Tuesday, January 25, 2022

ARGENTINA | 16-11-2019 11:11

Transition complicated by dividing lines over Bolivia

With just weeks before outgoing President Mauricio Macri makes way for president-elect Alberto Fernández, what once looked like a harmonious hand-off is getting uglier.

Fall-out from electoral fraud, protests and Evo Morales’ resignation in Bolivia have spilled over the border, reigniting la grieta and complicating the upcoming political transition in Argentina.

Disagreements over how to respond to the crisis and the indigenous leader’s removal from office have reignited fierce fissions between Frente de Todos and Cambiemos, even creating fault-lines in the ruling coalition itself. All this just weeks before Mauricio Macri hands over the presidency to Alberto Fernández.

Morales’ outster happened Sunday. Macri’s government, which never recognised the Bolivian leader’s victory, remained fairly tight-lipped.

The president said everyone was “worried” about Bolivia and called on “all political and social actors to preserve social peace and dialogue.”

His stance differed significantly from Fernández’s, however, who almost immediately condemned the “suggestion” of Bolivian Armed Forces that Morales step down, branding it as a “coup” – a word that carries significant weight in Argentina and the wider region.

Fernández, speaking yesterday, revealed he had reached out to Macri to ask him to consider offering asylum to the former president and other Bolivian officials at the Embassy in La Paz. Macri said he would only consider an asylum request using proper channels should it be issued by Morales.

That was only the beginning of trouble between the two, whose ostensibly civil working relationship since the election last month has soured swiftly in the wake of Bolivia’s crisis.

Debate quickly emerged around whether or not what transpired could be considered a coup d’état. Fernández promptly pronounced it as such, while Macri deployed his Foreign minister Jorge Faurie to settle the score.

“The Armed Forces haven’t taken power. They are simply facilitating dialogue between distinct political forces [...],” Faurie said, adding the “elements are not present” to consider it a coup.

Fernández responded by calling Faurie an “unfortunate part of Argentina’s diplomatic history.”


Dissent reverberated within Cambiemos as well, opening up fault-lines in Macri’s ruling coalition.

Lawmaker Daniel Lipovetzky, a member of Macri’s centre-right Republican Proposal (PRO) party, made headlines when he strayed from the de facto position, saying there’s “no doubt” that what took place in Bolivia qualifies as a “coup.”

“When it involves defending democracy, there can’t be any differences in a party,” he said, calling on Congress to collectively reject the “overthrow.”

He was an early dissenter, but not the last. A number of other lawmakers sided with Lipovetzky, as did former foreign minister Susana Malcorra, who said events could “objectively” be defined as a “coup.”

After extensive meetings and arduous debate regarding its internal position, the Cambiemos caucus in the lower house Chamber of Deputies produced a unified document Wednesday which “repudiate[d] attacks against the democratic system” in Bolivia.The coalition’s proposal, signed by the three signatories representing its three main strands, blamed Morales for electoral fraud — as outlined in the report from the Organisation of American States — which ultimately “gravely” threatened democracy.

The opposition’s counterpart placed no culpability at the feet of Morales.

A similar process was repeated in the upper house of the Senate, which passed a similar resolution, also condemning the military’s role as an interruption of democratic order.


Meanwhile, Fernández has grown more entrenched. He helped negotiate Morales’ flight to Mexico and reiterated his willingness to extend asylum to Morales in Argentina upon becoming president.

“To remove a president with actions which aren’t within the framework of the rules of democracy can’t be called anything else than a coup,” he said earlier in the week, describing how Macri showed “little desire to get involved in the topic,” when they spoke on the phone.

The president-elect also took a hard line on refusing to recognise Jeanine Áñez a s Bolivia’s interim president, prompting her to respond indirectly during her first press conference yesterday.

He doesn’t have “the correct information about Bolivia,” she said, instead pinning the “real coup suffered by Bolivians” to “October 20 with fraudulent elections.”

Macri’s government hasn’t acknowledged the legitimacy of Áñez. She’s a “recommendation” but not “president” without congressional debate, a source told Noticias Argentinas.

But unity on this point hasn’t calmed emotions within Fernández’s camp. According to a report in Perfil on Friday the president-elect is “angry” with Macri and has directed his team to “cut the transition,” essentially ending communication ahead of December 10’s inauguration.

The Casa Rosada has tried to publicly temper the intensity of the situation, saying the transition process isn’t overly “elaborate.”

“Basic questions have been resolved. The reserves are protected, which is the most important thing, and after that there’s not much to discuss. They know the State well and they know what they’re going to encounter,” a Casa Rosada source told Perfil.


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