BOlivia has fallen into a nightmare of political repression and racist violence since the democratically elected government of Evo Morales was overthrown by the military on November 10 last year. That month was the second deadliest civilian death caused by state forces since Bolivia became a democracy nearly 40 years ago, according to a study by the Harvard Law Schools (HLS) International Human Rights Clinic and the University Network for Human Rights (UNHR) released a month ago.
Morales was the first indigenous president in Bolivia to have the largest indigenous population in any country in America. His government was able to reduce poverty by 42% and extreme poverty by 60%, which disproportionately benefited domestic Bolivians. The coup in November was led by a white and mestizolite with a history of racism, who tried to return state power to the people who had monopolized it before Morale̵
What has received even less attention is the role that the Organization of American States played in the destruction of Bolivia’s democracy in November last year.
As the New York Times reported on June 7, the organization’s “flawed” analysis immediately after the October 20 election “drove a chain of events that changed the history of the South American nation.”
The OAS accusations were indeed the most important political basis for the coup, and they continued for several months. In Bolivia, the electoral authorities report a preliminary number of votes, which is unofficial and does not determine the result while the votes are counted. When 84% of the votes were counted in this preliminary figure, Morales had 45.7% of the votes and led the second place with 7.9 percentage points. Reporting in this unofficial, non-binding mood was then interrupted for 23 hours, and when it picked up speed again, Morale’s lead had increased to 10.2 points. At the end of the official count, it was 10.5. According to Bolivia’s election rules, a candidate with more than 40% of the vote and at least a 10-point lead in the first round wins without a run – off.
The opposition claimed that there was fraud and took to the streets. The OAS Election Observation Mission (EOM) issued a press release the day after the election, expressing “deep concern and surprise at the drastic and inexplicable change in the trend of preliminary results following the closure of the polls”. But it provided no evidence to support these allegations of fraud – as there were none.
This has since been established repeatedly by a number of statistical expert studies. But the truth was quite clear and easy to see from available information immediately after the election. And in fact, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, of which I am co-director, used this information to disprove the OAS’s original allegations the next day; and followed up with a number of statistical analyzes and papers in the following months, including a rebuttal of its final audit report.
There was no unexplained change in the trend. All that happened was that areas that reported later were more pro-Morales than those that reported earlier, for different geographical and demographic reasons. That’s why Morale’s lead increased when the last 16% of the vote came in, just as it had increased during the preliminary count. This is a fairly common dynamic that can be seen in elections all over the world.
But after its first press release, the OAS produced three more reports, including its preliminary review of the election results, without ever considering the obvious possibility that the later reporting areas differed politically from those whose votes came in earlier. This is overwhelming evidence that OAS officials not only made a mistake in their repeated allegations of fraud, but it seems to have shown that their allegations were false. It defies the imagination to imagine how this simple explanation – which is the first thing that would happen to most people, and which turned out to be true – would not even happen to election experts during months of investigation. I emailed OAS to find out if it took into account the differences in Bolivian constituencies, but have not received a response.
On December 2, 133 economists and statisticians published a letter to the OAS noting that “the final result was quite predictable on the basis of the first 84% of the votes cast” and urging the OAS “to withdraw its misleading statements about the election”. of the US Congress, chaired by Jan Schakowsky, has also weighed in with a letter to the OAS asking 11 basic questions about the OAS analysis, more than nine months later the OAS has not yet responded.
In July, the US Congress held information meetings with OAS senior officials and confronted them with some of the same issues. they gave no significant answers.
With the original and politically crucial allegations of fraud increasingly discredited, the OAS turned to “irregularities” in the election to maintain the attack on its legitimacy. But it turned out that these allegations, as well as those based on statistical claims, could not withstand scrutiny.
Meanwhile, Bolivia has a de facto president, Jeanine Áñez, who has called domestic religious practices “satanic”; in January, she warned voters against “allowing” wildernesses “to return to power, a clear reference to Morales and many of his supporters’ domestic legacy, according to the Washington Post. to October 18 – has already been postponed three times due to the pandemic.
The wheel of justice is grinding too slowly after US-backed coups. And the Trump administration’s support has been clear: the White House promoted the story of “fraud”, and its Orwellian statement after the coup praised it: “Morales’ departure preserves democracy and paves the way for the Bolivian people to have their voices heard.” According to the Los Angeles Times, “Carlos Trujillo, the U.S. ambassador to the OAS, had led the group’s election observation team to report widespread fraud and urged the Trump administration to support Morales’ expulsion,” Trujillo said.
Jan Schakowsky and Jesús “Chuy” García of the US Congress recently called on this body to “examine the role of the OAS in Bolivia over the past year and ensure that taxpayers’ dollars do not contribute to the overthrow of democratically elected governments, civil conflicts or human rights abuses. the rights ”.
That would be a good start.