Bolivian government repeals law being used as a pretext for destabilization by right-wing

The Bolivian government abrogated Law 1386 of the National Strategy to Combat the Legitimization of Illicit Profits and the Financing of Terrorism, which the members of far-right civic committees and the opposition had used as a pretext to strike, mobilize and block roads

November 21, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Workers in El Alto mobilize in solidarity with the government.

The progressive government of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party in Bolivia, with the strong support of the majority of the people, took a major step in averting a second coup d’état in the country. The government abrogated Law 1386 of the National Strategy to Combat the Legitimization of Illicit Profits and the Financing of Terrorism, which the members of far-right civic committees and the supporters of opposition leaders had used as a pretext to strike, mobilize and block roads across the country in recent days.

On November 16, both chambers of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly of Bolivia voted to repeal law 1386, also known as the Mother Law. The same day, acting president David Choquehuanca promulgated it, and it was immediately published in the Official Gazette. This way, the annulment announced by President Luis Arce was consolidated. President Arce, who was in Brazil, on November 13 announced that the law would be repealed to ensure that the Bolivian economy was no longer paralyzed, and there was peace.

The legislators of the MAS party pointed out that the measure was taken following the mobilizations that were laying the ground for another coup. They also condemned the far-right sectors for spreading misinformation about the Mother Law to the public in an attempt to destabilize Arce’s government.

An explanatory statement said the law was repealed “so that there are no pretexts to continue paralyzing our economy and there is no way for minority groups, who respond to private and foreign interests, to use para-police and paramilitary groups, in the same way that they did during the coup d’état of 2019, once again intended to depose a government elected at the polls with more than 55% of the votes, using violence [and] misinformation.

The president of the Senate, Andrónico Rodríguez, called on the organizations that took to the streets to participate in dialogue and point out any negative aspects of the withdrawn law. “In the event that they find any deficiency or observation, let us objectively demonstrate what article is wrong, what violates their rights, in order to have the possibility of modifying it in a very responsible manner and within the Assembly,” said Rodríguez.

The right-wing groups claimed that the law was authoritarian and would impact unions, transport companies, and informal workers. However, the government stated that the law would be used to combat activities such as drug and human trafficking, smuggling, and related money laundering.

Rodríguez also defended the terms used in the explanatory statement, which were rejected by opposition legislators, who said that the said wording was intended to “criminalize” protests. He clarified that the explanatory memorandum referred directly to the statements of the presidents of the civic committees of Potosí and Santa Cruz, as well as some senators who called for the closure of the Assembly.

“It is important to emphasize to the Bolivian people that the organizations that are in the streets are not being criminalized; union members or transporters, who are mobilized, are not being criminalized. If there are terms such as ‘attempted second coup’ or ‘destabilization’, it is precisely because of the strong and threatening statements in a very tacit way by the president of the Potosi Civic Committee (Juan Carlos Manuel), [and] also the president of the Pro Santa Cruz Civic Committee Cruz, (Rómulo Calvo),” he stressed.

Following the formal annulment of law 1386, Calvo, who is currently under investigation for sedition, called on the civic committees to end the strike. However, his decision generated unrest and protest among the members of the Unión Juvenil Cruceñista (UJC), a Santa Cruz-based shock group. The members of the UJC burned crackers inside the committee’s premises and demanded Calvo’s resignation.

On November 17, economic activities finally returned to normal after nine days of strike. The same day, President Arce’s cabinet began evaluating the losses caused by the strike in some cities of the country. The minister of public works, services and housing, Edgar Montaño, reported that the strike caused a total loss of 14.5 million bolivianos (more than two million USD), in the air and land transport sector alone.

Meanwhile, on November 17, social organizations mobilized in various regions of Bolivia to express their support for President Arce’s government. On the highway that connects the cities of El Alto and La Paz, thousands of people carried out a massive rally in rejection of the attempted coup d’état. It was called by the Central Obrera Regional El Alto and received the support of the Federation of Neighborhood Councils-El Alto and other unions and sectors associated with the ruling MAS party. In Santa Cruz, the residents and unions of the Plan 3000 district also took to the streets to protest against Rómulo Calvo, who called for the civic strike and caused economic losses to the sector.

The Pact of Unity, a national alliance of grassroots organizations in Bolivia, and the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB), Bolivia’s trade union center, said it would help clarify the concerns of the sectors who have been misinformed by the right-wing in neighborhood councils and union meetings.

Former president, current head of the MAS party, and president of the trade union Six Federations of the Trópico of Cochabamba, Evo Morales, has called for a march of social organizations in defense of democracy, from November 23 to 29, from the town of Caracollo in the Oruro department to the capital city, La Paz.