Election Day in the Bolivian Highlands: Local Democracy, Amidst the Contradictions

Source: NACLA Report on the Americas

A report from Bolivia’s highland provincial capital of Achacachi, on the elections and the continuing contradictions of Bolivia’s “process of change.”

On October 12, Election Day in Bolivia, I traveled to the highland provincial capital of Achacachi—60 miles north of La Paz, and 12,600 feet above sea level—as an official observer with the National Lawyers Guild. From this traditional bastion of support for President Evo Morales and his ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party, we gained a unique view of the elections and their potential impact on what Bolivians call their “process of change,” including its many contradictions.

Steeped in the lore of Aymara insurgency, Achacachi is famously known as the epicenter of Túpac Katari’s 18th century indigenous revolt against Spanish colonial rule and the birthplace of the 1970s EGTK Katarista guerrilla army—which included among its members Bolivia’s current vice president, Alvaro García Linera. It is also the home of the legendary Ponchos Rojos (Red Ponchos), an indigenous peasant militia that confronted Bolivian troops during the 2003 Gas Wars and continues to play a key role in highland communities.

In the La Paz department where Achacachi is located, Morales prevailed with 69% of the vote, boosting his 61% total nationwide.  In the congressional district that includes Achacachi, the MAS candidate won 78% of the vote, contributing to the party’s two-thirds “super-majority” in the Plurinational Legislative Assembly and its increasingly hegemonic control over Bolivian politics.

Continue reading