Thursday, March 12, 2020

It was a Coup in Bolivia, and Honduras, Facilitated by the OAS and the Trump Administration

Laura Carlsen, 
Experts at MIT recently concluded that there is no statistical evidence of fraud in the results of the Bolivian presidential elections last October. These findings debunk an earlier report by the Organization of American States (OAS), which were used to justify a right-wing coup d’etat in the Andean nation.
“All in all, the OAS’ statistical analysis and conclusions would appear deeply flawed,” the researchers, John Curiel and Jack R. Williams of the Election Data and Science Lab, wrote in the Washington Post. They added that the incumbent, Evo Morales, very likely garnered more than the 10 percent margin needed to avoid a second round vote.
The announcement has caused an international uproar.
The OAS mission’s report alleging “intentional manipulation” to favor Morales’ re-election led to an insurrection by the Bolivian armed forces and ultra right parties, as well as violent conflict in the streets. To date, an interim government headed by a minor member of parliament, Jeanine Añez, remains in power. Scores of pro-Morales protesters were killed in the mayhem that ensued after the regional organization called into question the legitimacy of the electoral process and ignited the chain of events that led to the coup.
As it turns out, Bolivia isn’t the only election where the OAS has played a role in steering results, rather than monitoring and assuring democratic practice.
An analysis of recent election observation missions and statements by Secretary General Luis Almagro reveals a disturbing pattern of bias and a willingness to manipulate events and data for political purposes. More broadly, the Secretary General’s revival of Cold War ideology and allegiance to the Trump administration has created a pattern that consistently favors right-wing governments and forces, while attacking or attempting to eliminate the left in power.
This behavior in a regional forum founded to resolve controversy poses a serious threat to democratic practice as well as the self-determination of nations.
The actions of the OAS Electoral Mission in Bolivia, headed by the Costa Rican Manuel González Sanz, triggered a break with the democratic order, leading not only to the coup but the subsequent killings of pro-Morales protesters by security forces, who specifically targeted indigenous supporters of the nation’s first indigenous president.
Indeed, the OAS accusations of “manipulation” in the Bolivian presidential elections catalyzed violent protests and unleashed massive human rights violations. As if awaiting a cue, armed right-wing forces mobilized to overthrow the elected government. The president and vice president, along with other high-level elected officials of the ruling MAS party, were forced to flee when their houses were set on fire and they came under attack.
Just hours after the polls closed, the OAS mission issued a press release before the vote count was finished, followed up two days later by a preliminary report calling into question Morales’ lead of just over 10 percent. The report cited a “hard to explain” pause in the rapid count and other criticisms of the process.
Based on the report, right-wing forces that had hoped to gain power by forcing Morales into a second round of voting, protested. They were joined by some social organizations, staging demonstrations as well as burning buildings. When the armed forces stepped in threatening a coup, Morales resigned to avoid further bloodshed. A government of ultra-right-wing political figures took power, unleashing the attacks on indigenous peoples and Morales supporters.
An earlier analysis of the OAS reports by the Center for Economic and Policy Research showed that the mission provided no proof of fraud, and that the timing and accusations of the report played a critical political role in the subsequent chain of events. On February 27, the study by the MIT Election Data and Science Lab concluded:
“The OAS’s claim that the stopping of the TREP [Transmission of Preliminary Electoral Results] during the Bolivian election produced an oddity in the voting trend is contradicted by the data. While there was a break in the reporting of votes, the substance of those later-reporting votes could be determined prior to the break. Therefore, we cannot find results that would lead us to the same conclusion as the OAS. We find it is very likely that Morales won the required 10 percentage point margin to win in the first round of the election on October 20, 2019.”
By using its electoral mission to rashly question official elections results, the OAS report contributed to mob violence and the fall of the elected government. The openly racist and misogynist rightwing forces that came to power carried out at least one documented massacre of indigenous peoples.
When national and international voices protested the Bolivian coup d’etat, the OAS Secretary General retorted: “Yes, there was a coup in Bolivia on October 20, when Evo Morales committed electoral fraud” — an unsubstantiated assertion that did not express a consensus view within the organization nor even reflect the language of the mission.
Following publication of the expert analysis, the OAS wrote a letter to the Washington Post, complaining that the study “is not honest, fact-based, or exhaustive.” However, the organization has not presented a full scientific rebuttal or specific reasons for its assertion. In view of the doubts and the dire impact, the Mexican government has demanded an explanation from the OAS. Neither the OAS leadership nor the mission have responded to the request.
There are reports that the OAS followed the political dictates of the U.S. government in precipitating the Bolivian coup. The Los Angeles Times reported:
“Carlos Trujillo, the U.S. ambassador to the OAS, had steered the group’s election-monitoring team to report widespread fraud and pushed the Trump administration to support the ouster of Morales. (The State Department denied Trujillo exercised undue influence on the report and said it respects the autonomy of the OAS. Trujillo, through a spokesman, declined a request for an interview.)”
The OAS’s lack of transparency regarding its mission to Bolivia has compounded suspicions. Unlike other election observations, all of which should be included in the OAS public database, the 2019 Bolivia mission does not appear at all. The OAS press office has not responded to numerous queries regarding the omission of the data on the Bolivian mission, including the names of the members and other pertinent information.
The November 2017 presidential elections in Honduras provide another example of the OAS’s political agenda. That year, right-wing incumbent president Juan Orlando Hernandez ran despite a ban on his seeking re-election, which was suspended by a highly questionable court ruling that declared the constitution itself unconstitutional.
On election night, after announcing that the opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla had established an “irreversible” lead, the Electoral Tribunal shut down the vote count and later returned to announce the incumbent’s unlikely victory amid massive disbelief. The OAS mission questioned the re-election of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, known as JOH by his initials, and announced the elections too dirty to call. Almagro called for new elections.
By contrast, the Trump administration immediately endorsed the Honduran Electoral Tribunal’s position and congratulated Orlando Herndandez on his supposed victory, while pressuring allies to do the same. Following the U.S. lead, Almagro eventually backed down from his insistence on new elections and accepted the incumbent government.
The Hondurans administration brutally repressed widespread popular protests following the election, leaving more than 30 opposition demonstrators dead. While the direct blame lies with the Honduran government, the OAS’s inability to assure or restore clean elections, and its compliance with U.S. policy causing it to reverse its original position, contributed to the breakdown of rule of law in the country.
Today the political crisis continues to claim lives and forces thousands of Hondurans to emigrate every month.
Dominican Republic 
OAS actions in the Dominican Republic’s botched local elections on February 20 again reveal its bias.
The OAS pressured the island government to adopt an automated voting system that went bonkers on polling day. When Dominicans tried to vote, the names of certain candidates did not appear on the screens in nearly half the precincts. T

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