The Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), party of ex-President Evo Morales, chose its presidential and vice-presidential candidates for the May 3 Bolivian presidential elections on Sunday.
Luis Arce, former Finance Minister under Morales, and David Choquehuanca, former Foreign Minister also under Morales, were chosen as the presidential and vice-presidential candidates respectively.
The decision was announced by Morales from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he is currently living in exile after he was removed in a military/parliamentary coup last November.
Arce is a UK-educated economist, credited with overseeing the economic policies of the 14-year Morales administration which brought unrivalled growth rates within the region and significant improvements on many social indicators including poverty reduction.
Choquehuanca, who served for 11 years as Foreign Minister under Morales, is an indigenous activist who comes from a peasant background and was a preferred candidate of the rank-and-file MAS members. In the decision to go with Choquehuanca, Morales said “the indigenous componente is important. David Choquehuanca is a brother with a doctorate in indigenous issues (and) in issues of Mother Earth. He is a combination of scientific, economic and original knowledge.”
Many expected Andrónico Rodríguez, a 30-year old indigenous leader of a major peasant coca union and close Morales ally, to be on the ticket. Morales addressed directly the decision not go with Rodríguez, “I want to say to the youth that had so much hope and faith in Andrónico, we respect and value this. It is true that in the polls he was first. I would be fighting for his presence (on the ticket), but sometimes we have to know how to make sacrifices for a political project. Of course it hurts, but with this pair and with Luis Arce the national economy is guaranteed.”
The decision to go with Arce, a far less radical MAS leader, is seen as an appeal to more moderate sectors of the middle classes.
CURRENT SITUATION IN BOLIVIA
In recent days, Bolivia has witnessed a show of force by the “interim government,” led by the opposition senator Jeanine Añez, who assumed the “interim Presidency” in the power vacuum created after the coup. In the capital of La Paz, the army has been conducting military drills in public areas.
According to Ollie Vargas, an on-the-ground reporter for MintPress News, “The purpose of (the military presence) is to intimidate people ahead of possible protests against the coup on the 22nd of January…This was a show of force saying ‘you are not going to be able to march what you want’. The military is preparing for war-style operations if marches do arrive in the city. It is about intimidating the people.”
The Áñez regime has reversed many signature policies of the Morales Administration, including reorienting the country’s foreign policy in line with the U.S. by recognising Juan Guaidó as Venezuelan “interim President” and re-establishing diplomatic ties with Israel.
Since coming to power she has presided over a significant increase in militarisation of the country and allowed security forces to repress and kill protesters, which have included at least two massacres mainly of indigenous protesters.
Her government has also constantly threatened to jail critical journalists. It remains highly dubious whether Bolivia is capable of holding free and fair elections under the current interim government.