Violence and a dirty media war radicalize the final stretch of the campaign for the presidential elections in Bolivia

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One week before the presidential elections, physical attacks between militants and false rumors on the networks are growing. The Church called to lower the climate of confrontation.

Violence between militants and a “dirty war” in the networks radicalize the final stretch of the campaign for the presidential elections next Sunday in Bolivia, also marked by the unprecedented data of the pandemic.

The last episode that further exasperated an already heated climate, with daily aggressions between the contenders, was lived by Carlos Mesa, presidential candidate for the Citizen Community (CC), after it was broadcast on the networks. a supposed medical diagnosis that attributed a degenerative disease to him. The incident raised condemnations and controversies, without the author of the rumor having been identified.

Another questioned fact occurred yesterday when the president of Bolivia, Jeanine Añez, he called in a public act to avoid voting to the Movement to Socialism (MAS), of former president Evo Morales, which is prohibited by law. The attitude of the provisional president triggered a great controversy this Sunday. The MAS reaction was immediate and described the action as a “shameless attitude.”

Almost a year after the elections were annulled due to allegations of fraud in favor of Morales, Bolivians are getting ready to choose the new president, vice president, senators and deputies from among the seven political forces. An electoral process marked by date changes: initially it should be May 3, then it was postponed to September 6 due to the pandemic and finally the electoral body defined October 18, after social protests due to the continuous delays.

The political, economic and health crisis added to a polarized electoral environment, which heated up the scene in different regions of the country. Not even the pandemic has stopped the violence between sympathizers of the main political forces, physical attacks, screams and insults. In this context, entities such as the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bolivia (OACNUDH), among others, spoke out to that the campaigns are carried out in a “safe” and “non-violent” climate.

OHCHR recorded 27 physical attacks Extremely violent since the beginning of the campaign on September 6, in six of the nine regions of the country, in which at least three journalists were also attacked. Mesa directly asked Arce and Evo Morales, the MAS campaign manager, to “stop carrying out violent actions,” while the masismo denounced at least 16 attacks on their militancy in different regions.

Salvador Romero, president of the Electoral Court, called for “tranquility” in the face of frequent street clashes that have occurred in recent days between followers of former minister Luis Arce -of the MAS and who marches first in the polls- and supporters of the former president Table, second in preference. Also the Catholic Church has summoned citizens to lower the climate of confrontation, which has so far only caused minor injuries and bruises, according to police.

This electoral campaign also has a strong virtual component, to avoid contagion of Covid-19, since the different political forces appeal to meetings, debates and analysis on social networks to spread their programs. According to official data, in Bolivia more than 8,100 deaths have already been recorded and with a figure of more than 137,000 cases of coronavirus infections.

“The biggest platform that has been used is Facebook and from that there is Twitter, Youtube, Zoom,” the departmental head of the MAS youth, José Rivas, explained to Efe. TikTok, a fashion application among young people, joined all these platforms. Comunidad Ciudadana also focused its campaign on networks with forums for different population groups. “There were virtual sessions to explain the proposals, debate them, share them, so it is a very interesting space,” said Cecilia Vargas, spokeswoman for Community Citizen Health.

With 20% undecided, the polls foresee a second round for the end of November. But the rise of right-wing businessman and leader Luis Fernando Camacho in recent days has raised the suspense in the most contested elections since the return of democracy to Bolivia in 1982, according to analysts.

Arce, from MAS, a technocrat and mastermind of the economic success of the Morales government, is the only center-left candidate against Mesa and Camacho, who are vying for the vote of the center and the right. Four other candidates run with less chance.

Bolivia faces the final stage of the electoral race with the memory of the annulled elections of 2019 that led to protests with a balance of 36 dead after complaints of alleged fraud by Morales, who resigned from power after 14 years and when he was seeking a fourth term. Since then, after a brief stint in Mexico, Morales resides in Argentina.

Source: EFE, AP, AFP and Clarín

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