By Joseph Hammond
One of Trump’s sharpest international critics faces a rising challenge from democracy advocates who hope to unseat Bolivian President Evo Morales in elections to be held later this year.
President Trump chaired a meeting United Nations Security Council meeting in September in which Morales lashed out at Trump’s immigration policies and Trump’s commitment to democracy around the globe.
Trump responded diplomatically “Thank you, Mr. President” before turning the floor over to Peru.
Despite his attack on Trump for failing to support democracy, Morales is seen by many in Bolivia as an impediment to democracy in his country. Morales, the first person of indigenous heritage elected to the presidency in Bolivia, is seeking a way to extend his 13-year rule in violation of term limits in the Bolivian constitution.
One of the president’s important opponents is Maria Lourders Landivar who works every day to ensure her country won’t end up the next Venezuela. At 35 years of age, she is the youngest senator in the opposition where she represents the city of Santa Cruz. She is a member of Democratas – the main opposition party in Bolivia.
A tireless defender of democracy. In September she stepped down as vice-president of the International Young Democrat Union, a global coalition of center-right and liberal parties from 81 countries, to better focus on Bolivian politics. As a fellow of the Atlantic Council of the United States and in her democracy advocacy work she is a frequent visitor to Washington D.C.
Prior to entering electoral politics, she worked in Bolivia’s Office of International Relations and as an adviser in the Secretary of Institutional Coordination of the Government of Santa Cruz between 2008 and 2014.
#Bolivia 🇧🇴| Hoy pudimos conversar y debatir sobre “Democracia y Libertad” con la Senadora @LourdesLandivar y el Diputado Gustavo Serrano del Departamento de #SantaCruz, ambos del Partido @DemocratasBo.
— Juan Fernando Flores (@juanflores18) November 21, 2018
She was selected as an emerging leader of the Atlantic Dialogue in Marrakech, Morocco in 2018 – the premiere policy forum for the discussions of transatlantic politics linking the Americas, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.
Q: What do Bolivians and other Latin Americans think of President Trump in your opinion?
A: Actually, the majority, they don’t hate Trump they see Trump as the biggest enemy of populism in Latin America. It’s been 14 years since we had a U.S. President who would say dictator of Venezuela is a dictator – Obama didn’t do that. Trump is saying to Latin America and the world that violations of rule of law and their respective constitutions must be stopped. We didn’t get that with Obama. Trump doesn’t have the manners that many leaders but he is saying the things we need the free world to say to confront authoritarianism in Latin America.
Q: President Evo Morales of Bolivia has been the president of Bolivia for 13 years. He was hailed when first elected as the first president of indigenous descent though he has increasingly sought to centralize power around himself. What is the status of Democracy in Bolivia?
A: We can’t define the status of democracy based on one fact but, it is worth pointing out that Evo Morales has effectively changed the constitution to allow himself to be president again. Morales suffered a political defeat for the first time in 2016 with a failed referendum to change the constitution so he could run again. The voters held he could not seek the presidency again in violation of the constitution. Yet, earlier this December an electoral court ruled that term limits were a violation of his human rights. That is an incredible argument — we no longer live under the rule of law in Bolivia. The President has no shame. Morales has sought to change laws at a whim. When a lawyer once told him he couldn’t do something he said ‘Well then change the law — what did you study?’
Q: Yes, I traveled to Bolivia early in Morales’s rule and saw some of the early protests against him first hand. At the time Morales was part of a rising wave of leftist leaders such as Hugo Chavez…
A: Yes, and Morales is the one leader in Latin America who still defends Maduro and doesn’t call him a dictator when other left-wing socialists in Latin America such as the president of Uruguay do. But, today do we see a new trend?
Q: What direction do you see politics in Latin America moving? We had the election of a left-wing populist in Mexico with Andrés Manuel López Obrador also known as AMLO and in Brazil by Jair Bolsanaro, who many see as a populist on the right.
A: I think Latin American is waking up in Chile, Peru and Colombia and Peru votes have chosen candidates who respect democracy and the rule of law. We will see soon if that trend continues in the upcoming elections in Uruguay and El Salvador. They don’t have a government now that believes in democracy. It’s weird to see what happen in Mexico apparently they didn’t’ learn from what happened to us [ in Bolivia] or by other leftists regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua where the rule of law has been destroyed.
La semana pasada tuve el honor de participar como disertante en el Foro Internacional de la Democracia en Madrid organizado x @kas_madrid durante el cual expuse sobre la situación de la democracia en Bolivia, las constantes violaciones al estado de derecho y el irrespeto al #21f pic.twitter.com/KR11wBMntJ
— Ma Lourdes Landivar (@LourdesLandivar) November 16, 2018
Q: What about Brazil where Jair Bolsanaro has just won a stunning victory and often compared to Trump by the international media.
A: I’m not going to say he is amazing but, I can tell you want I think his election means. His election reflects the decision of the Brazilian people and voters that they will support those who will stand up to the corruption of the traditional elites in Brazil. That’s why he was elected not because of his outlandish statements. Maybe he will as president rule differently. And in maybe in Mexico — Andrés Manuel López Obrador or AMLO, if you prefer, is not going to do everything he promised.
Source: American Media Institute