An NGO who published a disputed outlier opinion poll has revealed that the survey was paid for by the U.S., along with other western governments. The poll caused controversy after it gave leftist President Evo Morales an unusually low score ahead of elections in October. This poll was widely reported on by international news agencies, meanwhile, the majority of opinion polls that give Morales a wider lead have not.
Juan Carlos Núñez, director of Fundacion Jubileo, announced on Monday that a controversial opinion poll, published by his organization and the UMSA University, had been paid for by the U.S. government, as well those of Germany, Switzerland and the U.K.. Funding had also been funneled via USAID and the NED via two Colombian and Ecuadorian proxy organizations.
The poll gave Evo Morales a lead of just seven percent against neoliberal candidate Carlos Mesa, and indicated that he would lose the second round to the right-wing opposition. The poll stood in contrast to the majority of polls that give Morales a much larger lead, and indicate that he would win in the first round.
Bolivia’s electoral authorities condemned the Jubileo/UMSA poll for having a number of irregularities, among them not disclosing their source of funding and issues with their methodology.
Juan Carlos Núñez disclosed the survey’s funding and argued that it does not technically break any electoral rules, commenting "[the survey] had an approximate cost of $140, 000, with resources from: Germany, Switzerland, the United States and Great Britain...under this international framework we used those funds to realize the survey in accordance with electoral law."
Funding for the survey was also funneled through U.S. state department organizations USAID and NED. Despite the fact that USAID was expelled from Bolivia in 2013 for meddling in internal affairs, the U.S. government organizations gave thousands to an Ecuadorian NGO in Bolivia called ‘Citizens Participation’, and to a Colombian project called ‘Electoral Process Activity’, both of whom donated to the survey with what they claimed to be their own funds.
This survey was ruled inadmissible by Bolivia’s electoral court in early September. However, despite the irregularities, it was this poll that was widely reported on by major news agencies such as Reuters.
Meanwhile, polls carried out by Bolivian organizations, such as a recent one by the private TV company UNITEL, has received no coverage by the same agencies. The UNITEL poll gave Morales a lead of more than 20 points and showed that he would win in the first round of voting.
There are growing concerns about U.S. interference in Bolivia’s upcoming elections. Last week violence broke out in the city of Santa Cruz, as far-right groups violently attacked the campaign headquarters of Morales’ ruling ‘Movement Towards Socialism’ party. The groups responsible for the attack were among those that Wikileaks revealed had received millions from the U.S. during the ‘media luna’ coup of 2008/9.
The moves come as the U.S. steps up their intervention against left-wing governments in the region. In the past year, the Trump administration imposed further sanctions on Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.
The Bolivian government’s widespread nationalization of large industries and support for Venezuela’s elected government has long angered Washington. Nevertheless, Morales hopes that Bolivia’s strong economic growth will be enough to win reelection.