In a decision that indicates what their attitude will be towards the new Bolivian government, the “civic” leaders of the Bolivian region of Santa Cruz do not recognize the victory of Luis Arce in the presidential elections and schedule a 24-hour stoppage of activities for the next Friday. The presidents ask that Justice stop the oath of Arce, scheduled for November 8, and that an audit be carried out on the reliability of the elections. They suspect that these have been fraudulent, although they have not shown evidence to support this presumption.
The president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, Salvador Romero, has declared that the process “is concluded” and that the credentials that legalize their status have already been delivered to the leaders. He recalled that all the observation missions, including that of the Organization of American States, which the citizens intend to hold responsible for the audit, have given their favorable opinion on the clean-up of what was carried out on October 18. Arce obtained 55% of the votes, 26 percentage points more than his immediate follower, Carlos Mesa.
The Pro Santa Cruz Civic Committee, which in 2019 led the protests that led then-President Evo Morales to resign, has declared the strike under pressure from radical youth groups that have been agitating and mobilizing since it became known that Morales’ candidate had won and the Movement for Socialism (MAS) would once again lead the country’s march. Certain sectors of the population, generally middle class, who live in the most affluent neighborhoods of the cities and are the majority in Santa Cruz, passionately reject MAS and Morales. They are accused of having done fraud in the 2019 elections and many other crimes. The most radical representatives of these sectors insisted that the MAS not be allowed to participate in the new elections, but they failed. Now they bitterly reproach the Electoral Tribunal and the center-right parties that opposed the veto and postulated the democratic need to beat the MAS at the polls.
A few hundred people came to congregate around police barracks to demand a coup that would free Bolivia from the return of the MAS. In 2019, the police rioted, contributing to the ouster of Morales. These protesters combined the harangues addressed to the uniformed men with prayers in the street, on their knees and with their hands extended towards the sky.
Both the governor of Santa Cruz, Rubén Costas, and the former candidate Luis Fernando Camacho, the most voted in this region, support the demand for an audit. Camacho has also not recognized Arce’s victory, although his party’s parliamentarians are filling the positions for which they were elected.
The leaders of the Civic Committee were held hostage for a few hours by the radical groups, until the police had to intervene in their offices and rescue them. The young people demanded that they declare an indefinite work stoppage, as this institution did last year after rejecting the elections at that time.
The president of the Committee, Rómulo Calvo, declared to the press that he could not put the Committee at the service of party interests, which he did not identify. So he granted only one day of strike in the interior of the region and another, on Friday, in the capital, Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Unlike last year, this time some citizens of Santa Cruz rejected the idea of going back on strike, especially when faced with the street blockades that activists have been carrying out for several days. Bolivia is experiencing a very serious economic situation. Since October 2019, she has not been able to work normally for more than three months, affected first by the political crisis and then by the pandemic. For this reason, Luis Arce has tweeted: “After almost a year of economic and social crisis, it is time to rebuild the Homeland”, and concluded: “The mobilizations only delay the reactivation, generation of jobs and income.”