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The fall of Morales and the Añez government

The so-called ‘Pz7i7as’ (Little Ropes)5 movement denotes the continuation of the social protest that preceded the 2019 election, in which the above-sketched demands conflated around the claim of electoral fraud and Morales’ resignation. The movement constitutes the result of chiefly mid-term accumulation of grievances that found increased expression in the form of social movements. By means of social protest, it advanced and sustained the narrative of abuse of power and electoral fraud, genuinely believing it was enacting the recuperation of democracy. The roles of Carlos Mesa, Luis Fernando Camacho, the police, the military and the preliminary report of the OAS audit were more decisive to the fall of Morales. However, the ‘Pititas’, by the validity and authenticity inferred to the social movement format, was key in legitimizing the events that advanced and consolidated Áñez in power amidst the weakened ‘contentious power’ of the MAS.

Thus, after its decline in 2009, the opposition experienced a recovery and re-composition around old and new grievances. It evolved into

Protest State and street politics 47 a political network (Kenis and Schneider 1991, Bôrzel 1997, Bogason and Musso 2006) that brought together a variety of actors behind a common goal, mirroring the political network conformed by MAS behind the political project of‘the process of change’ (Valdivia 2019). Both show the gearing of actors and processes across the domains of institutional politics and street politics. As an example, in the run-up to the 2019 elections, the political alliance Bolivia dice NO (Bolivia says NO) was created in a very literal attempt to connect the Bolivia dijo NO movement to political parties. In the same vein, Carlos Mesa’s Comunidad Ciudadana also coordinated political parties and other civil society movements called plataformas ciudadanas (citizen platforms) into an electoral option. The internal differences prevented the creation of a single anti-MAS electoral front. But the very specific aim to topple Morales (not even MAS) intensified the mobilization of resources and actors as it became clear that this would not be achieved by electoral means, successfully unifying in social protest behind that common objective.6 Thus, the October and November 2019 events display the clash between these two large political networks, transiting between institutionalized and street politics and overflowing borders, where the one lead by the oppositional forces obviously got the upper hand. The social protest was crucial in installing and reinforcing the narrative of the electoral fraud, while inferring legitimacy and investing a veil of ‘lawfulness’ to political processes and moves which, certainly in retrospect, can be rightly characterized as coup d’état.

If the October and November 2019 events leading to Jeanine Ânez’s presidency remain confusing or controversial to some - in regard to whether or not a coup took place - the blatant undemocratic performance of her administration has left little room for discussion. From the beginning it was made clear that the Ânez government, far from its formal role as caretaker, set out to reverse the political course of the previous government (Wolf 2020), overtly exceeding its mandate by means of an authoritarian crackdown on racist violence (Farthing 2020). The human rights violations and political persecutions have been widely denounced and reported, including reports by the International Human Rights Clinic (2020), Human Rights Watch (2020), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2020) and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (2020). The ‘pacification’ in November 2019 came at the cost of at least 22 deaths of protesters who were massacred by the military in the locations of Sa-caba and Senkata. After that, in the words of Stefanoni (2020) ‘revanchism won out over institutionalism, repression over inclusion, and the chaotic and deficient new administration was quickly overwhelmed by the crisis generated by Covid-19...’ In addition, flagrant corruption scandals accompanied with impunity have marked the Áñez administration (Página Siete 2020), featuring the governmental acquisition of 170 highly overprized ventilators to attend COVID-19 patients that proved useless upon arrival (Miranda 2020). This has led outspoken critics Morales as Pablo Solón (2020) and Maria Galindo (2020), to characterize the Áñez administration as ‘the worst government ever’ after the bloody dictatorship of Luis García Meza.

The Áñez government presented an effort to recover the political power by a displaced oligarchic economic elite (Stefanoni 2020), with a clear expression in the (agro-) business elite of the Santa Cruz region (see also the contribution of Bret Gustafson to this volume) that, as soon as it took over, revealed the same vices it had denoted during the 90s, this time as right-wing populism (Molina 2020). It can be argued that the legitimate social movements that revolved around issues of democracy were co-opted or instrumentalized by the radical right-wing linked to vested interests, although in consequence with my own analysis, this is more a political opinion or too simplistic an academic inference. However, it is a fact that once the common objective of removing Morales from power was achieved, the political network started to disintegrate. This is reflected in the fragmentations within the institutional domain of the government and in the distancing of those sectors of society that gradually saw the betrayal of the democratic grievances for which they had mobilized. The high expectation of the restoration of democracy, efficiency and reconciliation were met with quite the opposite, leading to many frustrated citizens to opt for the MAS in the 2020 elections (Peñaranda 2020).

In 2020, the alliances between different sectors and actors of society as two opposed political networks reflected in the competing narratives ‘fraud vs. coup’, went through inverse processes. As the right-wing political network deteriorated and fragmented, the MAS political network with a core of social movements recuperated and unified amidst political repression and siege. This happened at the level of institutional politics in the MAS majority Assembly under the leadership of Eva Copa, but perhaps, more importantly, at the level of the streets. The salient image being the ten days nationwide blockade at the end of July 2020, staged by the base of support of MAS that imposed the immovable election date of 18 October and terminated the uncertainty of the electoral moment. The dissimilar developments reflect a qualitative difference between the two political networks. The organizational structures supporting the popular movements - -e.g. the indigenous social movement organizations conforming to Pacto de

Unidad, the Central Obrera Bolivia (COB) (Bolivian Workers Center), the Coca growers confederations, etc. - are the historical result of decades-long struggles, with a more ‘organic’, ‘grass root’ and consolidated nature. These have forged the longer perspective project of‘the process of change’ that forms a common base of political articulation providing a stronger and notably more resilient substance to MAS. In comparison, the right-wing coalitions have proved more circumstantial and brittle. To see this, one needs but to take a quick look at the less than one year in power of the right-wing where the State was (legally and illegally) put in service of vested interests, leaving many of the demands around democracy (literally) postponed. The fractures in the right-wing government have been much deeper as expressed in the many episodes of conflict, contradiction and crisis within the executive power (Opinion 2020). Its weak substance is further demonstrated by the fact that even the electoral moment and the imminent MAS victory did not produce an alliance behind one candidature, let alone a unifying political proposal for the 2020 elections. Its political project added to nothing more than the fall of Morales and the MAS, and even when it became clear these were not one and the same, it remained unable to articulate anything more than a rejection of MAS.

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