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Democracy is Thriving in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia

Retoña la democracia en Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, EFE

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Bolivia has been part of my affective metabolism since it was my parents’ home during the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez. Over the years Venezuela was the refuge of President Hernan Siles Zuazo, whom we received at home and from whom we learned the hard work of the descendants of the Incas.

That is why throughout my life I have followed the evolution of this nation that lies in the heart of South America with interest and affection. And as such, today from its epicenter lie times of change. And they come from the region that has given birth to development. It is Santa Cruz, a city and region of Bolivia that encloses the virtues of work ethic, wealth creation, entrepreneurial attitude, and confrontation of adversities. Santa Cruz produces 30% of Bolivia’s GDP and has produced the largest proportion of the country’s middle class since the 1960s.

Today, Santa Cruz de la Sierra is the protagonist of a heroic deed that will have consequences for Latin American democracy. Because the entire region has decided to put an end to the conspiracy that in many countries has undermined the foundations of the democratic system by preventing the exercise of the right to self-determination.

Because contrary to what many believe, in Latin America the right to self-determination is not only threatened by the practice of political persecution carried out by the regimes of 21st century socialism, but also by the presence of an acute institutional weakness that prevents public servants from acting as administrators of the national patrimony and therefore as guardians of the assets that allow the provision of public services.

One of these public services is the identity of citizens. Managing it requires the existence of clear and accurate statistics. These are obtained through censuses. And in Bolivia, in 2022, a population census was required in order to extract the data that will allow the electoral roll to be made.

And the Government of Luis Arce decided to close the census, among other reasons, to maintain the profile of voters that gave him the electoral triumph. As the polls are not exactly favorable, the regime has decided to modify the population profile.

And the people of Santa Cruz have decided not to tolerate this manipulation. The entire region rose up in non-violent civic protest. It took part in the work stoppage and will continue to protest until it weakens the Arce government and very possibly suffer the consequences of repression, imprisonment, and torture. But none of this will make the people of Santa Cruz back down because, as one participant in the proposal said, “they begin by taking away our identity, and then they will take away our family, our work, and our country.”

Because in Santa Cruz it is not a question of returning to the status quo ex-ante Evo Morales but of implementing a democratic society where civil society is the main protagonist. And this happens after another civil society assumed the defense of democracy in Chile and Brazil created by means of the vote a system of weights and counterweights that dynamize the democratic game. So there is good reason to be hopeful.

Beatrice Rangel es directora del Interamerican Institute for Democracy, Managing Director de AMLA Consulting, responsable de negociar e implementar estrategias y adquisiciones de inversión corporativas en América Latina y el Caribe. Exmiembro ejecutivo de Wharton School de la Universidad de Pennsylvania // Beatrice Rangel is Director of the Interamerican Institute for Democracy, Managing Director of AMLA Consulting, responsible for negotiating and implementing corporate investment strategies and acquisitions in Latin America and the Caribbean. Former Executive Fellow of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

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