Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, recently resigned. His resignation signals the end of his 15-year socialist reign over the country. This decision comes after an aggressively contested election. Some accused the former president of rigging the election in his favor. Others argued that the election showed he had won the most votes. After much debate and the threat of violence, the leader decided to step down. He fled to Mexico shortly after.
Military Abandons the President
After Bolivia’s election was held, protesters demanded the Morales give up power. The Organization of American States – a coalition of countries on the American continent – investigated the result of the election and found evidence of some electoral problems. Their findings strengthened the opposition’s claim that the former president was attempting to unfairly swing the election in his favor.
Last weekend, Morales wrote a letter stating that he would cease being the president of Bolivia. While it may seem that he did so in the interest of fairness, it appears he had no choice. The protests against his presidency became more heated, and the military and police force stopped putting down the uprising, choosing to join with the opposition. Officers charged with guarding the president refused to perform their duties, which left him open to an assassination attempt. It was for this reason that Morales chose to travel to Mexico.
Bolivia’s Human Rights Record
Under President Morales, Bolivia had a poor record on human rights. Citizens were subject to several different atrocities that were not typically covered in the news. In its 2018 report, Human Rights Watch, an organization that monitors human rights abuses all over the world, asserted that “Impunity for violent crime and human rights violations remains a serious problem in Bolivia.” It continued, “The administration of President Evo Morales has created a hostile environment for human rights defenders that undermine their ability to work independently.”
According to the organization, “Threats to judicial independence, violence against women, and child labor are other major concerns.” Under Morales, Bolivia held most of its inmates in prison without convicting them of a crime. This meant they could be held for an undefined period. In 2016, more than 15,000 inmates were confined in prisons mean to hold only 5,000.
People defending human rights were subject to harassment from the government and others. The government also passed laws allowing officials to interfere with the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who work to assist the public. This meant the state could essentially shut down an organization that feeds the hungry or advocates for the rights of citizens without a good reason.
While some defended Morales’ tenure as president, others in the country think the socialist government did not treat its people well. It’s not yet clear who will replace Morales, but it seems the country is headed for some changes.