The interim government said that security forces are “ready to use weapons” if there is unrest. The UN, the European Union, the US and the Bolivian church call for calm.
Amid fears of new protests and violence in the streets, Bolivia is preparing to elect the next president this Sunday, in a climate of polarization that raises fears of new episodes of violence such as those that were experienced after the disputed elections last year. that ended voided on suspicion of fraud. In this scenario, the UN, the European Union and the Bolivian church itself called for a day of calm to avoid another crisis.
The ghost of a new outbreak of violence lives on a year after the October 2019 elections, in which then-president Evo Morales was proclaimed the winner for a controversial fourth term but finally had to resign – denouncing a coup against him. – in the midst of a revolt that was fueled when a report from the Organization of American States (OAS) denounced “irregularities” in the electoral process.
This Sunday, five candidates are measured to seek the presidency, although according to the polls there are two who have chances.
The candidate of the Movement for Socialism, Luis Arce, former Minister of Economy of Morales, heads the polls of voting intention.
But the former president follows close behind Carlos Mesa, which is presented by the center-right Community Citizen coalition.
According to several analysts, it is very likely that both will have to contest a second round in November. And in that case, Mesa appears with more chances, since he would be able to unite the “anti MAS” vote.
But the political crisis that broke out a year ago has not subsided and the confrontation between followers and detractors of the former president is still very much alive in the streets and in campaign speeches.
In recent days, in La Paz, Santa Cruz and other large cities in the country, supermarkets and service stations were filled with customers who sought to load up with supplies and fuel to be prepared for an eventual outbreak of violence.
The interim government of Jeanine Añez, far from calming spirits, this Friday affirmed that security forces are ready “to use arms”.
“In the event that there is any activation of any irregular group that wants to break public order, we will act, we will act according to the law. In case these people do not manage to withdraw, we will use chemical agents as deterrence, in case they use weapons, we are also ready to use weapons, “said the Vice Minister of the Interior, Javier Issa, quoted by the diary The reason, peace.
The official added that the Police are equipped with chemical agents, which are elements used to disperse demonstrations and marches, but “the leaders of the Movement Toward Socialism have indicated that they will take up arms and for this situation we are also prepared the army is ready”.
Faced with this inflammatory language, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said on Friday that she is concerned about the threats suffered by some politicians and the increase in physical attacks.
“It is essential that all parties avoid further acts of violence that could provoke a confrontation,” requested the highest UN human rights official.
“I salute the determination of the Bolivian people to participate in the elections,” said the former president of Chile, adding that “everyone should be able to exercise the right to vote in peace, without intimidation or violence.”
The annulment of the controversial elections of October 20 of last year gave rise to citizen demonstrations in favor and against Morales, to clashes and repression by the security forces, in a series of events in which at least 37 died people and more than 800 were injured.
Bachelet recalled those events and stressed that “no one wants them to be repeated” because the consequence was that “everyone lost out” with that explosion of violence.