Elections in Bolivia: El Alto and La Paz, a reflection of the political polarization in the country

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Both neighboring cities are a sample of the crack, since one leans for Luis Arce, the dolphin of former president Evo Morales, and the other for former president Carlos Mesa.

The neighboring cities of El Alto and La Paz are the reflection of a polarized Bolivia in the campaign of the elections of October 18, since one is inclined towards Luis Arce, the dolphin of former president Evo Morales, and the other by the former president Carlos Mesa.

Both cities are slowly resuming their activities thanks to a more flexible of the quarantine decreed in March, when the coronavirus pandemic broke out in the Andean country.

In El Alto the movement of retail vendors in the streets is incessant, while in La Paz the businesses are regaining strength. Everyone walks with chinstraps, as required by biosafety regulations.

Along with commercial activities, the political bustle is evident: militants walk the streets on foot or on bicycles in search of votes for the two majority candidates, the leftist Arce and the centrist Mesa.

Both cities are home to almost a fifth of the 11 million Bolivians.

Painted messages are seen on the facades of some houses in El Alto. One says “El Alto with Evo”. It is a remnant of the 2019 elections, but also a sign of who’s boss there. Morales conquered it from his first foray into presidential races in 2002, until he dominated it almost at will.

Alex Cocarico, a 27-year-old student, who is a member of the “South Column”, linked to Morales’s Movement for Socialism (MAS), assures that there is a link between the party, the indigenous people and the city of more than 922,000 inhabitants, mainly Aymara migrants.

But he recognizes that there is rejection by some sectors of the former president (2006-2019): “There is a hatred and politics is not done with hatred, it is done with ideas, it is done with debate and this is what they do not understand, “he told AFP.

But he warns that El Alto will not accept a president who does not respond to the needs of the people: “If a government that does not identify with the people takes office, obviously there is a natural reaction from the people.”

“There will be a dissatisfaction of the population and it is possible that the population in El Alto he has to mobilize again, “he adds.

After Morales’ resignation on November 10, 2019, after protests over allegations of electoral fraud, residents of El Alto opened a strong confrontation with the government of his successor the right-wing Jeanine Áñez. At the Senkata gas plant there were 10 deaths in clashes between civilians and combined forces of the Army and Police.

But La Paz, with 800,000 inhabitants, seems to be the other side of the medal.

In the October 2019 elections, which were later annulled, the MAS lost in the four constituencies of deputies. In addition, in the city then there were protests and roadblocks until the president resigned.

By contrast, in El Alto, Morales’ party won in four other constituencies for the Lower House.

La Paz has almost 800,000 inhabitants, with a considerable middle class. But in its surroundings there are poor neighborhoods that support the MAS.

The resistance to Morales was baptized as “the Pititas”, in a sarcastic response to the criticism made by the then president of the roadblocks, when he said that they were made “with pititas” or thin ropes.


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