By Leni Villagomez Reeves
Why Now for the Bolivian Election?
Bolivia went to the polls on Oct. 18. Luis Arce and David Choquehuanca were the presidential and vice presidential candidates of the Move Toward Socialism Party (MAS). This is the party that won the previous election, which was followed by a military/paramilitary/civilian coup in November 2019. (Editor’s note: On Oct 18, 2020, the MAS won the election by a wide margin. It is not known yet if the right-wing de facto government will accept the result.)
The coup government, headed by a senator and self-proclaimed president, Jeanine Áñez, whose party won a whole 4% of the vote in the previous election, postponed this promised election again and again, until the mostly indigenous workers of the rural highlands of Bolivia brought the country to a halt with strikes and roadblocks.
What the Áñez government has done while in power is crash the country of Bolivia, which was previously experiencing a robust growth rate, a reduction of poverty and strong public buildups of education and healthcare. It is not unimportant or coincidental that the previous elected government of Bolivia was headed by Evo Morales Aymara, an indigenous labor leader, and that the Áñez government, which has distributed the spoils of the resources of Bolivia among themselves, is all White.
Right-Wing Mob Attacks Candidate’s Office
In addition to the presidential election, there were down-ticket races for parliament and senate seats. Morales intended to run for senator from Cochambamba, but was disqualified as an asylum-seeker living outside Bolivia. The Áñez government had issued a warrant for his arrest.
Brenda Segovia, a MAS candidate for parliament running in the Santa Cruz area, a stronghold of the right and its paramilitaries, was arrested in mid-October after her headquarters was attacked and burned by a mob of 80 armed men on Oct. 6. Wait—her offices were attacked by a right-wing mob, and then she was arrested? Yes, for “inciting to violence.” No one else has been arrested or charged in the attack.
This attack was one of more than 50 similar incidents. The paramilitary assaults and weaponizing of the legal system is typical of the right wing, and not only in Bolivia.
Another Right-Wing Government
We too, here in the United States, are facing an election with a right-wing government planning to maintain power without being particularly concerned about whether this occurs legally and electorally, and preparing paramilitary groups to intervene in the electoral process. They are not above using duplicity as well.
Fake Ballot Boxes
With voting under way, the Republican Party placed imitation “official” ballot collection boxes in strategic locations in at least four counties in California, including Fresno, many of them at gun shops, but also at the Fresno County Republican Headquarters. This might be a felony, but they are not concerned with hiding their illegal action. The California Secretary of State issued a cease-and-desist order, which the Republican Party, with Trump’s tweety encouragement, has determined to disobey.
So What’s the Point?
There is no chance, however much cheating occurs, that Trump could win California—none at all. The point appears to be to throw the electoral process into confusion and cast doubt on the results. There is essentially no electoral fraud in California, so the Republicans are creating some to point to. They will then say that California’s election results are invalid and its electoral votes should not count. Trump will then refuse to abide by the results of the election.
Who Will Enforce the Law?
So now we have a problem to consider: Who enforces the law when the mechanisms of what is euphemistically called “law enforcement” are in the hands of the same right-wing forces that are organizing paramilitary operations and violating the election laws? When the sitting president openly calls for his armed supporters to show up at the polls to intimidate voters?
Local law enforcement is often carried out by officials like Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, who selectively enforces only as she chooses and freely violates laws she does not agree with. An even more extreme example is a Michigan sheriff, Dar Leaf, who advanced the idea that a right-wing gang kidnapping the governor might be a legal arrest.
There’s a whole organization of these so-called constitutional sheriffs who advocate doing just what they please rather than following the law. Sheriffs as a whole are 95% male and 99% White, by the way.
So are we supposed to depend on historically repressive agencies such as the FBI to maintain law and enforce our rights? It doesn’t seem like much of a strategy. What happens when the right wing stops even pretending to abide by the law? Looking to Latin America for information and experience gives us some grim and bloody answers.
Leni Villagomez Reeves is a local physician and activist. Contact her at email@example.com. Check out her news and views about Cuba on Facebook (fresnosolidarity/).