La Paz, Jan 24 (EFE).- Supporters of former Bolivian President Evo Morales (2006-2019) held a third day of road blockades on Wednesday demanding the resignation of the country’s Supreme Court justices, who in December extended their own terms in office and disqualified Morales from running for president once again.
During the first two days of protests, the demonstrations were concentrated in the central region of Cochabamba, which connects the highways that run from east to west of the country. On Wednesday they spread to the departments of Oruro, Santa Cruz and Potosí.
The state-run Administradora Boliviana de Carreteras reported 14 blockades in the departments of Cochabamba (9), Oruro (2), Santa Cruz (2), and Potosí (1).
The Constitution in force since 2009 established that the highest judicial authorities be elected by popular vote, with the candidates having been previously selected by Parliament.
The pre-selection process for the 2023 elections was paralyzed twice by actions taken by the Constitutional Court, which in December extended the term of office of the magistrates of the main courts of the country in an extraordinary way, arguing that it was necessary to avoid a “power vacuum” until new elections were held.
The move was rejected by opponents and sectors close to Evo Morales, who accused the government of “dictating” sentences and making “political pacts” with the courts.
The Constitutional Court also issued in December a ruling stating that re-election in Bolivia is “one time only,” whether continuous or discontinuous, and that indefinite reelection “is not a human right.”
Meaning that Morales, who governed three times (2006-2009, 2010-2014, and 2015-2019), could not be a candidate for the 2025 presidential elections.
The government of President Luis Arce believes that the blockades are motivated by Morales’ interest in running for re-election, and warned that the blockades are causing more than $121 million in daily economic losses.
Morales and Arce, both from the Movement Towards Socialism party, have been estranged since the end of 2021.
Early Wednesday morning, supporters of Evo Morales blocked the route between Santa Cruz and the southern city of Yacuiba, on the border with Argentina, which is one of the main routes for freight transport, according to local media.
Additional groups said they would also set up blockades in the department of Tarija and the northern region of Potosí.
According to a police report, one group attempted to block a highway in the Yungas region of La Paz in the morning, but residents of nearby towns rejected the protest as the protesters were not from the area.
Given the risk that the protests could turn violent, the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights said that “the exercise of the right to peaceful protest must be guaranteed by the State” and that security forces must adapt their actions to “international standards on the use of force”.
It also urged the groups of demonstrators to “respect the rights of third parties outside the conflict”. EFE