MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Bolivia’s bishops have called on electoral officials to “make transparent” the vote-counting process as protesters rioted in the South American country, alleging fraud in the presidential election.
The bishops, breaking from their participation in the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican, appealed for calm. But they also voiced worries over “signs of fraud” in the Oct. 20 election.
The vote count was suspended for nearly 24 hours after polls closed and then reopened suddenly to quickly give incumbent President Evo Morales an even larger advantage — and nearly enough to claim an outright victory and avoid a runoff election.
“We are very concerned because there are evident signs of fraud,” Bishop Ricardo Centellas Guzman of Potosi said Oct. 22 in a video from the Vatican, where he was flanked by other Bolivian bishops.
“The protests have been widespread. We’re making a call for the vote to be respected, the public outcry to be heard and hopefully there is a runoff election.”
The election in Bolivia was expected to be close as Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, pursued a fourth presidential term.
Morales, whose Movement Toward Socialism party has dominated Bolivian politics in recent years, had counted on broad support: The country’s economy had expanded significantly since he took office in 2006 as the resource sector boomed and he pursued economically pragmatic policies.
He clashed with the country’s Catholic bishops, who objected to a 2009 constitution diminishing the church role in health and education. They said it supplanted Catholicism with Andean religious customs. The relationship, however, appeared to improve with Pope Francis’ visit in 2015.
But the Morales candidacy became controversial as he was constitutionally prohibited from pursuing a fourth term. He put the issue to a vote and was defeated.
In 2016, however, he persuaded the Supreme Court to allow him to run, arguing the prohibition violated his human rights.
Observers say anger over alleged electoral fraud has been compounded by anger over the court decision, along with the Bolivian government’s slow response to mass fires earlier in 2019.
“This is the second time in the space of one presidential term that the government ignores our will expressed through the ballot box,” said Jhanisse Vaca-Daza, a human rights activist and co-founder of Rios de Pie, a Bolivian citizen movement. “Recently, during the wildfires crisis in Bolivia, in which we lost over 4 million hectares (of forest), the government also refused to listen to our call for a declaration of national disaster.”
With roughly 80% of ballots counted in the round of voting, Morales received 45% support, compared with 38% for his main opponent, Carlos Mesa. When vote-counting resumed after a long pause, Morales’ vote total surged to nearly a 10 percentage-point difference, the advantage needed for winning outright and avoiding a runoff.
“His chance of winning a runoff are slim,” wrote political analyst Rafael Archondo on the website Brujula Digital. “Evo should pack his bags. It’s time.”
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103