La Paz, Bolivia – The ruling Movement for Socialism (MAS) of Bolivia suffers a fracture due to clashes between the sectors led by President Luis Arce, and the former president and head of that force, Evo Morales. A dispute that has as a backdrop the candidacy for the 2025 general elections.
The Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), the ruling party in Bolivia, is not going through its best times. A fracture seems to be consolidating between the supporters of the former president and head of the party, Evo Moralesand those of the current president Luis Arce.
The breaking off between the followers of both leaders it has affected all levels of the party, the Legislative Assembly and social movements, and includes mutual accusations of treason, rightingalleged corruption and even alleged drug trafficking.
Politicians and analysts consulted by France 24 see “irreversible” either “irremediable” the fracture of a party that had been monolithic until 2019, when the political crisis led to the resignation of Morales and the subsequent candidacy of Arce for the 2020 election.
Before the mediaboth Arce and Morales have considered premature talk about candidacies before 2024; however, they have not stopped the acts or the pronouncements of support to take the position.
A struggle within the MAS
The followers of Arce, who was Morales’s right hand in managing the economy in his three governments (2006-2019), raise the banner of renewal and affirm that the former president completed a historic cycle.
The “evistas” maintain that only “Commander Evo Morales” can fix the “disastrous economy” and guarantee a government for indigenous people.
The fight had a significant recent episode with the censorship in the Parliament of the Minister of Government Eduardo del Castillo for denunciations of cars allegedly stolen in Chile sold in Bolivia. Censorship was possible with the vote of “evistas” and the opponents Comunidad Ciudadana and Creemos.
When Del Castillo’s relief was expected, Arce decided to ratify it. Morales then tweeted that he held “the censored and unconstitutionally and illegitimately ratified minister responsible for any attempt” on his life.
And it is that Morales has denounced an alleged persecution on the part of Del Castillo and has repeatedly called for his dismissal and that of other ministers, but Arce has not yielded to pressure from the head of his party.
This fracture is irreversible
That episode was considered a milestone in the rupture between the two factions of the ruling party, whose dispute also has other angles.
“This fracture is irreversible. We cannot coordinate with traitors like Evo Morales”affirmed the “archist” deputy Rolando Cuéllar when accusing the ex-president of ordering the “evistas” legislators an alleged “sabotage” in the approval of credits to reactivate the country’s economy.
“The only thing that interests this mythomaniac is his candidacy for the Presidency,” added Cuéllar, who is one of the legislators who most harshly questions his “evista” colleagues and Morales, who also maintains that he should “retire from politics”.
According to the Parliamentarian, a recent meeting between Arce and dozens of social organizations, including the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB) matrix, is proof of social support for his re-election in 2025.
These days, Arce and Morales visited Havana, but they had separate agendas and did not see there, but later they attended the closing of some games in the Chapare coca-growing area and exchanged greetings and smiles.
Sport is health, but it also forms character and teaches us to give our best. Today, in the company of our sisters and brothers from Villa Tunari, we close the Plurinational Student Games of the Tropic Region of #Cochabamba.
Congratulations to the athletes! pic.twitter.com/Dofrxm4ZGc
— Luis Alberto Arce Catacora (Lucho Arce) (@LuchoXBolivia) July 6, 2023
The meeting in Chapare made the media speculate about an eventual reconciliation. However, Cuellar said that Morales’s smile “was that of Judas” and ruled out any possibility of a reunion.
We want the government to return to the hands of an indigenous
On the contrary, “evista” deputy Daniel Rojas, leader of an association of “intercultural communities” of peasants and indigenous people, considers that the current ministers do not represent the popular social classesnor the indigenous people for what they support the return of Morales to power.
“We want the government to return to the hands of an indigenous person because unfortunately individuals with ambitions for power have embedded themselves in the MAS, usurping a political acronym from social organizations,” said Rojas.
According to the parliamentarian, the indigenous groups are against the fact that the historical leadership of Morales, who made the nationalization of hydrocarbons and the new Constitution, is not known, but they also feel that in that government “the economy was much better.”
In principle, it was believed that a direct meeting between Morales and Arce could solve the internal crisis, but “it has gone deep that the ministers have attacked our brother Evo Morales,” he added.
Morales and his followers have made several complaints of corruption against government authoritiesbut in recent days they launched a more serious one by indicating that with “the endorsement of the State” 17 tons of cocaine were sent from Bolivia to Spain.
The authorities rejected the complaint and specified that it is erroneously based on a European police report on the “Hinterland” operation last March, which established the shipment of that amount of cocaine to Europe from Brazil and Paraguay, but does not specifically mention Bolivia.
The producers of this drug in South America are Bolivia, Peru and Colombia.
Two officialism candidacies in 2025?
For the political analyst María Teresa Zegada, “as the days go by, it can be perceived more clearly that the fracture is irremediable” because it has reached various levels of the ranks of “masismo”.
In Zegada’s opinion, it has been a “surprise” for Morales and his base of coca growers that Arce has become a “leader with his own voice”, instead of playing a role “as a spare part” in the crisis of 2019.
They have become two leaders who cannot reconcile their interests and Arce’s refusal to give in to Morales’s pressure and request has been seen quite forcefully.
He explained that institutionally the party could use the Political Organizations Law to hold primaries in 2024, although he sees the internal crisis as “deep” that, in his opinion, the two leaders will finally compete with two candidacies in the 2025 elections.
“What can be seen as a trend is that there will be two candidates in the MAS,” said the political analyst. This situation would also entail a fight for the acronym of political force.
The primaries are an option for Morales supporters, according to Deputy Rojas; while his “archist” colleague Cuéllar believes that the MAS will be defined by Arce, leaving Morales in need of looking for another acronym.
Historically the right has tried to divide us in order to destroy us. The MAS-IPSP is the People’s Political Instrument parried in the struggles of indigenous peoples, workers and social movements. Our unity is sustained by our principles of dignity and honesty…
— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) July 4, 2023
Zegada also pointed out that this dispute would not make any ideological difference since both leaders declare themselves to be on the left and have been in government with the MAS in the first administrations of Morales.