BUENOS AIRES – The presidential candidate of Bolivian former President Evo Morales’ left-wing MAS-IPSP party said he will return to that Andean nation on Tuesday to start campaigning for the May 3 general election.
Luis Arce Catacora made his announcement alongside Morales at a Monday press conference in Buenos Aires, although he added that there are no assurances the balloting in Bolivia will be free and fair.
“I’ll be in Bolivia tomorrow” after finalizing some details, Arce said.
But he cautioned that the candidacy of Bolivia’s interim president, Jeanine Añez, “casts enormous doubt on the transparency of the electoral process” and called on the international community to intervene and provide guarantees.
“The conditions for campaigning don’t exist today. We have MAS-IPSP members being persecuted, threatened, blackmailed. There’s no freedom of expression. The press is censored,” said the presidential candidate, who served as economy minister during most of Morales’ 14-year tenure.
During their press conference, both Morales and Arce urged the international community to ensure that the electoral process unfolds properly.
“We’re going to ask that international organizations, countries such as Spain, countries that can guarantee impartiality be on hand not only when votes are cast but throughout the process,” Arce said.
“The conditions at this time aren’t the best for campaigning, but we’re going to participate because that’s the only choice the Bolivian people have,” said the candidate, whose running mate is Morales’ former foreign minister, David Choquehuanca.
That ticket was chosen at a Jan. 19 party meeting in Buenos Aires.
Morales said Monday that election duo will allow for a continuation of the “democratic and cultural revolution” he launched after taking office in early 2006.
“It’s important to provide certainty for the national economy, to not neglect the issue of investment, and also not neglect the employment and salary issue. That combination has been very important for achieving growth,” Morales said.
New general elections were scheduled for May 3 after the cancellation of the balloting held on Oct. 20, in which Morales narrowly won a fourth term in office.
Those elections were annulled after an Organization of American States audit - conducted amid accusations of fraud by Bolivia’s opposition, including rival candidate Carlos Mesa - found that the results could not be validated due to “deliberate actions that sought to manipulate” the vote count.
Morales, the first indigenous president of this poor, majority indigenous nation, agreed on Nov. 10 to a new general election following the release of the OAS’ report but was forced to resign hours later after losing the support of the military.
The former head of state, who says he was forced out in a coup, lived in exile for a month in Mexico before accepting an offer of asylum in Argentina.
Añez, a right-wing former deputy Senate leader, became next in line for Bolivia’s highest office after several of Morales’ allies also resigned, including the vice president and the leaders of the Senate and lower house.