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The Bolivian Poor Will Not Pay for the Crisis, Luis Arce Vows

  • MAS Presidential Candidate Luis Arce, Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Oct. 3, 2020.

    MAS Presidential Candidate Luis Arce, Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Oct. 3, 2020. | Photo: Twitter/ @LaRazon_Bolivia

Published 3 October 2020

The Socialist presidential candidate Luis Arce proposes to overcome the recession through policies that promote domestic production and consumption. To finance these measures, the Bolivian State will tax the 0.01 percent of the richest population and will suspend the payment of the foreign debt for two years.

With two weeks to go before the general elections on October 18, Bolivia is holding this Saturday the first and possibly the only presidential debate in which seven candidates will let the Bolivians what their policies will be.

Organized by the Federation of Municipal Associations of Bolivia (FAM-Bolivia) and the Bolivian University Confederation (CUB), the event is presented under the title 'Let's talk about the economic future of Bolivia'.


Luis Arce Remains Favorite To Become Bolivia's Next President

Initially, the presidential elections were to be held on May 3. However, the authorities of the coup-based regime led by Jeanine Añez postponed the elections until August 2 and then until September 6, thus unveiling a strategy to continue in power.

This generated a forceful mobilization of Bolivian workers, peasants, and students, who forced Congress to enact a law that expressly prevents the U.S.-backed Interim government from prolonging longer in power. As a result, the elections were set for October 18.

The Bolivian presidential elections will be held in a situation marked by a severe economic crisis and a deep social division generated by the strengthening of racist positions. This economic contraction, however, is not just the consequence of the pandemic.

Since Añez assumed office in November 2019, her regime destroyed the social policies and institutions that the government of Evo Morales established and allowed Bolivia to foster an economic model based on the expansion of popular sectors' demand.

Prior to the start of the event, the organizers and the candidates agreed that the debate would address four major themes: economic crisis, job creation, political stability, and local development.

What the candidates proposed as solutions to the economic crisis is summarized below.

Carlos Mesa, Citizen Community

Carlos Mesa took aim at the leading Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) candidate by listing several erroneous figures. He claimed to have grievances about the state of poverty, child mortality, and nutrition in Bolivia, having evidently failed to tackle these issues during his terms as vice president and president (2003-2005).

Explicitly unaware of what the MAS government had achieved over 14 years, he spoke of controlling the pandemic with more doctors, medicines, immediate tests, and efficient laboratories.

Luis Fernando Camacho, We Believe party.

After evading a question about why he did not nationalize natural resources, Camacho said that the economic crisis is mainly the consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leader of right-wing organizations based in Santa Cruz promised to protect the unemployed and criticized the Añez administration, although he was one of the visible faces of the coup d'état executed against Evo Morales in 2019.

Chi Hyun Chung, Front for Victory

The candidate promised to change the structure of the state to establish a "minimal" federal government that avoids the "economy of communism."

To do this, he proposes that subnational governments receive up to 70 percent of the tax revenues generated in their territories. Thus he referred, basically, to activities related to mining and hydrocarbons. He also emphasized his commitment to "a free but protectionist market."

Luis Arce, Movement Towards Socialism (MAS)

To dispel the smear campaign that the Bolivian right continues to repeat, the socialist candidate recalled that the MAS ruled not only in a good time but also managed to maintain high levels of well-being of the population during the international crises in 2008 and 2014.

To overcome the current recession, Arce proposed reactivating domestic demand through direct monetary transfers to the poorest, a social protection policy locally known as “bonds”.

To generate economic growth by promoting production, the socialist candidate proposed an industrialization with import substitution. This would happen by fostering, for example, the production of biofuel by recycling oils for domestic consumption.

The MAS presidential candidate is also committed to expanding agri-food production through activities based on technology and innovations, especially in the Bolivian highlands.

Arce emphasized that the overcoming of the current economic crisis will not be financed with the acquisition of new foreign debt, which hurts the poorest and future generations.

The Socialist candidate pointed out that Bolivia will not pay the foreign debt during the next two years to achieve savings of US$1.6 billion, an amount that will allow financing the country's reactivation policies.

In addition, the overcoming of the economic crisis will be effected by taxing 0.001 percent of the population that owns large fortunes and evades taxes.

Maria de la Cruz Baya, Nationalist Democratic Action (ADN)

The ADN presidential candidate blamed corruption and drug trafficking for the current economic crisis. Baya announced that she will not pay the foreign debt as long as there is no public finance audit. She also promised that civil servants would only receive the minimum salary and that she would give up her salary as president.

Feliciano Mamani, Bolivian National Action Party (PAN-BOL)

Mamani proposed to face the economic crisis using resources from the exploitation and export of natural resources. Specifically, he promised that his government would promote the exploration of new gas and mineral deposits.

He did not specify whether the extraction of natural resources would proceed under increasingly demanding environmental protection parameters. Nor do Mamani specified the type of investor that would take part in these extractive activities.

Jorge Quiroga, Libre 21 Party

To solve the Bolivian economic problem in the long term, Quiroga proposed promoting lithium exports to turn his country into "a world macro power." In the short term, to overcome the ongoing recession, he promised exchange, financial, and fiscal stability. Also, to attract foreign financial resources, Quiroga proposed to carry out stock issues of sovereign bonds.


Luis Arce
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