Tag Archives: Bolivia

The Bolivian Election Mystery

New Orleans       In the United States now we wait and watch while President Trump stoops to historically new lows in trying to subvert the vote of the people and resist the inevitable that he lost the election to Biden at the Electoral College and by a more than a five million vote drubbing.  Having failed to game the court system with manufactured instances of voter fraud where he is unable to produce evidence, Trump is now resorting to the dirty trick bag of dictators.

Two hyper-partisan Republican election commissioners in Detroit at first tried to refuse to certify the election there in an act that seemed to be blatant racism, and certainly baseless, and then recanted after voters and state officials went crazy at their action.  Trump called them personally to get them to recant again with an affidavit, but the state continues to move to certify,  so he can sue if he wants.  Even more outrageous, he has invited Michigan Republican leaders to the White House to arm twist them to get the party-controlled legislature to send delegates on his slate to the Electoral College.  The Republican head of the state senate seems to be saying this is poppycock, but it just establishes how obsessed Trump is that he thinks he can steal an election in plain sight.

If you want to steal an election, you need to have a very tight plan before the votes are counted, not afterwards when everyone already knows the results.  This is election fraud 101.  In Honduras most recently, the president was losing badly and then, suddenly, no results were reported overnight, and when they began again, he was magically reelected.  He had been the beneficiary of a golpista, so he had the support of the military and others for this outrage.  Not so, Trump.

A bigger mystery is Bolivia.  The Organizers Forum visited there several years ago, so we have followed events in that country since then.  Evo Morales was trying for a fourth term.  He had been widely supported as the first indigenous president and had delivered in many areas including reducing poverty.  In the election, he was barely trailing and vote-counting was suspended.  When it resumed the next day, Evo barely eked out a victory. The Organization of American States reported election irregularities.  There were massive protests for weeks, and Morales went into exile in Mexico.  Another election has now occurred.  Morales’ party won, and he has returned.  The question remains.  Was their voter fraud last time?

This gets interesting.  I tried to track down Francisco Rodriguez who was one of the authors of a report that indicated there likely wasn’t fraud.  He was supposedly at Tulane, but repeated inquires to his website and the university were fruitless.  The report had focused on late-counted votes from rural areas and the results of “methodological and coding errors” that stress the “importance of documenting innocuous explanations for differences in early-and late-counted votes.”  In other words, in Evo’s case, he may have won, but also may have delayed the count creating havoc, rather than fraud.

Either way, if Trump were willing to learn lessons, trying to steal an election after the voting is underway and the tally is known is impossible.  His own Republican Party has known this for years, which is why they specialize in voter suppression in order to subvert the election before the count.  After the count, it’s too late, and people everywhere are in the streets to make sure their will is followed, unless of course the military is willing to force the issues.  The US military has made it clear that they will follow the Constitution, not the President, so we are luckier than our southern neighbors.

It’s a sad situation, but one where we are fortunate to know the outcome already.

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Beat Goes On But Ecuadorian Economy Reeling

DSCN1351Quito    I had not visited Ecuador for three years. I sat for hours in the sparkling new airport that opened after my last visit or more specifically in the Airport Center across the street from the actual ticket counters, security, gates and airplanes. If modern airports have become shopping malls serviced by airplanes and runways, Quito has essentially built a mall across the walkway from their airport. There’s a patio. There are plenty of chairs and free Wi-Fi. There are many worse places in the wide world to spent hours waiting for a plane.

Walking through the main streets of the city near our hotel not far from the major park and Botanical Garden, everything seemed clean and well-ordered. The coffee shops were active and on the streets people bustled along in well-turned sport coats or high heels and big leather purses. Talking to friends, colleagues, and organizers we had worked with us on campaigns either in the United States or Ecuador or both, a more unsettling picture emerges.

This is not Venezuela where food riots have become almost daily occurrences and political and social unrest is intense, but nonetheless Ecuador at all levels is feeling the pain. One former political activist we knew well from our work on field operations in the last presidential campaign in Ecuador in describing the impact of the falling price of oil, remarked that 60% of the national budget was derived from oil revenues and even as the price moves towards the $50 per barrel that is essentially breakeven in the United States, Ecuador needs the price to hit $60 to $70 because of the extra cost of bringing their crude to the market. An organizer I had worked with at Casa de Maryland, back home now and working at a governmental ministry, told us that this year the budget of her department had been cut from $20 million to $6 million. Needless to say, the impact was devastating and the layoffs severe. She was surprised to still have a job!

Many don’t! An activist we knew, was now living at home. Her brother had lost his job with the state, and her sister in another job had her hours cut in half. An old friend, comrade and former organizer who had worked with us in Florida on our Walmart campaigns a decade ago, told me when he responded to my email and arranged to meet us for breakfast at the hotel that he would do his best to make it because “he was so busy.” When we met, I asked him what kind of jobs he was handling now that were keeping him so busy. “None,” came the surprising answer from my well-connected friend. He was hustling just to keep above water. A job in another country had mysteriously fallen through a week before. When I asked after his father, an elegant and sophisticated gentlemen, whom I admired and knew well and would have thought traveled smoothly in the upper class of the country, I learned he was also now unemployed and in danger of losing his home.

I worried that our members, many of whom depended on the “bono” or basic, cash welfare assistance that President Correa had raised unilaterally in the previous political campaign, might have seen that cutback. The answer from everyone we talked to was, “Not yet,” which was hardly reassuring. Higher oil prices had led to more robust economic projects, expanded public programs and public employment, and increased debt for Ecuador, both externally and internally. Like any bubble of sorts, the country, like Venezuela and smaller states like Louisiana, was caught still standing when the music stopped and everyone raised for a chair.

After the encouraging gains in many Andean countries where recent economic growth in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia had lifted education, citizen wealth, health, and living standards, one gets the sense that this is unraveling in a case study of what globalization gives, it then takes away. We met with two young doctors. They were originally from Honduras, but had trained for seven years in the vaunted Cuban healthcare system. They wanted to practice in rural areas where the need was greatest, but Honduras had no government program to support their work, so then ended up in Ecuador about 4 hours by bus from Quito. I asked them to rank the healthcare systems they knew and how the economic situation was impacting healthcare. Not surprisingly, they said of the three, Cuba was first, Honduras last, and Ecuador in-between. As for the economy, they were still getting paid, so at least that was something they said, but they could already see shortages starting to show up in medicine supplies.

Being forced to root for the price of a barrel of oil to go up just about says it all about the unsustainable economy we have built in the world.

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