Future of Democracy still uncertain in Bolivia
By Jhanisse Vaca Daza
Jan 4, Oslo: While the origins of nonviolent resistance can be traced as far back as the Mohist Philosophical school in China (470BC), history allows us to state that nonviolent action became the most powerful tool for oppressed people in the last century.
The successful results of nonviolent resistance can be found from famous cases such as India's struggle for independence led by Gandhi, to the far less known Rosenstrasse Protest in Berlin which was the only successful public protest against police in Nazi Germany. Today, as democracy faces a global crisis due to the increasing number of oppressive regimes, nonviolence has worked its way to the heart of South America: Bolivia. Bolivian citizens are rising against their authoritarian government using nonviolence as their main weapon to restore democracy in the Andean country.
Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, was first elected to power in 2006 and has stayed in office for three consecutive terms since, despite the fact that the Bolivian Constitution only allowed for two consecutive terms in office. While Morales' party, Movement Towards Socialism (MAS by its Spanish acronym) has systematically eroded democracy in Bolivia since in the last decade, the country's democratic order was visibly broken on November 28, 2017. On this date, the Bolivian Constitutional Court annulled Constitutional articles that forbid indefinite reelection. This allows president Morales to run for a fourth term in the 2019 presidential elections and further ones after that, as well as the Vice President and other government authorities. Such legal ruling is even more of an abuse to Bolivian democracy given how a referendum had already taken place on the reelection matter. On February 2016 Bolivia held a referendum in which the majority of the population voted against a legal remedy to the country's Carta Magna in order to allow President Evo Morales and Vice President Alvaro García Linera to run for a fourth term. The "No" option won nationwide with 51,3% of the votes. However, these results are now overridden by the ruling of the Constitutional Court declaring indefinite reelection valid.
Citizens took to the streets to protest on the day the Constitutional Court ruling was announced, and have stayed active through different means of protest since. Several new activist groups have emerged, most empowering females and having them as the leading role in a society that previously had solely male actors in politics. But this is not the only novelty. As the Bolivian population turned its eyes to younger generations looking for new leaders, the citizen platforms in the city of Santa Cruz have organized themselves in a singular, horizontal group of social coordination that seeks to empower not any one individual but the message of struggle for democracy itself. Under this strategic direction, over 15 platforms and independent activists (including student unions, female civic resistance groups, health workers, environmental groups and democracy activists) pronounced themselves with a manifesto on a press conference this past Friday December 29 2017 in the city of Santa Cruz.
"We call on each citizen to resist the tyranny participating in all nonviolent citizen actions" the platform's manifesto read on the press conference. "We make it clear that nonviolent resistance is not passive, on the contrary, it is active and interventionist. We call on each citizen to make their voice heard with the request that the constitutional guarantees of our rights and liberties, which correspond to each citizen by law, are re-established. We will fight on a non-violent way to avoid falling in the repressive game of our opponent and to offer safety to all bolivians who have not yet joined this fight" they added.
The agenda for this new citizens union is yet to be announced, but previous protests held by some of its members (from bringing eggs to the Chamber of Industry and Commerce as an offering of encouragement to have the "balls" to stand up to the government, to staging a symbolic funeral for the Civic Committee that failed to pronounce itself against the Constitutional Court ruling) give a clear picture of what is to come. Creative ways to protest emerged quickly within these groups, combined with a skilled use of technology which will play a decisive role in protests to come. Just last week, these same platforms organized a nationwide sing along of the Bolivian national anthem while forming a human "NO" as a reminder of the 2016 referendum results, an activity that was captured by the activists' flying drones above the singing protesters.
The future of democracy in Bolivia may be uncertain, but the success of nonviolent struggle and people power is an unquestionable tool that will mark a new chapter in Bolivia's history in the years to come.
The Oslo Times International News Network