Bolivia Facing an Uncertain Future

646446464

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.

Friday 27 January, 2017 Update: Busy Saturday Upcoming For President Trump

1631451927-merkel-putin-hollande-dpa_20150207-082453-bhu48rdipef

This afternoon President Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May held a joint press conference as May’s visit to the United States comes to an end. Both leaders have hailed their talks as productive. The topics of discussion ranged from a potential post-Brexit trade deal to the situation in Syria, and Russia. Trump has agreed to a state visit to the United Kingdom later this year and it is safe to assume that we will be seeing Prime Minister May on this side of the pond quite often in the coming years. Suffice to say, the Special Relationship is intact and functioning.

The talks between May and Trump today were significant, however, Saturday could prove to be an even more pivotal day for the Trump administration’s foreign policy efforts. Trump and Vladimir Putin will speak by telephone tomorrow and the conversation could very well set the tone of US-Russian relations for the foreseeable future. Then again, maybe it will not. Despite the media speculation about the relationship between the two leaders, Trump has often remarked that he does not know anything about Vladimir Putin and the course that their relationship will take remains to be seen. Having said that, Trump has hinted at lifting some of the sanctions which the US has imposed on Russia. House and Senate Republicans have warned against the White House adopting a softer line with Russia. There have even been suggestions that legislation to enforce the sanctions might be pursued should Trump decide to lift them.

The President will also speak with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande tomorrow. These conversations will go a long way towards giving America’s other major allies a feel for the new president. Today, Hollande referred to the Trump administration as a challenge for Europe, identifying trade and diplomacy as areas of concern. Both European leaders are major proponents of the European Union and continental unity in the face of a myriad of external and internal threats facing Europe. Their views are contradictory to Trump’s own in many ways. Tension already exists between Merkel and Trump, in large part because of his taking her to task over her immigration policy and the consequences it has had for Germany and Europe. The close relationship that Merkel shared with Barack Obama will likely not be repeated with his successor.

Hollande has been outspoken in his dislike for Trump. During the 2016 US presidential election, the French leader made remarks to the effect that he found Trump’s behavior disgusting. The populist right wing tidal wave Trump rode to victory in 2016 is another cause for Hollande to be concerned. 2017 is a presidential election year for France and the Socialist president is likely to face a massive challenge from France’s own version of Donald Trump in Marine Le Pen, should Hollande chose to run.

In any event, after tomorrow Putin, Merkel, and Hollande should have relatively clear ideas about how their relations with President Trump and the United States will pan out, and Trump will have the same of them.

Monday 19 December, 2016 Update: Gunman Assassinates Russian Ambassador In Turkey

bn-rh149_rustur_p_20161219123005

An off-duty Turkish police officer assassinated Russia’s ambassador to Turkey today at the Cagdas Sanat Merkezi art museum in the Turkish capital of Ankara. The attack was captured by television cameras. Ambassador Andrey Karlov was giving a speech to mark the opening of an art exhibit. The gunman, identified as Turkish police officer Melvut Mert Altintas also wounded three others in the attack on Karlov. Altintas was killed in a shootout with Turkish police officers afterwards.

As Altintas opened fire he shouted, “Don’t forget Aleppo.” In a video of the incident now making rounds on social media, he is also heard saying, “Allahu akbar (God is greatest). Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria! Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria!”

The long-term implications are not clear right now, but Russian and Turkish officials seem to be downplaying the chances of this assassination leading to a new rupture in Turk-Russian relations, which have been mending since the Turkish shoot down of a Russian aircraft last year. Vladimir Putin called this an act of terror and laid the blame squarely at the feet of terrorists. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a speech given Monday night, stated that the attack was likely an attempt to disrupt the normalization of relations between Russia and Turkey and that neither nation would be seduced by the provocation.

The attack also comes after a week of protests by Turks against Russia’s support for the Syrian government. The fall of Aleppo, and Russia’s part in the effort resulted in angry protests and may have served as the catalyst for Altinta’s action.

Even though Russia and Turkey are treading carefully, and holding back from making any provocative statements, that could change rather quickly. The situation is very fluid and what comes about in the next 36 hours will tell us a lot about how far the implications of this assassination will stretch.

 

*Author’s Note- I’m aware of today’s Berlin incident, however, time is at a premium right now. I will be discussing that situation tomorrow.*

Friday 2 December, 2016 Update: Austria Votes (Again) This Weekend

02misik2-inyt-master768

Come Sunday, Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk and company will likely be in need of a heavyweight infusion of Xanax to calm their jangled nerves. Italy is facing a critical political moment this weekend. As fate would have it, Italy is not alone. Austria is in a similar situation. The primary difference between the two EU members is that Italian voters will be going to the polls to decide on a constitutional referendum while Austrians will be selecting a new president. The results of both events hold potentially far-reaching consequences for the European Union. We discussed Italy yesterday, so this update will be, in large part, a summary of the upcoming election in Austria.

Sunday is a second chance for the Freedom Party and its candidate Norbert Hofer to capture the presidency. He was defeated in a second round runoff by Alexander Van der Bellen, former head of the Green Party, by a razor thin margin. Hofer and the Freedom Party challenged the results and because absentee ballots had been mishandled, Austria’s Constitutional Court decided that the entire election had to be held again. And so it will be on Sunday.

The significance of this election cannot be undervalued. The president of Austria is mainly a ceremonial post lacking the responsibility of running the day-to-day operations of the government. Yet many Europeans remain very concerned about what a Hofer victory will bring about though. To them Hofer is a far-right wing, anti-establishment candidate cast in the same mold as Donald Trump. Should he win the election on Sunday, it will further solidify the ascendancy of Trump-like politicians across the continent. But a victory by Van der Bellen will not be a sign that the populist, anti-establishment wave has reached its high-water mark. At the most, a Van der Bellen win gives the EU and politicians around Europe time to fortify their positions in preparation for the next electoral swing towards populist candidates.

One year ago, the prospect of a right wing candidate becoming president of a Western European nation-state was nearly impossible to fathom. Now, following Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory, the prospect is becoming quite plausible in places like France and Austria. The world is watching and waiting to see how this weekend’s drama plays out. And right now in Brussels, the EU leadership has to be wondering incessantly about what Europe will look like come Monday morning.