by Logan Pratico
Every country has witnessed protests at some point or the other, from protests at Tiananmen Square to the Berlin Wall Protests to The Occupy Wallstreet movement. It is clear that when the people aren’t satisfied with their government they are willing to protest. Bolivia is no exception.
In order to fully understand what is happening right now in Bolivia, some background needs to first be given on the current government. In 2005 Evo Morales was elected into office as the first president of Bolivia to come from an indigenous population. Throughout his term he has emphasized many social programs to combat illiteracy, sexism, racism, and poverty. In addition, in 2008 he created a new constitution which established Bolivia as a Plurinational state. Under the new constitution, a law was in place which stated that a president could serve two 5 year terms and then had to step down from his/her position.
Evo Morales is currently serving his third term as president.
As a result of the new constitution being created, President Morales held a vote to decide if he should be allowed to run for a third term in 2014 under the reasoning that it would only be his second term under the new constitution. In the end the decision was made that he could run again and in 2014 he started his third term as president.
On February 21, another vote was held to decide whether President Morales can run for a fourth term. The reason for this being because Morales needs more time to finish his “grand vision” for Bolivia. Although the “No” vote did win, many people fear that a revote will be held before 2020.
As a result of the election, protests were sparked all over the country. The biggest of which was created by the freight truck driver syndicate. Last week, freight truck drivers parked their cars on the main roads leading into the cities Sucre, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba. These blockades were close to 5 miles in length. As a result, no ground transportation could enter or leave any of these cities.
Although these protests were started because the truck drivers wanted more fiscal support from the country concerning taxes on shipment, the upcoming vote in addition to Carnaval was used as leverage for the syndicates. The result of the protests was that the Bolivian government finally gave in fearing that no one would be able to make it to Carnaval. However, the truck drivers themselves decided that they didn’t like the terms of agreement and decided to leave the trucks there anyway. This effectively ruined Carnaval and cost the country close to $100 million USD.
In addition to this protest, many Bolivian citizens took to the streets with signs and T-shirts reading Bolivia dice NO (translation: Bolivia says NO). Blockades throughout the city were also created by protesters in order to reinforce the point that they do not want Evo Morales to run for a fourth term.
Last Sunday, February 21st, was an important moment in Bolivia’s history. Although the “No”
vote only got 51% of the votes, it still proves that the people are ready for a change in leadership like the new constitution promises.