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When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited a number of Latin American countries last week, he made several speeches denouncing the dictatorships of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. But, regrettably, he didn’t say a word about Bolivia.
It wasn’t an oversight. The Trump administration has embraced the term “Troika of Tyranny” to refer to the regimes of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, but rarely refers to the ongoing dismantling of democratic rule by Bolivia’s narcissist-Leninist President Evo Morales.
The Bolivian ruler, who has been in office since 2005, is running for a fourth term in October’s presidential elections despite the fact that his own constitution explicitly prohibits more than two consecutive terms in office. What’s more, he lost a 2016 referendum that he had convened in an effort to change the constitution so that he could seek a fourth term.
But none of that is stopping Morales from running in October. Although it sounds like a joke, he now is arguing that he has the right to run under the Organization of American States’ Human Rights Convention’s provision that nobody should be barred from running for office, even though an OAS report recently said that the Convention cannot be used by presidents to violate constitutional term limits.
Why is the Trump administration so silent on Bolivia? It may be that Trump doesn’t give a damn about democracy — he has embraced the dictators of North Korea, China, Russia and Turkey with unusual passion — and his Troika of Tyranny policy is just an electoral strategy to win Florida in the 2020 election. There are few Bolivian-American voters in Florida, as opposed to those of Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan heritage.
It may also be because there have been far fewer deaths in Bolivia’s anti-government protests than most recently in Nicaragua and Venezuela and, historically, in Cuba. Or, perhaps, it’s that the Trump administration doesn’t want to open another front in Latin America when it has yet to meet its vow to force Venezuela’s dictator Nicolás Maduro from power.
Then there’s this possibility: John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, publicly brags about coining the term “Troika of Tyranny” and can’t find an equally catchy term for adding Bolivia to the list. “The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse” doesn’t have the same ring to it.
The fact is the Trump administration only referred to Bolivia’s upcoming elections in a cautiously phrased Feb. 21 tweet by State Department Chief of Western Hemisphere Affairs Kimberly Brier, in which she said that, “The international community must remain vigilant” to ensure free elections in October.
Congress is showing more spine in denouncing the ongoing assault on democratic rule in Bolivia. A bipartisan April 12 Senate resolution sponsored by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey; Dick Durbin, D-Illinois; and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, “expresses concern for efforts to circumvent presidential limits in the Bolivian Constitution.” It also calls on Morales “to respect, and where necessary restore, the independence of key electoral and governing bodies” in time for the elections in October.
Days later, 15 Bolivian opposition lawmakers sent a letter to Trump calling on the United States to press the OAS to “avoid the consolidation of a totalitarian dictatorship by Evo Morales.”
It’s of utmost importance for the Trump administration, and other democracies, to denounce Morales’ unconstitutional re-election bid. If the world looks the other way, as it did when Maduro ran a Mickey Mouse election in 2018 and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega in 2016, Bolivia may descend into the same spiral of chaos and violence as those two countries did.
If Morales declares himself the winner in October, he will take office in early 2020 as an illegitimate president. Bolivia then will find itself in the same position Venezuela was in January 2019, when virtually all Latin American democracies declared Maduro an illegitimate president.
If Trump and Latin American leaders want to prevent another totalitarian regime that could spark a new crisis in the region, now is the time to speak out.
Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” 8 p.m. Sundays on CNN en Espanol. Andres Oppenheimer will present his latest book, “The Robots are Coming,” at 8 p.m. May 2 at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. Twitter: @oppenheimera