Possible Recurrence Of OAS Electoral Fraud In Bolivia
Above photo: Indigenous woman, holding wiphala flag representing native peoples, joined massive anti-coup protests that erupted across Bolivia last November. Mass Peace Action.
Washington, DC — Bolivia’s general elections on Sunday, October 18, could again be threatened by the involvement of the Organization of American States (OAS), Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot warns. On September 30, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro met with the de facto interior minister of Bolivia, Arturo Murillo, at the OAS’s Washington, DC headquarters. Following the meeting, Almagro Tweeted that Murillo had “conveyed his concern about the possibility of a new fraud” in Bolivia’s October 18 elections. Almagro agreed to “strengthen” the observation mission the OAS will have on the ground for the vote. Despite Almagro’s rhetoric about possible MAS fraud, numerous polls show MAS candidate Luis Arce in first place — and close to the margin necessary to avoid a second-round run-off election.
“The OAS played a leading role in creating the conditions for the military overthrow of Bolivia’s democratic government, following last year’s elections in Bolivia,” Weisbrot said. “It quickly cast doubt on the preliminary results that showed Evo Morales with a first-round victory with a false statement about the day after the election, and It repeated this falsehood in multiple releases.
“As the New York Times has reported, the OAS’ ‘flawed’ analysis ‘fueled a chain of events that changed the South American nation’s history.’ This included the military coup of November 10.”
Researchers at CEPR, as well as others at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania and Tulane University, and the University of Michigan, and more reported by The New York Times, all conducted statistical analysis of Bolivia’s 2019 election results and concluded that the OAS had no evidence to support its accusations that fraud affected the outcome of the election. Over 130 economists and statisticians reached the same conclusion, and the OAS’s actions have been denounced by 29 members of Congress.
But the OAS has continued to dodge questions and refused to accept any responsibility for its actions. It even sent the same mission director to lead the upcoming observation as it did last year. Almagro responded to the New York Times report in June by issuing a 3,200-word statement attacking the Times’ journalism going back to 1931, accusing the newspaper’s reporting of “being more a defense of Stalin than of the truth.”
US Members of Congress Jan Schakowsky and Chuy Garcia have called for an investigation into the role the OAS played in delegitimizing Bolivia’s 2019 elections. Almagro “repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that the election was ‘stolen,’” they wrote in a recent op-ed.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned that the OAS’s role in delegitimizing Bolivia’s elections last year will undermine faith in the organization’s role this year: “…The controversy over the OAS’s findings has cast a shadow over its already imperilled role as a credible arbiter,” the ICG wrote in a recent briefing. “Given that Morales and his supporters reject the OAS’s role as observers, it will be hard for the organisation to credibly monitor October’s vote.”
“In light of what the OAS did, Almagro’s current remarks about fraud in this election are quite threatening,” Weisbrot said. “They should not be involved in this election.”
Nearly 11 months of de facto rule have been characterized by widespread human rights violations including massacres by security forces, racist attacks, and persecution of political opponents — which Almagro has steadfastly refused to speak out about.
Meanwhile, numerous attacks on MAS campaign offices, assaults on and arrests of MAS candidates, and other incidents of violence and voter suppression have been documented in the run-up to the election. But the OAS has been silent on all these accounts, instead lending credence to the de facto government’s fearmongering. OAS actions and statements could again promote violence and instability.
A number of other electoral observation delegations will be on the ground observing the elections Sunday, including those organized by the Grupo de Puebla, the Progressive International, Parlasur, COPPAL, Code Pink, academics with expertise on Bolivia and Latin America, and others. CEPR will log updates and statements from some of these observers as part of an election day live blog on Sunday.
Changes to the transparency of the results, however, as described by representatives of the UNDP in La Paz, will make it more difficult for independent observers to analyze preliminary results data and verify statements made about the election’s outcome by Bolivia’s electoral authority, by political candidates and parties, by the OAS or other observer missions, or others. The changes would, if true, make all but impossible the kind of analysis that CEPR initially did, which showed the OAS’s early statements to be false.