Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Questions (47)

Maureen O'Sullivan


47. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland recognises the recent election of Mr. Evo Morales as President of Bolivia; if calls for similar recognition at EU level will be supported; if he with his EU colleagues will condemn the US position on the election which infringes Bolivian sovereignty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46257/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Foreign)

My question relates to the election of Mr. Evo Morales as President of Bolivia and where Ireland and the EU stand on recognising that election. Events have overtaken me on this particular matter. What is Ireland's position on what has been happening in Bolivia in recent weeks?

As the Deputy will be aware, the elections that took place in Bolivia on 20 October 2019 were followed by reports of violence and excessive force by the authorities and the situation there remains very fluid and uncertain, as the Deputy referenced. Ireland supports the EU statement released on 24 October on the electoral process, which underlined the expectation that the Bolivian Government and electoral authorities would resolve the situation in a manner that respects the people's will, upholds the credibility of the electoral process and preserves social stability.

On 10 November, the Organization of American States released its preliminary report indicating that it had found clear irregularities and could not verify the result of the 20 October elections. That organisation had been asked to look at the process by President Morales. It concluded that it was unlikely that Mr. Morales had won by the required 10% margin and recommended that a new electoral commission be set up before convening fresh elections.

On 10 November, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini issued a further statement, which Ireland supports. The statement said that a new electoral court should be appointed that could offer guarantees of transparent elections. It also called on all parties, particularly the authorities, to assume their democratic responsibilities and take the appropriate decisions to allow quick reconciliation and avoid further violence.

The Deputy will be aware of the latest reports from Bolivia that President Morales has now resigned his post in an effort to help restore stability.

I understand he has accepted Mexico's offer of political asylum. Developments in Bolivia are still unfolding and the situation remains unpredictable. Following the announcement of the President's resignation on 10 November, there were reports of further demonstrations and looting across Bolivia. A number of high-ranking officials, including the Vice President, the President of the Chamber of Deputies and the President of the Senate, have resigned. According to the Bolivian Constitution, the next in line of authority is the Vice President of the Senate. The Bolivian Constitution further provides that in the case of the President and Vice President both resigning, new elections must be held within 90 days. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will continue to monitor developments closely. We will continue to consult our EU partners in responding to events as they develop.

As the Tánaiste has acknowledged, this is a very difficult situation. Mr. Morales was the first indigenous leader of a South American country. The Bolivian courts paved the way for him to run for a fourth term. Initial reports showed that he was leading the election. Mr. Morales called for a new supreme electoral tribunal and for new elections. He was prepared to go along with that. The escalation in the efforts of leaders of the opposition to overthrow him made it obvious that they were not interested in a second round of elections, or even in new elections. Of course they have been aided by the military and the police. This has led to suggestions that a military coup might have happened in Bolivia. The Organization of American States, OAS, which found irregularities, has a chequered history. It is dominated by the US and follows US policies. It is based in Washington. Previously, it facilitated and sanctioned the Cuban embargo. There is no doubt that there is an anti-left wing bias in the organisation. We know that Mr. Morales's departure has been welcomed by President Trump and President Bolsonaro. The situation in Bolivia is very serious. It is a question of where Bolivia goes now. I know that Mr. Morales has left for Mexico. I think there is a need for more clarity from the EU on where it stands.

The ongoing electoral integrity analysis and audit of the official results of last month's presidential election in Bolivia is being carried out by the OAS, to which the Deputy referred. The team consists of 30 international specialists and auditors, including electoral lawyers, statisticians, computer experts, document authentication specialists and experts in chain of custody and electoral organisation. The team will focus on the verification of the vote count, including tally sheets, ballots and votes. The verification process includes matters relating to computing, the statistical projection component and the chain of custody of the ballot boxes. As indicated in the agreement signed with the OAS, the Bolivian Government will provide the auditors with all the necessary information. Representatives of political parties, academia and civil society have been invited to submit any information and complaints they believe should be analysed by the auditors. My understanding is that everybody, including Mr. Morales and his Government, is co-operating with this process. We have got to believe in some process here. We should not write it off before it is complete because of perceived bias. I think that is the process that is under way. Most importantly, we need to try to support a process that maintains stability in Bolivia and allows for a new electoral process within the next 90 days.

There are concerns about the OAS as an organisation. It is based in Washington and is dominated by the US and its policies. There is a long history of US-backed right-wing military coups in Latin America. The list includes Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Bolivia previously in 1964, Chile and Argentina. It is very difficult to take this organisation. I hope that the Tánaiste is right and that everyone is buying into it. There are concerns around it. Over 1,300 delegates attended a conference in Havana in early November. They represented 750 organisations and came from 86 countries in the area. All of them expressed concern about the clear intentions of the US in Latin America, particularly with regard to Latin America's natural resources. I would like to mention some of the achievements of President Morales. During his time in office, the GDP of Bolivia grew and the number of Bolivians living on less than $3.20 a day decreased. Poorer people were benefiting when he was in power. We know there are elements in society who do not like to see poor people benefiting. We have to wonder about the other agendas that are appearing.

I am not in a position to make a judgment on whether Evo Morales did a good job as President of Bolivia. The question is whether he was re-elected. He has to win an election by a clear margin to be re-elected. We are going through a process at the moment to ascertain whether the election was free and fair. Clearly, the suggestion is that it was not free and fair. That is why there have been multiple resignations. To be fair, people have resigned in an effort to maintain some form of stability. The EU and Ireland need to encourage a new process that is put in place by a new electoral court to ensure Bolivia can elect a President who has majority support. I hope that can happen in the next 90 days.