the people imposed upon local and international capital — and the overlapping circles of institutional, clerical, military and financial powers — a tranquillity that neither Covid-19, the dire economic situation nor the provocative deployment of military forces was able to disturb.
The opportunities for delay and distortion of the electoral process are not yet exhausted, but there is a growing confidence that the present balance of forces has driven reaction into a retreat.
Arce will take office with much of the state apparatus still subordinate to big capital and reactionary landowners, riven with prejudice and discrimination against Bolivia’s indigenous people and with its key personnel trained by the US.
The progressive and revolutionary forces across Latin America will take note that when united and determined, extra-parliamentary initiatives by local and US reaction can be blocked.
The events in Bolivia illustrate a truth demonstrated with regular frequency in this part of the world that advances towards popular sovereignty and popular power cannot stop at the outer doors of the legislature but must be carried through to socialise key elements of the economy and transform the entire apparatus of the state — most especially the police, military and intelligence organisations.
This is a truth not confined to Latin America.
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