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.
On 10 November last, the Organisation of American States (OAS) released a preliminary report indicating that it found clear irregularities, and that it could not verify the result of the October elections. 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 the same day, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini also released a statement calling for a new Electoral Court to be appointed that could offer guarantees of transparent elections, and also called on parties, particularly the authorities, to assume their democratic responsibilities and take the appropriate decisions to allow quick reconciliation and avoid further violence. Ireland supported this statement.
Following the release of the OAS report, Mr Morales agreed to hold new elections but later in the day (10 November) resigned from his post in an effort to return stability to the country. A number of high ranking officials also resigned, including the Vice President, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, and the President of the Senate. Mr Morales took up Mexico’s offer of political asylum and arrived in the country on 12 November.
According to the Bolivian Constitution, and given the resignation of numerous high ranking officials, the next in line to take on the role of interim President is the Vice President of the Senate, Jeanine Áñez. Ms Áñez took up office on 12 November and on 13 November appointed a new cabinet of 11 Ministers. The caretaker Government now has 90 days to hold new elections, as defined by the Constitution. Ireland, alongside EU colleagues, supports a solution that allows for the interim leadership to prepare for new elections and to avoid a power vacuum which could be seriously damaging to the country.
The EU Delegation in La Paz has been actively supporting mediation on the ground organised by the local Catholic Church to help the Bolivian parties agree on a peaceful path to new elections. I have been in contact with my EU counterparts on how best to support Bolivia in the preparation of these elections. On Monday 11 November, I attended the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels where EU High Representative Federica Mogherini updated Foreign Ministers on the ongoing work in Bolivia. This included a discussion on the possibility of a new EU Mission to the country and of how best to assist in the election of a new Supreme Electoral Court. The EU also deployed an Election Expert Mission to the country and has several projects in support of Bolivia’s strong civil society.
On 15 November, the EU released another statement calling for a return to constitutional normality so that the rule of law, democratic principles and civil rights are respected. Ireland wholeheartedly supports this recent statement from the EU which also calls on law enforcement bodies to guarantee security for the Bolivian people, while respecting human rights at all times. On Sunday (17 November), the EU Ambassador to Bolivia, Leon de la Torre, met with interim President Jeanine Áñez and assured her that the EU would provide support during the transition period and work to ensure credible elections. Ireland is fully supportive of this approach.
My Department will continue to work with our European counterparts to support Bolivia in finding a suitable pathway towards stability. We will continue to monitor developments through our Embassy in Buenos Aires which has a concurrent accreditation to Bolivia.