How One Man’s Brilliant Move Became the Turning Point for Bolivia

The publication of the OAS report triggered a domino effect, and the entire institutional world of Evo Morales began to collapse.

Bolivian citizens celebrate the resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales on Sunday in La Paz, Bolivia (EFE)


Everyone found these images very difficult to digest. How could we justify that he, Luis Almagro, who had become like El Cid championing for freedom in South America, was suddenly affectionate with the Bolivian tyrant, who was now seeking to dismantle the institutions of his nation.

Walks through cocalero, both adorned by garlands of leaves and flowers. Smiles and a concise phrase that made the greatest enemy of Socialism in the 21st Century be celebrated by one of Havana’s pawns: “To say that Evo Morales cannot participate would be absolutely discriminatory.”

The risk was as big as the bet. It implied the possibility that he would not be re-elected and that his principles, ethics, and consistency would be questioned. His circumstantial allies should begin to look at him with skepticism and eventually become poisonous enemies as well. Perhaps, the OAS secretary thought it was worth crossing the thorny path and submitting to harassment. Maybe, he felt his move was a good one, and that he didn’t mind taking the risk.

In fact, although almost nobody understood it at the time, Luis Almagro’s calculation was quite simple: in Bolivia, there would be elections irrespective of the result of the 2016 constitutional referendum. Yes, by all means. Besides, the elections will be backed by the main political parties that oppose Evo Morales. In other words, the opposition will legitimize those elections. As we are facing the presence of a tyrant, the obvious thing is that there will be fraud, and Evo will emerge victorious. The dilemma that Almagro solved as a statesman was: what do we prefer? An election under OAS observation or one without it?

Societies that aspire to be free must always look for a trigger, a moment that provokes repercussions. Then, they must wait for the perfect storm with the spark to solve everything. The 20th of October elections could be it. And, indeed, Almagro planned to play a fundamental role in those elections.

Many were angry with the Organization of American States and its protection of the electoral process. Therefore, they remained skeptical even when the OAS offered to audit the much-questioned results with which Evo anointed himself a winner.

The denunciations of fraud and the perseverance of the opposition by Mesa managed to agitate a country fed up with the gradual dismantling of its democracy and terrified of the imminent consolidation of quasi totalitarian authoritarianism like the Chavistas. Nevertheless, the OAS report, whereby the auditors outright condemned the vile manipulation of the results, was the significant turning point in Bolivia. The publication of the OAS report triggered a domino effect, and the entire institutional world of Evo Morales began to collapse.

Resignations of ministers, mayors, and ambassadors. Expressions of rejection by the police and a powerful declaration by the Bolivian military high command: “We suggest Evo to resign.” Initially, the Bolivian military had to resign. At first, the tyrant’s response was astute, but it didn’t do him much good. He offered to hold reelections, of course without altering the factors with which he declared himself the winner, and to begin a process of dialogue with civil society, which was already kicking him out of the Burnt Palace.

Not many hours passed when the tyrant was already desperate for protection from some of those criminals in the power he calls friends. Lopez Obrador’s Mexico stepped forward to offer him asylum, and, from what I read at this hour, Evo accepted it. All they have to do is grant him a safe passage.

It was mainly two factors that aligned such that Bolivia could venture into the process of regaining its freedom. First, the Armed Forces adhered to institutionalism and isolated the dictator -that is, Evo lost the monopoly of force and repression. And, second, Mesa’s leadership lived up to the situation and remained resolute in its assertion that Evo had committed a crime and that we don’t negotiate with criminals.

In any case, the crucial turning point in this story was the report of the Organization of American States -which could be published thanks to the organization’s endorsement of the elections.

It’s not just Bolivians celebrating today. All of us Latin Americans accompany them in their great triumph over left-wing authoritarianism. 21st-century-socialism is not as robust as many believed. And so many of us celebrated because the Bolivians knew how to take advantage of the momentum that Almagro gave them. The brilliant move by the Uruguayan fortunately turned out very well for everyone.

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