Power struggle in the MAS party in Bolivia

Featured image: Demonstrators in La Paz. Source: Reuters

The Movement to Socialism of Bolivia is living an internal power struggle between Evo Morales, and Luis Arce. After Evo Morales became elected as president after winning the presidential elections in 2005, Morales returned to be elected as president in 2009, and later he presented himself again in 2014. But, due to the Bolivian Constitution, it is not possible to be elected more than twice, and in 2016 he tried to carry out, without success, a referendum to eliminate this part of the Constitution.

In 2017, the Constitutional Court proved him right, since he appears to the elections is a so-called “human right” above the Constitution. Again, he won the elections in 2019, however, the opposition accused him of fraud. At that time, protests broke out and even electoral offices caught fire, which led to the Police and the Army turning their backs on Morales and suggested through a message broadcast on television that resigned. Morales left the country, towards Mexico, and declared that a “coup d’état” had occurred.

It was not until a year later, in 2020, when new elections were held, after Jeanine Áñez was proclaimed president of Bolivia being the second vice president of the Senate Chamber through an interim government. In these new elections, where Morales could not present himself, the candidate Luis Arce consolidated himself as the new figure of the party, and won the first round of voting with 55% of the votes. At that time, Morales returned to Bolivia and began the battle for power within the Movement to Socialism and, consequently, to presidential power.

Luis Arce was minister of Finance in 2006 under the Presidency of Evo Morales and three years after he was minister of Economy and Public Finances until year 2017. In 2019 he came back as a candidate of MAS, publicly supported by Evo Morales, who was also his chief of election campaign, being successful on being elected president of Bolivia in 2020.

From this moment the personal interests clashed, and as several media report, Evo Morales attempted to change some ministers of the government lead by Arce, and attempted to lead the policy of Arce, what lead to a schism between them in the year 2021, and to an increasing worsening of the relation until now. Despite being fellows during Evo’s government during many years and having supported and lead the election campaign of Arce, nowadays Evo Morales states that Arce is “a traitor”, that “seeks to proscribes the MAS”, and the government “went to the right”.

Currently, Luis Arce is the president of Bolivia and no elections are expected until 2025. However, the power struggle is clear: in December 2023, again the Constitutional Court declared again that to be a candidate for the elections is not a so-called “human right” and therefore can be legally restricted. Thus denying that Morales can be presented again in 2025. This new change of posture pro part of the Constitutional Court is given after Arce extended the functions of the judges in the mandate and the rest of the judicial authorities, who had to change this last year, and also they are allowed to be re-elected in a different court, previously prohibited.

On the other hand, in the Xth Congress of MAS, “the self-expulsion of Luis Arce and David Coquehuanca, the vice president of the country, was accepted for not “attending the meeting that took place in the town of Lauca Ñ”, and also it was ordered to the Ethics Court of the party to expel another 20 deputies related to Arce.

All this internal struggle within the party has moved to the street to demand the resignation of the judges, which has semi-paralyzed Bolivia, with shortages La Paz and the increase in prices in the basic supplies. Also, three people have died, including a baby, and there have been 32 injured police officers. In addition, 21 protesters have been arrested with explosives.

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