BUENOS AIRES – Former Bolivian president Evo Morales said on Friday that if fraud took place in last October’s election in the Andean nation, the Organization of American States (OAS) was the guilty party.
“Many entities (maintain) that there was no fraud on Oct. 20 in Bolivia. If there was fraud, it was that of the OAS,” Morales told a press conference in the western Argentine city of Mendoza.
The Bolivian spoke out a week after two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said that their study of the returns found no “statistical support” for OAS accusations of fraud to aid Morales in his bid for a fourth term.
“The most famous universities of Latin America and Europe said there was no fraud and asked the OAS to retract and (conduct) a profound investigation of those who carried out the electoral audit,” Morales said.
The day after the elections, as the vote-counting continued, the OAS joined the Bolivian opposition in claiming fraud.
Seeking to address those concerns, Morales agreed to an audit of the ballots by the OAS, which issued a report on Nov. 10 asserting that the results could not be validated due to “deliberate actions that sought to manipulate” the vote count.
Morales, the first indigenous president of Indian-majority Bolivia, denied the OAS allegation but agreed to a new general election.
Hours later, however, the military forced him to resign and he accepted temporary exile in Mexico, before being granted asylum in Argentina.
In a Feb. 27 article in The Washington Post, John Curiel and Jack R. Williams of the MIT Election Data and ScienceLab wrote: “as specialists in election integrity, we find that the statistical evidence does not support the claim of fraud in Bolivia’s October election.”
The MIT researchers carried out their study at the request of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which last November published a paper that likewise contradicted the OAS.
The OAS, according to Curiel and Williams, took a “novel approach to fraud analysis” that rested on untested assumptions and arbitrary standards.
Based in Washington and reliant on the US government for 60 percent of its funding, the OAS responded to the MIT study with a statement reiterating its claims of fraud.
Bolivians are set to go the polls on May 3 for a re-run of the October election and Morales announced plans to seek a seat in Senate, but authorities barred his candidacy on the grounds that he is not in the country.
The right-wing provisional government in La Paz has threatened Morales with arrest if he returns to Bolivia.
Morales said on Friday that there was “no technical or juridical argument” to justify the Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s decision to keep his name off the ballot, adding that he fears other candidates from his leftist MAS party will also be disqualified.
“They tried to destroy, to do away with, the MAS. They could not. Now, they are trying to exclude individual candidates,” he said.
Morales used the appearance in Mendoza to repeat his appeal for a global electoral mission to monitor “all the elements” of the upcoming election process in Bolivia.
“We defenders of democracy ask the international community to accompany us, not just with observers,” he said. “We are prepared to protect the vote, but the participation of the international community will also be important.”
The leader of the provisional government, former Sen. Jeanine Añez, is running for president despite having said at the time of her installation as interim president by the armed forces that she would serve only until voters elected a new government.
Añez belongs to a right-wing party that got only 4 percent of the vote nationwide last October.
MAS has chosen Luis Arce, who was economy minister for most of Morales’ 2006-2019 tenure, as its presidential candidate.