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LATIN AMERICA | 18-11-2019 15:27

Daniel Chasquetti: 'There was a slow-motion coup d’état in Bolivia'

Uruguayan political analyst says that, in Latin America, consensus breaks down when it comes to the rules of democracy.

Daniel Chasquetti, a professor in political science at the Universidad de la República in Montevideo, discusses Evo Morales' removal from power in an interview with Perfíl.

Describing the events of the past month as a “slow-motion coup d’état,” Chasquetti highlighted the institutional deterioration in the Andean country. 

How would you qualify what happened in Bolivia?

Evo Morales could have left as the most successful president in Bolivia’s history. But there are a series of decisions that are hard to explain. Not accepting the results of the constitutional referendum [on whether he could stand again] and continuing to press forward; the decision of a judicial court that, in a very unusual way, determined that his candidature is a human right; and third, and perhaps the most dangerous of all, the fraud.

There are also terrible things from the other side too: a reaction that comes from Santa Cruz, but that is also influenced by the evangelical churches, a call to God in a sort of medieval crusade. This is a coup in slow motion because in reality, there has been an extremely strong institutional deterioration promoted by both parties.

There is a decisive moment that leads me to call it a coup: when the Armed Forces suggest [Morales] resign. If Morales hadn't resigned, there probably would’ve been an uprising and that would have been a traditional coup. 

What kind of compromise on behalf of Morales and MAS [Morales’s political party] would help Bolivia exit the crisis?

A good gesture would be to not present Evo [in the next presidential election]; go back and accept the results of the referendum. Today, it’s hard to think that they’d do it.

An election against Carlos Mesa, a centrist politician that was able to gather support from all the opposition, is very different than one against an extremist candidate such as Luis Fernando Camacho. 

Do Mesa and the democratic right run the risk of not standing out against the extremists?

Yes, they didn’t understand what happened in Brazil. A centre-right coalition impeached [former president] Dilma [Rousseff] in a frustrating procedure, took the reigns of power and it went badly. When it was time for elections, Bolsonaro had an open field and centre-right voters had no-one to choose from.

The natural ally of the left, when it’s time to preserve democracy, is the democratic right. Both sides don’t understand that the cost of losing may mean [democracy’s] failure. 

What common thread is there within Latin America that so many political conflicts between antagonistic blocs are determined by the Armed Forces?

Consensuses are failing. All democracies are supported by a consensus on the rules of the game. We have actors that challenge them: Maduro and the Congress [in Venezuela], in Peru, the Congress to the President, in Bolivia, Evo Morales challenges the Constitution.

The actors don’t understand that democracy is not only competency, but also a cooperative game, in which losing today may mean winning tomorrow. Kirchnerismo won four years ago and now it’s returning. 

Why does the Frente Amplio in Uruguay arrive at a run-off [for the presidential vote], while down in the polls?

There is a wearing down within the government. Secondly, certain cases of corruption arose have eroded the pristine image of an unpolluted party. The economic de-acceleration generated problems: unemployment increased, inflation is below 10 points, we have a high fiscal deficit... The next administration will have to adjust.

The last factor is security. The opposition candidate [Luis Lacalle-Pou] has led a campaign based on claims about problems about how you exercise authority in the country. This is one of the strongest reasons for Uruguay to change. 

Daniel Martínez is a generational shift for the Frente Amplio. How would you evaluate him as a candidate?

It’s like when Maradona retired from the [Argentine] national team: they gave the number 10 jersey to 'Burrito' Ortega and it was huge for him. After Tabaré Vásquez and 'Pepe' Mujica – who are still two of the most popular politicians in Uruguay – the number 10 jersey weighs heavy on anyone, and Martínez does wear the same jersey per se.

He is a candidate that won’t lead the party, rather the party will lead the candidate. In a second round, where you need to get the vote of other sectors, you don’t feel this. Frente Amplio needed a different candidate. 

What are Lacalle Pou's strengths and weaknesses?

He’s a learning machine. He has to be the politician that has changed the most over the last five years. He has matured, put together a very professional and serious electoral campaign, with very clear objectives.

We have to see how he is when governing, with a broad coalition, consisting of five parties, something that will demand a lot of patience in negotiations. I don’t want to qualify it as a weakness, but rather as a question. 



Meet the analyst. Daniel Chasquetti is a political science professor and researcher at the University of the Republic in Uruguay. Last Wednesday, he participated in workshop for elected lawmakers in Buenos Aires, organised by the lower house Chamber of Deputies with the support of Cippec. “The only solution left for Bolivia is to go to elections with an electoral tribunal that is impartial and that the institutional crisis is resolved with more democracy,” he told Perfil


* This article originally appeared in Spanish in the Perfil newspaper.

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Leandro Dario

Leandro Dario

Editor de Economía Diario Perfil.


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