HRF to OAS: Apply Democracy Clause to Authoritarian Bolivia

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Bolivia’s highest court eliminated presidential term limits, allowing President Morales to run indefinitely.

NEW YORK (November 30, 2017) — In an unprecedented move this Tuesday, Bolivia’s highest court issued a decision eliminating presidential term limits, which will allow President Evo Morales to run for reelection indefinitely. The decision by the government-controlled court ignored the results of a February 2016 referendum where the Bolivian people expressed their opposition to Morales’ illegal bid to run for a fourth term in office. The 2009 Bolivian constitution expressly prohibits indefinite reelection. The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) calls on all member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) to condemn this anti-democratic decision, and to urgently apply the OAS’ democracy clause to the Morales government.

“Like Daniel Ortega and Hugo Chávez before him, Evo Morales’ authoritarian regime has finally succeeded in turning Bolivia’s constitution into a meaningless scrap of paper whose only purpose is to allow him to stay in power indefinitely,” said HRF Chairman Garry Kasparov. “Like Ortega, Morales argued that the term limits outlined in the constitution — which ironically was a constitution produced by Morales’ own constituent assembly in 2009 — somehow violated his human rights. And like Chávez, Morales ignores the results of a referendum where millions of people voted against this illegal move, even in the face of repression and fear.”

This is the second time that the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal of Bolivia, its highest court, has struck down “unconstitutional” provisions of the constitution for the sole purpose of allowing Morales to run for reelection. In 2013, the tribunal interpreted an article that restricted presidents to two consecutive terms to say it didn’t apply to Morales’ previous reelection. Morales called the 2016 referendum shortly after winning a third presidential term, hoping to piggyback on the success of the 2014 election. However, the results of the referendum favored term limits, with 51.3% of voters voting against Morales’ amendment.

The court itself is the result of the new constitution, which abolished the “Republic of Bolivia” that had existed since 1825 and replaced it with the “Plurinational State of Bolivia.” As a result of the new constitution, 10 members of the newly-created highest court were elected into office (with less than 5% of the national vote) through a process that was considered illegitimate by the majority of the country’s democratic opposition who had successfully called on the people to nullify their ballots.

On Tuesday, this court decided to ignore referendum results and supported Morales’ bid to strike down articles of Bolivia’s 2009 Constitution, arguing that Article 23 of the American Convention on Human Rights, the article on political rights, made any term limits in the Bolivian constitution a “violation of the Convention.” Just hours after the decision became public, OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro stated that “the article cited by Bolivia’s tribunal does not protect the right to stay in power forever.”

Following the ruling, Bolivians have taken to the streets to demand respect for democracy. Last night, tens of thousands of citizens across Bolivia gathered in their city’s main squares chanting slogans such as, “Bolivia said No,” “Dictatorship No,” “No means No,” and “Democracy for Bolivia.” Demonstrations are expected to continue as several civil society groups have called for them throughout the country.

“Tuesday’s shameless ruling in Bolivia is the latest violation by Morales’ competitive-authoritarian regime of the democracy clause of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the OAS Charter. OAS member states, and not just the Secretary General who has already been loud and clear on this matter, must take on their international responsibilities to uphold democratic standards, and call on Bolivia to reverse this anti-democratic move, or else be suspended from the OAS,” said HRF President Thor Halvorssen. “Bolivia is not yet Venezuela, but it will quickly get there if democratic leaders throughout the continent wait until the last minute to say something. In the sad and utterly preventable case of Venezuela, discussions on lack of democratic standards have now turned into discussions of the Maduro regime’s crimes against humanity. Bolivia will head the same way if Morales is not stopped,” said Halvorssen.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.

For press inquiries, contact Prachi Vidwans at (212) 246-8486 or prachi@hrf.org.

TAKE ACTION!

Email or tweet the Bolivian government to respect the results of the February 2016 referendum forbidding President Evo Morales and Vice President Garcia Linera from running illegally in the 2019 elections.

CONTACT:

Use your Twitter platform to write to:

Evo Morales, President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia

Twitter: @evoespueblo

Sacha Sergio Llorenti Soliz, Ambassador of Bolivia to the United Nations

Twitter: @SachaLlorenti

Gabriela Montaño Viaña, President of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly

Twitter: @GabrielaSCZ

Permanent Mission of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the UN

Twitter: @Bolivia_ONU

Send an email to Bolivia’s representative in the United States:

Sacha Sergio Llorenti Soliz, Ambassador of Bolivia to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of Bolivia to the United Nations

Address: 211 E 43rd St, Suite 802, New York, NY 10017

Phone: (212) 682-8132

Fax: (212) 687-4642

Email: jaranibar@bolivia-un.org

Please let us know if you took action. CC your communication to: info@hrf.org

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