Struggles over quotas of power and the possible candidacies in 2025 of President Luis Arce and his mentor, former president Evo Morales, cloud the waters of the ruling party in Bolivia, according to analysts.
In recent months, the Arce government has received sharp criticism from Morales and other leaders of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), led by the 62-year-old former president.
Both men no longer appear together, unlike what they used to do at the beginning of the current government, in 2020.
“It is a glassy relationship that has been breaking down, not completely, but that has begun to generate obvious distances,” said Daniel Valverde, professor of Political Science at the Universidad Mayor Gabriel René Moreno.
Carlos Cordero, professor of Political Science at the state Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, considered that in recent times the relationship between Morales and his dolphin, a 58-year-old economist, “has become tense, there have been signs that there are different criteria.
Carlos Borth, a former parliamentarian and political analyst, also estimated that relations at the top of the ruling party “have shown sharp edges and tensions.”
Arce, who was Morales’ finance minister, won the October 2020 elections with 55% of the vote, enjoying the strong support of the former president. Morales had previously lowered his thumb to the pre-candidate and now Vice President David Choquehuanca.
The MAS was then recovering from the harsh setback suffered a year earlier, when a social upheaval led to the resignation of Morales, an Aymara coca grower leader who had come to power in 2006.
Morales aspired to govern until 2025, but the opposition denounced that he frauded the elections, encouraging a large-scale revolt.
In the ruling party, public divergences have arisen since Morales asked for a change of ministers at the end of 2021, a demand to which other MAS leaders joined. The request was not echoed.
The arrest in February of former anti-drug chief Maximiliano Dávila, strongly criticized by the United States, which offered up to five million dollars for information leading to his conviction, sparked new controversy.
Morales then insinuated that the US anti-drug agency, DEA, which he expelled from Bolivia in 2008, would be acting again in the country and counting on some kind of government cooperation.
Last April, the pro-government peasant unions summoned Arce, Morales and Choquehuanca to a meeting to smooth things over. The only one absent from the meeting was Morales, who argued that he did not receive an official invitation.
Those and other skirmishes have been public.
“The real background is the presidential nomination” for the 2025 elections, says Carlos Cordero.
Although the elections are more than three years away, in the political environment it is felt that both Morales and Arce aspire to be candidates in 2025. It is speculated that they could face each other at the polls, if they do not overcome their differences.
A survey published in April by the newspaper Página Siete indicates that when asked who should be a candidate for the MAS, 17.3% voted for Morales, 15.7% for the president of the Senate, Andrónico Rodríguez, and 14% for Arce.
However, the leader of the ruling bloc in the Chamber of Deputies, Gualberto Arispe, said this week that Arce announced in an internal meeting that he has “no intention” of seeking re-election.
“Basically, what happens between Arce and Morales is that there is a dispute over control of government decisions and also over spaces within the government,” said Daniel Valverde,
For Carlos Borth, in the ruling party there are “three clear currents: Arce’s, Morales’s and Choquehuanca’s.”
Borth believes that in Bolivia there could be a case similar to that of Ecuador, where, once elected president, in 2017, Lenín Moreno broke with his mentor Rafael Correa (2007-2017), of whom he was vice president.
What happened in Ecuador “in fact is being repeated” in Bolivia with the particularities of each country, he says.
Valverde affirms that the Ecuadorian case is particular, since there was an ideological shift of Moreno from the left to the right.
Cordero sees it as premature to assume what may happen in the 2025 elections, since he estimates that the leaders of the ruling party “are going to try to avoid those mistakes and divide.”
Álvaro García Linera, former vice president of Morales, called in March to avoid “a popular fragmentation” in the next elections.
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