Bolivian social movements and trade unions end strike and lift blockades

The decision was taken following the enactment of a new electoral law that calls to hold general elections no later than October 18 and imposes criminal penalties on any effort to postpone the date

August 17, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Following pressure from the MAS, the de facto regime led by Añez agreed to sign into law the guarantees against further delays to elections, as a peaceful route towards the return of democracy. Photo: Kawsachun News

The main organizers of the national strike against the postponement of general elections in Bolivia, the Bolivian Workers’ Center (COB) and the Pact of Unity (a national alliance of social movements and grassroots organizations), announced in a press conference on August 14, that they will suspend the measures of protest until October 18. The announcement comes after they achieved guarantees for general elections. However, the leaders warned that they would mobilize again if the coup-installed government attempts to further delay elections or refuses to accept its defeat in the elections, which according to them is certain and inevitable.

Former president Evo Morales praised their decision. “Social movements with a strong democratic vocation declared the pause in the mobilizations until the October 18 elections, which they see as the only way out of the country’s political, economic and health crisis. Only with unity we can recover democracy,” wrote Morales in a tweet on August 16.

The same day, during a public council in El Alto city, COB leaders called on the social movements and trade unions, which had been mobilizing and maintaining road blockades across Bolivia since August 3, to end the general strike and lift the blockades. The decision was taken following the enactment of a new electoral law that fixes the date of general elections with guarantees of international organizations such as the UN and the EU.

On August 13, Bolivia’s de-facto president Jeanine Áñez enacted a law that sets October 18 as the deadline for holding presidential and parliamentary elections in the country. The law includes provisions to impose criminal penalties on anyone who attempts to further postpone the date.

Before being presented to Áñez for its constitutional promulgation, the law was approved by both the chambers of deputies and of senators, where Morales’s party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), holds the two-thirds majority.

On July 23, the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) of Bolivia, which is under Áñez’s direct control, unilaterally postponed, for the third time, the country’s general elections to October 18, citing the health risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The MAS party denounced the decision as unconstitutional and stressed that only the Plurinational Legislative Assembly has the authority to approve any change in the date of the elections. Several organizations, associated with the MAS, also rejected the suspension and called to mobilize against the decision.

According to Bolivia’s constitution, the TSE reserves the right to define the date of the elections. On August 13, after the enactment of the law, the president of the TSE, Salvador Romero, held a press conference in the evening and confirmed that the elections will be held on October 18. Romero also claimed to have reached an agreement with all sectors.

On the late night of August 13, far-right extremist groups attacked the COB and the National Confederation of Indigenous Peasant Women’s headquarters in La Paz with molotovs. The attack was denounced by several social and political leaders.

“We ask human rights organizations to pay attention to the attacks and threats suffered by social movements in Bolivia, as well as solicit their support in the investigation of racist and violent acts” tweeted Luis Arce, the MAS presidential candidate.