Bolivia, a landlocked South American country famous for its salt flats, silver, and mountain-ringed lake, has a long history of indigenous uprisings and military coups since it was conquered by Spain in 1538. Most recently, Gen. Williams Kaliman asked President Evo Morales to resign on Nov. 10 in the wake of mass protests and accusations of election fraud following the president’s controversial fourth bid for office, which violated the terms of the constitution Morales helped to pass. Morales left for safe haven in Mexico and has since moved to Argentina after being granted asylum. Morales’ November resignation was followed by those next in line for the presidency: Vice President Álvaro García Linera; Senate President Adriana Salvatierra; Víctor Borda, president of the Chamber of deputies; and Rubén Medinaceli, first vice president of the Senate.
That left Jeanine Áñez, the Senate’s second vice president who assumed power on Nov. 11. In her first seven days of office, she replaced senior military officials, cabinet ministers, and the leaders of several state-owned companies with her own picks. When pro-Morales supporters protested in the streets, Áñez granted prosecutorial immunity for those “participating in operations to reestablish internal order.” At least 31 people died as a result of the confrontations between protesters and soldiers, according to CNN.
While some argue that Morales’ deposition was a coup, the United States quickly recognized Áñez’s presidency via Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Nov. 13, saying, “The United States applauds Bolivian Senator Jeanine Anez for stepping up as Interim President of State to lead her nation through this democratic transition.” According to Bolivia’s constitution, these elections must happen within 90 days of Morales’ resignation. Bolivia’s electoral committee recently confirmed that elections are expected to happen on May 3. In the meantime, her government has issued a warrant for Morales' arrest on the grounds of terrorism and sedition.
The topic of Bolivia’s political state was part of a panel “Protest, Repression, and Democracia Lacrimógena: What is going on in Latin America?” hosted in December by Penn’s Latin American and Latino Studies Program at Perry World House. Panel moderator Tulia Falleti, professor of political science, along with Américo Mendoza-Mori, weighed in on Bolivia’s political history and its future for Penn Today.
Tulia Falleti is the Class of 1965 Endowed Term Professor of Political Science and director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program in the School of Arts and Sciences, and a Senior Fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Américo Mendoza-Mori teaches Quechua and Spanish and designed and directs the Quechua Language Program at the University of Pennsylvania.