In Bolivia, struggles for quotas of power and for eventual candidacies in 2025 have confronted President Luis Arce and his mentor, former president Evo Morales, in a crisis situation in the ruling party that to a certain extent resembles the one that the government has in Argentina. President Alberto Fernández and also the one who anointed him as a candidate, Vice President Cristina Kirchner.
Thus, in recent months, Arce’s management has received increasingly acid criticism from Morales, as is the case with CFK and Fernández in Argentina, a situation that is also replicated in the voices of leaders of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), the sector of Evo Morales, who are hardening positions to question Arce’s actions.
The truth is that after a first stage in which they shared photos or acts of government, Arce and Morales no longer appear together. “It is a glassy relationship that has been breaking down, not completely, but that has begun to generate obvious distances”he told AFP Daniel ValverdeProfessor of Political Science at the state University Mayor Gabriel René Moreno.
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For its part, charles lamba professor of Political Science at the state Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, considered that in recent times the relationship between Morales and his dolphin, a 58-year-old economist, “There has been tension, because different criteria began to be noticed.”
Also Charles Bortha former parliamentarian and political analyst, estimated that relations at the top of the ruling party “are showing sharp edges and tensions.”
Arce, who was Morales’ finance minister, won the October 2020 elections with 55% of the vote, enjoying the strong support of the former president. Morales had previously lowered his thumb to the pre-candidate and now Vice President David Choquehuanca.
The MAS was then recovering from the harsh setback suffered a year earlier, when a social upheaval led to the resignation of Morales, who aspired to govern until 2025, but the opposition denounced that he frauded the elections, encouraging a large-scale revolt that ended with the then president resigning and finally in Argentina.
The three currents of government
Public divergences have emerged in the Bolivian government since Morales demanded a change of ministers at the end of 2021, a demand joined by other MAS leaders. Something similar to what happened in Argentina, when Cristina Kirchner denounced that there were “officials who don’t work” and plunged Alberto Fernández’s management into her first great crisis. In Argentina some names were changed, but in Bolivia, Arce ignored Morales’ requests, without altering his cabinet.
The arrest in February of the former anti-drug chief Maximilian Davila, strongly criticized by the United States, which offered up to five million dollars for information that would allow his conviction, sparked a new controversy.
Morales then insinuated that the US anti-drug agency, DEA, which he expelled from Bolivia in 2008, would be acting again in the country and counting on some kind of government cooperation.
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Last April, the pro-government peasant unions summoned Arce, Morales and Choquehuanca to a meeting to smooth things over. The only one absent from the meeting was Morales, who argued that he did not receive an official invitation. Those and other skirmishes have been public.
“The real background is the presidential nomination” for the 2025 elections, says Cordero.
Although the elections are more than three years away, in the political environment it is felt that both Morales and Arce aspire to be candidates in 2025. It is even speculated that they could face each other at the polls, if they do not overcome their differences.
A survey published in April by the newspaper Página Siete indicates that when asked who should be a candidate for the MAS, 17.3% voted for Morales, 15.7% for the president of the Senate, Andrónico Rodríguez, and 14% by Arce.
However, the leader of the ruling bloc in the Chamber of Deputies, Gualberto Arispe, said this week that Arce announced in an internal meeting that he has “no intention” of seeking re-election. “Basically, what happens between Arce and Morales is that there is a dispute over control of government decisions and also over spaces within the government,” Valverde said. For Borth, in the ruling party there are “three clear currents: that of Arce, that of Morales and that of Choquehuanca”.
Borth believes that in Bolivia there can be a case similar to the serious crisis experienced in Ecuador before the triumph of Guillermo Lasso, where once elected president, in 2017, Lenín Moreno broke with his mentor Rafael Correa (2007-2017), who was vice president. What happened in Ecuador “in fact is being repeated” in Bolivia with the particularities of each country, says the analyst.
Valverde affirms that the Ecuadorian case is particular, since there was an ideological shift of Moreno from the left to the right. Cordero sees the premature side of him assuming what can happen in the 2025 elections, since he estimates that the leaders of the ruling party “are going to try to avoid those mistakes and divide.” Álvaro García Linera, former vice president of Morales, called in March to avoid “a popular fragmentation” in the next elections.
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