A Conversation with Jorge Quiroga

"Democracy is under siege" in Bolivia, the country's former president and a current opposition leader, Jorge Quiroga, said last week at the Inter-American Dialogue in a presentation blasting the current government's record on democratic governance. Quiroga traveled to Washington to denounce current President Evo Morales' bid for a third term before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, hoping for the arm of the Organization of American States to issue a statement condemning Morales' re-election attempt and to call international attention to the country's political situation.

In early October, Morales announced he will run for a third term in a presidential election scheduled for late 2014. Bolivia enacted a new Constitution in 2009 that limits presidents to one re-election and included a provision saying that previous terms should be taken into consideration. However, in April, Bolivia's Constitutional Court ruled that because Morales' first term ended before the new Constitution was put into place, he is eligible for re-election. Lawmakers then passed a law authorizing Morales to run for a third term. "He has the constitutional right to choose to be re-elected," said the country's vice president, García Linera, at the time.

Opponents of Morales have criticized both the court's decision and the law, claiming that the Constitutional Court has become politically subordinated to Morales and arguing that Morales agreed in 2008 not to seek a third term. Quiroga in his speech Wednesday at the Inter-American Dialogue showed images of documents that he claimed were signed by Morales in which the president agreed not to seek a third term.

Quiroga drew comparisons to Peru's 2000 election, in which Alberto Fujimori sought a third presidential term, although banned by the country's 1993 Constitution, using an argument similar to Morales' that the restriction did not apply because it came into effect during his first term. Morales "is trampling democracy in Bolivia because there is a president who does not have a third term and, as Fujimori in 2000, is paging through a manipulation of the Constitutional Court," Quiroga told reporters Wednesday after filing a petition at the IACHR, according to EFE.

Supporters of Morales, including the president of Bolivia's Senate, Gabriela Montaño, dismissed Quiroga's argument. "This issue has been settled for some time. The Plurinational Constitutional Court, which is the highest court in the country, has already ruled on the issue and it is certainly not the task to take to international organizations an issue of constitutional review," Montaño said Oct. 24.

By filing the lawsuit a year ahead of the elections, Quiroga hopes to give the IACHR enough time to issue a statement on the charges before the elections. "If you go through normal procedures [at the OAS], it's a very low chance. I'm very skeptical about what can be done, but I at least, I want to leave a record that this is being violated. I want to stir up a record that this is being done," he said in his speech at the Inter-American Dialogue.

View the presentation below.


Related Links

Suggested Content

IACHR Report on Citizen Security & Human Rights

Citizen security remains a top concern for most Latin American governments as crime and violence spiral out of control and cripple political and economic institutions in the region.