Morales is Out — Good Riddance

Published at 08:39 on 12 November 2019

When he took office, he represented much-needed change, and Bolivia has gotten less unequal and more prosperous since then. Now, however, he represents most of all how the seats of power corrupt whomever happens to sit in them.

He initially promised to serve only the single five-year term the constitution he was elected under allowed. Then he argued that the new constitution his government passed in that first term (which allowed for two terms to be served) meant that only terms under the new constitution counted, and ran for re-election, twice.

That gave him three terms: one under the old constitution, and two under the new. That wasn’t enough for Morales, so he tried to amend the new constitution to allow him to serve a fourth term. Amending the Bolivian constitution requires a popular referendum, and that amendment went down to defeat. So Morales turned to the Supreme Court. Thanks to having now served in office for well over a decade, his appointees controlled the court, and dutifully ruled that the Constitution didn’t actually mean what it said, and that Morales could run for a fourth term.

Initial election returns showed him losing that election, then returns mysteriously stopped being reported for about a day. When they began to be reported again, they showed (surprise, surprise) that Morales had secured just enough votes to be elected to a fourth term.

It was in that context that the popular uprising against Morales commenced.  It is critically important to note that the army and police revolted against Morales only after weeks of popular unrest; what has happened in Bolivia is not a coup d’etat. In a coup, the army leads the process. In Bolivia, the army followed the lead of the masses. In fact, Morales himself took power as a result of a similar uprising against his predecessor, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada.

As popular uprisings give, so should they take away. Political revolutions often get to the point where they become corrupt and require a new revolution. They only seldom get this needed second revolution; in this respect, what has just happened in Bolivia is as much a miracle as the revolution that unseated the old guard and installed Morales in the first place.

Of course, the new president is a member of that very same old guard, so there is absolutely no reason to think he won’t be a disaster of a different sort. At least he’ll be a weak disaster, and vulnerable to being unseated by yet another popular uprising. (And if he is, he will probably whine about being the victim of a “coup,” too.)

So be it. Morales had lived well past his period of usefulness, and his shenanigans with the Supreme Court conclusively demonstrated that things had gotten the point where he deserved to be the target of a revolution himself.

Bolivia’s public finances, which in the first decade of Morales’ administration did very well, have been getting undermined by corruption-fueled unsustainable spending in recent years. Bolivia’s part of the Amazonian jungle is on fire as much as Brazil’s; just like Bolsonaro, Morales had decided to de-emphasize enforcement of environmental laws there.

Had Morales stayed, all evidence indicates that Bolivia would have gone down the same path Venezuela did. Good riddance.

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