Bolivian Deputy Refuses Morales Handshake, Faces Racism Charges
A Bolivian opposition deputy is set to face trial and could even end up in jail for refusing to shake the hand of President Evo Morales.
The refusal, which sparked boos from other lawmakers, came from Deputy-elect Norma Piérola of the Christan Democratic Party and occurred last Monday during an official engagement.
“I didn’t realize that Mr. Morales was extending his hand to greet me. Regardless, I was not going to shake his hand, because I won’t do so until he ceases political persecution, allows exiles to return, and starts respecting the opposition, whose only offense has been to dissent from him,” Piérola said to Voice of America.
After the incident, Félix Cárdenas, vice-minister for decolonization, announced on Tuesday, December 2, that he would file a complaint on the grounds of discrimination and racism: “Her discriminatory behavior was revealed by her act of discourtesy against the president, and racism, because she has always questioned the president’s ethnic background.”
On Thursday, he went ahead and submitted the complaint for “public incitement to racism, discrimination, and irreverent acts against a president,” Piérola has made known.
Piérola, in turn, expressed concerns over the “praiseworthy speed with which [the judiciary] acts when it comes to political persecution” and she claimed that a government car followed her “during the whole day.” She said that she is a victim of persecution “as [Adolf Hitler] imposed on the Jews in World War II.”
“The act of shaking hands is a symbol of friendship, sympathy and affection. These are things that can’t be felt when someone is destroying our country’s fledgling democracy by using political persecution to guarantee his own political stability and co-opt the organs of the state,” she indicated.
After the incident, President Morales said he respects Piérola’s attitude of not shaking his hand, even though he considers it to be a lack of manners. She replied that it is a “judicial aberration to consider bad manners to be a criminal offense.”
The congresswoman said that she is a victim of “political persecution and intimidation.” However, she assured, that when summoned to court, she will appear before the prosecutor.