Workers in the US may be focusing on our own upcoming elections, but the results of this week’s Bolivian presidential election are worthy of our attention. On Sunday, the Bolivian people elected Luis Arce, ending the brief reign of a far-right government installed by a military coup and backed by the Trump administration. UE’s officers condemned this coup last November.
Though we are still waiting for the official final vote tally, it is clear that Arce has won more than 50 percent of the vote, and he will not have to face a run-off election. In fact, his closest competitor, a former right-wing president, has conceded the race. This is an important victory for the workers of Bolivia and for the democratic process. The current government repeatedly delayed new presidential elections. The lack of respect for democratic self-rule brought workers into the streets, including a general strike in August that lasted more than a week. Workers demanded free elections, despite the pandemic. They were finally able to go to the polls October 18.
Luis Arce served as the economy minister under Evo Morales, an indigenous leader who served as Bolivia’s president for 12 years. Arce represents the same political party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS). Under Morales and Arce’s leadership, Bolivians saw their standard of living increase and poverty decrease, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Their administration championed improving the lives of working people, many of whom live in rural areas. For example, rather than allowing corporations and the wealthy to profit from Bolivia’s natural resources, they used revenue generated from their natural resource wealth to provide free health care to all.
The intervening 11 months of rule by military coup resulted in massacres of indigenous civilians and politically-motivated prosecutions of MAS supporters. While no country has been spared the ravages of COVID-19, the current government’s botched handling has resulted in an incredibly high mortality rate.
Arce has admitted that it will not be easy to undo the economic downturn that began prior to the pandemic and has been exacerbated by it. Nevertheless, Bolivians can take heart that a democratically-elected leader will be at the helm, navigating the present situation with the best interests of working people in mind.