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  • Soldiers and Police in La Paz, Bolivia, January 16, 2020.

    Soldiers and Police in La Paz, Bolivia, January 16, 2020. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 January 2020

If there had not been a coup in Bolivia on November 10, President Evo Morales would have assumed his fourth term on January 22.

On Sunday, November 10, 2019, Bolivia's Armed Forces Commander Williams Kaliman “recommended" President Evo Morales to present his resignation.

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This was one of the last crucial moments in a coup d'etat that began long ago with the backing of the United States government and with the active participation of the Organization of American States (OAS). On that day, the Bolivian extreme right opened the door for its return to power.

Unlike the coups carried out in Latin America in the twentieth century, on this occasion, the rupture of the constitutional order proceeded in phases and distributed its violence for 24 days. This allowed the coup plotters to present their actions as if they were the result of a spontaneous citizen protest.

October 20

Bolivians went to the polls to elect their president. Evo Morales, the first indigenous president in the history of this South American country, who had been in power since 2006, was seeking re-election.

According to the count of more than 95 percent of the votes, the winner of the first electoral round was Evo Morales. The next day, however, the losing presidential candidate Carlos Mesa, who was president of Bolivia between 2003 and 2005, summoned his supporters to demand a second electoral round.​​​​​​

October 21

Groups opposed to the reelection of Morales burned the offices of the Supreme Electoral Court in Potosi, Sucre, and Cobija.

Six federations of workers declared themselves in a state of emergency and called for a great mobilization "in defense of the indigenous, rural and socialist vote."

Meanwhile, media networks positioned the idea that the Morales administration had performed an electoral fraud. The OAS Observation Mission makes statements questioning the results.

October 22

In Cochabamba, groups of Indigenous peoples, farmers, workers, and students summon to defend their vote.

Foreign Minister Diego Pary announces that the Bolivian government requested the Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary Luis Almagro to audit the voting minutes. On the same day, however, the U.S. State Department accuses the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of "subverting democracy."

The dome of the Bolivian Catholic Church joins the plot while its Amazon bishops denounce electoral fraud. The organization bringing together the political forces against Evo Morales, the National Committee for the Defense of Democracy in Bolivia (Conade), calls for an indefinite strike.

Presidential candidate Mesa meets with ambassadors from Italy, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Denmark.

Supporters of opposition politicians attack the headquarters of the Tropic Federation of Cochabamba. Clashes among citizen groups begin to generalize. In La Paz, irregular groups attack supporters of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS).

The Bartolina Sisa Federation of Indigenous Women denounces Carlos Mesa as the intellectual author of these clashes and declares itself in an emergency to defend the people's vote.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal President Maria Eugenia Choque expresses her outrage over accusations of fraud and recalls that the election results passed an OAS audit.

October 23

During a press conference, Evo Morales confirms that he won the elections and denounces that a coup d'etat is in progress. Miners support his statements and call to defend democracy.

Opposition groups burn public buildings in Santa Cruz. The OAS summons its Permanent Council to an extraordinary session to address the crisis in Bolivia.​​​​​​​

The OAS Mission presents a preliminary report in which it recommends making a second round if the final difference in votes is "negligible" between Morales and Mesa.

As part of its “civic strike”, right-wing opposition generates disturbances in Santa Cruz, Oruro, Tarija, Sucre, Cochabamba, and La Paz.

October 24

Evo Morales challenges the opposition to demonstrate the electoral fraud and criticizes the role played by the OAS Mission.

The European Union joins the OAS position and argues that the best option to resolve the crisis is to hold the second round of elections.

At the OAS Permanent Council session, Almagro says that the results of the Bolivian elections should not be considered legitimate until the end of the audit.​​​​​​​

The so-called “Democracy Coordinator” does not want to wait for the OAS audit and demands a second round of elections.

Once 99.99 percent of the votes were officially counted, the Supreme Electoral Court confirms that Evo Morales won with a difference of more than 10 percent of the votes to Mesa.

In Cochabamba, there are new clashes between groups supporting the MAS and right-wing groups.

October 25

Evo Morales is officially declared the winner of the 2019 presidential elections with 47.08 percent of the votes. Carlos Mesa only obtained 36.51 percent of the votes.

Business groups, right-wing politicians, the European Union, the United States, the OAS, Colombia, and Argentina demand that a second electoral round be held.

October 31

The OAS begins an audit of the electoral count data. The audit was requested by the Morales government. The opposition rejects the audit.​​​​​​​

November 2

The conservative businessman and religious fundamentalist Luis Fernando Camacho becomes the opposition's most radical public figure. Besides requesting the resignation of Evo Morales, Camacho summons the Army and the Police to revolt.​​​​​​​

For his part, President Morales calls the Armed Forces to "serve the Bolivian people" by staying close to his government.

November 4

Carlos Mesa changes his strategy. Instead of requesting a second electoral round, he rejects the entire electoral process and requests a new election.

November 6

The political opposition performs violent clashes and protests in Cochabamba and other cities. The selective attack on Socialist politicians and militants becomes evident.

In the city of Vinto, right-wing groups set the town hall on fire and force the mayor, a socialist woman, to walk barefoot through the town, covered in red paint, under insults and threats.

November 8

The Police join the coup in Cochabamba, Sucre, Santa Cruz, and La Paz. Its mutiny sharpens the crisis.

Once again, Morales denounces a coup d'etat in progress. However, the Bolivian president rules out ordering actions to suppress mutinous officials.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

November 10

OAS Secretary Almagro announced that a report entitled "Preliminary Findings" will be made available to citizens.

The OAS initially said that there were alleged irregularities in the Preliminary Electoral Results Transmission System (TREP), an electronic device whose results are not binding.​​​​​​​

Then it was said that there were irregular results in one electoral precinct where 78 electoral records were deposited, which represented the 0.2 percent of the total existing electoral records in the country, namely 34,555 electoral records.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the doubts that Almagro raised about the electoral process were enough to question the transparency of the elections.

In light of that excuse, a group of generals demanded the resignation of the constitutional president Morales. The coup then acquired sharper nuances and more repressive tones.

Through a message broadcast on television, Evo Morales announces his resignation to end violence and achieve social peace.

"As president of all Bolivians and as an Indigenous person, my responsibility is to prevent the coup leaders from continuing to persecute my brother union leaders and mistreating and kidnapping their relatives," Morales said.

November 11

While right-wing groups plunder Evo Morales' residence, the Police and the Army begin to systematically search and repress MAS militants and supporters.

From the Department of Beni, Senator Jeanine Añez summons the Senate to formally accept Morales' resignation. Initially, she also proposes calling for new elections.

After arriving at El Alto airport near La Paz, Añez is escorted by the military to the nearby Air Force base and then to the Bolivian Senate.

November 12

In an irregular session of the Senate, which did not have the quorum required by law, Añez declared herself president of the Senate and acting president of Bolivia.

This happened without the Senate officially knowing the resignation of Evo Morales, who travels to Mexico and applies for political asylum.

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