Op-ed: Bolivia's failed coup is the symptom of a constitutional crisis

By Gabriel Hetland, 4 July
President Luis Arce of Bolivia (photo credit: UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD) via flickr)
President Luis Arce of Bolivia (photo credit: UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD) via flickr)
Last week, Bolivia experienced yet another coup. During the afternoon of Wednesday, June 26, armed soldiers and tanks massed in La Paz’s Plaza Murillo, with one tank breaching the historic presidential palace. Images of the face-to-face confrontation between army general Juan José Zúñiga and President Luis Arce went viral. For Bolivians, the feeling of dread evoked was all too familiar. Fortunately, it was fleeting, with the putsch petering out within hours. Instead of bloodshed and repression, the failed coup left questions: Why did it occur, and what comes next? Within Bolivia, there is debate over why the coup took place. The most straightforward answer is that this was the work of a disgruntled and, by all appearances, astonishingly inept and isolated general, furious with the president for his apparent disregard for his loyalty. Zúñiga displayed this “loyalty” on June 24 by publicly declaring that Evo Morales, President Arce’s one-time boss and current political rival, is ineligible to stand for election in 2025. [ . . . ] Zúñiga’s words refer to a December 2023 ruling by Bolivia’s Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal, which held that presidents cannot serve more than two total terms in office. This ruling negated the Tribunal’s controversial 2017 decision that presidents and other officeholders can stand for reelection indefinitely as a human right. That earlier ruling paved the way for Morales’s victorious 2019 presidential campaign, which sparked the last Bolivian coup of November 2019, ushering in a year of military rule under the far-right regime of Jeanine Áñez. By reversing its 2017 decision, the Tribunal has blocked Morales’s ability to run in the 2025 election. The 2023 reversal is contentious. Predictably, it provoked great anger from Morales and his supporters. But Evistas, as Morales’s supporters are known, are not the only ones irked; the decision has also been criticized on two other, more general grounds. The first is the fact that it clearly differs from Bolivia’s 2009 Constitution, which only prohibits more than one consecutive presidential term. The December 2023 ruling, by contrast, states that presidents are limited to two total terms in office, an issue on which the Constitution itself says nothing. The ruling is also controversial because the Tribunal that issued it is widely seen as lacking legitimacy in and of itself.
Read the full article here: MSN


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