RPT: OPINION - Crisis In Bolivia Latest Signal Of Deepening Militarization Of Latin American Politics

MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 14th November, 2019) OSCOW, November 14 (Sputnik), Valentina Shvartsman - The political crisis in Bolivia, which led to the resignation of President Evo MOSCOW (Pakistan Point news / Sputnik - 14th November, 2019) orales under the pressure of the armed forces and protesters, is another sign of the alarmingly increasing role of the military in the regional nations' democracies and return to the past-century army's self-proclamation as "guardians of the order," Professor Pia Riggirozzi, who heads the Department of politics and International Relations at the University of Southampton, told Sputnik.

Bolivia has entered into a political turmoil after Morales' first-round victory in the October presidential election, contested by the opposition. The army and police sided with protesters and urged Morales to resign even though he pledged to hold a new election and reshuffle the electoral board after the preliminary report of the Organization of American States found "grave" irregularities in the vote.

Morales was granted a political asylum in Mexico, where he traveled on Tuesday amid fears for his own life. Jeanine Anez, an opposition lawmaker and second vice speaker of the Senate, declared herself interim president on Tuesday despite there not being a quorum after pro-Morales lawmakers boycotted the session. The Constitutional Court then confirmed the legality of the transfer of power to her.

"What we have seen in Bolivia in the last weeks is the emergence of the police and military forces as self-proclaiming guardians of a certain democratic order. The democratic process in Bolivia was interrupted by the removal of Bolivian President Evo Morales," Riggirozzi said.

According to the expert, the regional democracies have been struggling to ensure civilian control of the military over the past two decades.

"This has been particularly important given the history of military intervention across the region, often based on the military's self-perception of the forces playing a 'preventive role' against actors and orientations considered subversive of the 'order' or the actor capable of 'restoring' that order," Riggirozzi explained.

Nonetheless, the region has witnessed all kinds of upheaval rising doubts about "the nature and limits of democratization" in Latin America: Morales' forced resignation was preceded by the ousting of Paraguay's former President Fernando Lugo on counts of "bad performance" (described by himself as the parliament's "express coup") in 2012 and impeachment of Brazil's Dilma Rousseff in 2016, she noted.

"I am worried about the increasing militarization in Latin American democracy ... Institutions are fragile and leaders are recurring to the military as guardians of social order," Riggirozzi said.

She pointed out to the alarmingly growing role of the military in other countries across the continent as well. As one of such instances the expert named the militaristic and inflammatory rhetoric of the Brazilian government under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, a former army officer himself, who has recently come under fire over the order to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the 1964 coup, which resulted into 21 years of military dictatorship.

Meanwhile in Chile, which has been mired in violent protests against poor public services, low salaries and rising tariffs since early November, President Sebastian Pinera declared a state of emergency surrounded by military figures. Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, who also had to declare a state of emergency in his country amid deadly protests, is relying on the military support, she noted.

"The message is there: the army is ready to re-establish 'order,'" Riggirozzi said.

Morales had been president of Bolivia since 2006, during which time he established himself as the country's first indigenous leader and a beacon of the global left. His stepping down and subsequent departure for Mexico has been viewed by several countries, including Venezuela, Cuba, and Mexico as a military coup.