Living on the edge: An insight into Bolivia´s ongoing struggle with democracy

It´s the proverbial calm before the storm. The winds of presidential election campaigning have died down and an eerie calm has gripped the nation, whose citizens carry on as though nothing of importance is about to happen. 

Like a slow-burning, deceptively dormant volcano just moments before an eruption, Bolivia crouches yet again at the precipice of civil war.

So how did we get here?

It´s the same old story: A seemingly endless series of battles over different styles of governance, waged by political titans. Sadly, it´s the everyday mortals who inevitably pay the price for their arrogance.

The decades long argument between capitalist and socialist camps is using Bolivia as their ultimate proving ground. This continues while residents struggle to return to some kind of social and economic normalcy during COVID-19. 

A brief and bloody revolution ensued after last year´s presidential election. Former dictator Evo Morales was ejected from office, and an interim government under the leadership of Jeanine Añez quickly took the helm to restore order.

Celebration in 25 de Mayo Square after Morales resigned last year.

Less than a year later, Añez´s government has been exposed in fraud and embezzlement scandals amid months of brutal COVID-19 lockdown, leaving the nation more divided, poor, and adrift than ever. 

So what lessons are there to learn from these false idols, these so-called political messiahs who claim to have the solution to everyone´s problems?

They don´t care about people. Not one….little….bit.

They care about money and power. They care about keeping people divided to serve their interests. The runoff of these self-serving, parasitical agendas has infected the general population like a disease, leaving people unable to see across the political and racial gaps.

However, if an individual looks closely, they will see how much the different sides of this divided nation have in common. At the end of the day, all Bolivians want is peace, respect, and equal opportunities to succeed in life.

People running errands amid black smoke from protest fires.

Regardless of which political pony they support.

The public can recognize these commonalities and work toward them together. They can reject the failed “two-party” political model that has proved disastrous in other nations, including the United States.

The proud and hard-working indigenous of the campo and the city dwellers don´t have to be at odds with one another. They can work together to make their country stronger since each provides different, indispensable components necessary to run a nation.

It may seem like a jejune perspective at a glance. Politicians the world over promote the idea that these kinds of issues are too complex for the general population to solve on their own.

However, I work as a full-time journalist and have interviewed people throughout Bolivia since the revolution last year. I´ve spoken to entrenched supporters of the socialist left (MAS), right-wing idealists, and those who favor policies somewhere in the middle.

I can tell you with certainty they all share one similitude.

Peace. Every single person I´ve spoken to, regardless of political stance, ethnicity, and economic background said they want peace in their country. A beautiful dream that seems to have evaporated in the face of partisan rhetoric and campaign banners. 

Children playing in an empty street during the revolution last year.

The presidential election is scheduled to take place this Sunday, October 18th. Until then, the nation holds its breath and carries on as normal despite the political powder keg set to ignite.

**P.S. I´ve lived as a full-time resident in Bolivia for over 2 years and have been reporting on current events here since October 2019. **