Please pray for Bolivia.
As many of you might be aware, tensions have been running very high since elections were held over a week ago on October 20. It’s a complicated affair, so I’d like to provide you with a short historical digest to help you understand how we got to this point, explain where the situation currently stands, and share how you can pray.
The current president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, has been in power since 2006, having won the presidency three times. As Bolivia‘s first indigenous president, he has been vastly popular with the indigenous population and during his tenure extreme poverty has declined. Nevertheless, he has allied himself with communist dictators around the world and he maintains his power through corruption and lawlessness. For example, in 2009, Morales promulgated a new Bolivian constitution that he and his party wrote that limited the presidency to two five-year terms. Despite that fact, he ran for a third term and won. In 2016, Morales held a national referendum asking Bolivia to eliminate presidential term limits so he could run for a fourth term. The nation rejected his proposal: 51%-49%. In response, Morales claimed that his human rights were being violated. The Bolivian high court (stacked with his appointed judges) agreed with him, thus terminating presidential term limits.
On October 20, 2019 Bolivians went to the polls for the presidential election. In Bolivia, one can win the presidency by winning a simple majority of the vote (over 50%) or by winning over 40% of the vote along with a 10+ point lead over the second-place candidate. If neither of those conditions are met, a runoff election between the top two candidates is held. On election day, with 84% of the vote tallied, Morales had a 7-point lead (45%-38%) over his main competitor, Carlos Mesa. Once it became apparent that a runoff election was inevitable, the electoral tribunal inexplicably stopped providing the vote count for a full 24 hours. When the updates resumed, Morales’ vote count had risen while Mesa’s vote count had fallen, just enough to give Morales a 10.12 point lead, thereby staving off a runoff election.
Mesa declared the election a fraud. Morales claimed that the Bolivian right wing had allied itself with international powers to stage a coup d’état. People across the nation immediately took to the streets in protest over the voting irregularities. While some elections buildings were torched, the protests were (and continue to be) mostly peaceful. The United States, the European Union, Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina have since expressed concern over the legitimacy of the election and have called for a runoff election.
Last Tuesday, pro-democracy forces in Santa Cruz and other major cities across the nation have instituted an indefinite strike that has grinded the entire nation to a halt. All businesses are closed. Pro-democracy forces have blocked all streets and highways with vehicles, tires, rocks and trees, making travel impossible except by bicycle or motor bikes. The intention of the strike is to apply maximum economic pressure to secure a runoff election between Morales and Mesa. As I write this update, the indefinite strike is now in its seventh day.
Every evening I’ve wandered the streets of Santa Cruz, witnessing the grand resiliency of the Bolivian people whose ardent desire is to live in a free and democratic society. I am profoundly impressed by their orderly and peaceful civil disobedience. Christians are mobilized, holding prayer vigils and circulating Scripture and words of encouragement via social media.
People in the U.S. have asked if I am safe. Yes, thank God, I am quite safe along with the people of Santa Cruz. Most of the disorder and clashes that have resulted in injuries have occurred in other cities like La Paz and Cochabamba. Moreover, some grocery stores have been opening for a few hours in the mornings to provide a steady stream of food and basic supplies.
It is a time of great uncertainty and it is impossible to know how it will be resolved, but we are trusting in the Lord’s providence and protection. I take great comfort in Jesus’ response to Pilate when he said, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). God is sovereign over every moment of this conflict.
How you can pray:
~ That peace and justice would prevail for the people of Bolivia.
~ For protection and wisdom for pro-democracy leaders who are leading the cause.
~ For the most vulnerable among us, especially the poor and the elderly, whose access to money and medical care has been made more difficult.
~ That Bolivians would turn to Jesus Christ for their hope.