Letters & Opinion

OAS and Elections in Bolivia and Dominica – Part 2

Hoping for the Best and Planning for the Worst!

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

Developments are moving faster than normal in Bolivia and Dominica.

The contending Bolivian forces have joined in pursuit of peace and new elections and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has told Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro to back-off from trying to force the Dominica government to invite an OAS mission to observe the island’s upcoming December 6 general elections.

President Evo Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party has recognized the US and army-backed self-imposed ‘interim’ administration and is working with it to hold new elections, but without Morales.

The UN, OAS and CARICOM have all backed the movements towards fresh elections for Bolivia, without commenting on the coup that forced an elected president out of office.

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However, the OAS Permanent Council held a meeting November 22 in Washington at which the CARICOM group stood squarely behind Dominica’s insistence on deciding which observer missions to invite. Besides, Dominica had already invited observer missions from CARICOM, the British Commonwealth and the US-based Carter Center.

In such situations, with peace seemingly replacing violence in both countries, observers are usually tempted to conclude that ‘All’s well that ends well.’ But history is also pregnant with reasons to equally hope for the best and plan for the worst.

It’s too early to conclude whether Morales ran away or chose exile in Mexico to live to fight another day. His life was truly at stake and his final choice would have been based on his own assessment — and agree or not, it must be respected.

However, with Morales out of the way, the 10% minority of European origin that has ruled Bolivia for centuries has reasserted its full autocratic authority over the indigenous majority and the country’s natural resources, including its lucrative lithium resources.

The historical geopolitical and economically disproportionate East-West divide separating the country between the poor majority in the larger Highlands and the controlling minority in the resource-rich Lowlands is now back to pre-Morales times. But the indigenous people are fighting back, without much trust in the principal political actors playing card games in the capital La Paz that deal and keep them out of the play.

In Dominica, the stage-managed and live-streamed opposition protest march on the President’s official residence that put the Nature Isle rebounding from climate calamity in the world headlines for all the wrong reasons, has been exposed.

But the strange call by Opposition United Workers Party (UWP) Leader Lennox Linton for Caribbean security forces not to respond positively to any eventual appeal for emergency security assistance by Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and his Dominica Labour Party (DLP) administration, ought not to be taken lightly.

Like in Bolivia in the final days leading to the October 20 poll, the Dominica political opposition is not widely seen as winning the next election against a popular prime minister and DLP re-elected in the last three general elections without any complaint of electoral malpractice, even from the UWP.

Like in Bolivia too, violence has also been brought into play in Dominica ahead of the poll.

The Skerrit administration issued a detailed Elections Fact Sheet that replied to every one of the opposition’s recent claims and complaints, including the right of Dominicans abroad who qualify to return home to vote.

But given Washington’s increasing penchant for using its overwhelming influence in the Washington-based OAS to pursue its strategic political, economic and military (security) interests through various types of interventions in Latin American and Caribbean elections, those plotting external intervention will not simply call it a day in Bolivia or Dominica.

Despite elections successfully held there earlier this year, Secretary General Almagro is already pressing Nicaragua to return to the polls after Managua rejected a similar demand to allow an OAS Observer Mission.

The OAS electoral arm is preparing to make the next Bolivia elections a showcase of its ability to more than just observe, but also to conduct and conclude – and in ways that often override and undervalue the national elections bodies.

The ‘massive evidence’ of ‘widespread irregularities’ cited by the OAS Observer Mission in Bolivia that led to the annulment of the poll and gave the military and the political opposition the fig leaf to hound Morales out of office has not yet been presented to the world in any convincing manner. Nor has the OAS convinced all its member-states of the claimed statistical improbability of a Morales-MAS victory.

Instead, it remains a fact that Morales and MAS were registered as having got 47% of the votes cast and the entire election was annulled by the external observer team on account of the OAS’ dispute of a deciding 3% of the votes cast in areas that have traditionally overwhelmingly supported MAS and Morales.

The OAS is quickly developing an unenviable reputation for association with controversial annulments of Caribbean elections that result in removal from office of leaders who refuse to toe Washington’s line, including the removal and forced exile to South Africa of Haiti’s President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004, the year of the Bicentennial of the Haitian Revolution that established the world’s first Black Republic.

Almagro’s unapologetic leadership of the OAS into paths seen as dictated by the pro-Washington and Canada-led ‘Lima Group’ of member-states united in their opposition to Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro administration has been having effects.

Member-states that consider themselves targeted for regime change are starting to follow Cuba and leave the OAS, accusing it of being used as an instrument for US implementation of the Monroe Doctrine in Latin America and the Caribbean, which Washington always regards as ‘America’s backyard’.

Cuba pulled out of the OAS following successive US-backed armed mercenary and military interventions attempting to turn back the 1959 Cuban Revolution, especially following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and Washington breaking diplomatic ties with Havana in 1962.

Venezuela left the OAS earlier this year, with the US and the Lima Group supporting its ambassador’s ‘replacement’ by an appointee of the unelected Washington-backed ‘Interim President’ Juan Guaido.

Under intensified external pressure to allow the OAS to intervene in its electoral affairs, Nicaragua could very well also follow suit.

Almagro recently led a successful maneuver by the US’ staunchest allies at the OAS to reactivate the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) that will allow governments (interim or elected) to request US-led military intervention in times of crisis.

God Forbid, but should something happen in Dominica between now and December 6 resulting in another Interim Administration (like that which followed the overthrow of the Patrick John administration over four decades ago), would such an administration, especially if led by Opposition Leader Linton, also be empowered to request OAS intervention through the TIAR?

In pursuit of regime change when those to benefit feel they have just one chance left to get rid of an un-liked regime, the antagonists don’t sleep. Instead, they work overtime — and also always with Plans B and C in their back pockets.

It is against such a background that threats of violence and warnings against Caribbean security assistance in case of a national security emergency in Dominica must be hoped to be just threats, but must also be taken quite seriously, just in case they are more than just threats.

In Bolivia, no stone was left unturned by those in pursuit of regime change when it seemed close at hand. Likewise, therefore, Dominica should also take warning and leave no stone untouched, if only to avoid regretting.

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