8 February, 2021: Myanmar Update

Almost a week after Myanmar’s military leaders assumed control of the nation’s government and detained its civilian leaders, mass protests are beginning to take shape across the land. Over the weekend tens of thousands of citizens marched in cities and towns, carrying signs demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and flags of the National League for Democracy party. On Monday, the size and scope of the protests grew, and a national strike was called. So far the protests appear to be relatively peaceful with few reports of violence. Outside observers are closely monitoring the situation closely, given that the army has met protests like this with violence in the past. This has not deterred citizens from taking to the streets, however.

The military has been slowly imposing restrictions on gatherings and curfews in select areas of Myanmar, building upon communications and digital restrictions put in place shortly after the coup occurred on 1 February. Internet service was restored 36 hours later, yet the threat of another outage looms.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the coup, addressed the nation over the weekend. He justified the transfer of governmental power by claiming the November election, a landslide victory for Aung San Suu Kyi’s party was fraudulent.  Whether Hlaing’s speech will resonate with Myanmar’s civilian population or not remains to be seen. Given the number of protesters out in the streets in the past 12 hours or so, it would appear unlikely Hlaing’s words have had a positive effect.

Bolivia Facing an Uncertain Future

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The expulsion of Evo Morales from the presidency of Bolivia marks the end of a South American leftist, authoritarian ruler who abused his power excessively, ignored the will of the people, and all but exiled democracy from the country. When all was said and done, Morales went a step too far and it was too much for the Bolivian people to take. The 20 October, 2019 election results were clearly fraudulent, and bent in Morales favor artificially. The people took to the streets in protest. Evidence of voter fraud surfaced, international pressure grew, and the protests continued, becoming larger, and now included police officers marching side by side with private citizens.

After 19 days of protests, the police and military demanded the resignation of Morales. He addressed the nation, announced he was resigning from office, and has disappeared from sight. Rumors are circulating that warrants for his arrest have been issued and he’s on the run, but there has been no confirmation. Mexico has offered asylum to the former president, and claims Morales is the victim of a military-backed coup.

What comes next for Bolivia remains to be seen. Morales was Bolivia’s longest serving president and his departure will leave a vacuum. The stage looks to be set for a period of unrest. In the streets, supporters of the former president are constructing barricades and preparing for a long, drawn out struggle. The political leadership picture is fluid at the moment. Along with Morales, a number of senior government officials also resigned, including the vice president. Questions about the nature of the upheaval also need to be answered. Was this a military revolt, or a democratic uprising?

As the questions are answered, and post-Morales Bolivia gets sorted out, it would be valuable to look around the rest of South America and wonder what comes next. There are other nations there contending with similar problems at the moment. South America is rife with instability, and leftist authoritarian leaders. If this can happen in Bolivia, it can easily happen elsewhere.

Venezuela, I was staring directly at you as I typed that last sentence.