Bolivia’s Citizen Revolt

Issue Date July 2020
Volume 31
Issue 3
Page Numbers 130-44
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This article analyzes the outcome and aftermath of the 2019 elections that ended with the unexpected exile of President Evo Morales of Bolivia (2005–19). It suggests that we will probably never know whether fraud deprived the opposition of the chance to compete against Morales in a runoff election. This uncertainty, however, helps to explain why the opposition succeeded in capitalizing on a widespread sense of injustice to organize an urban-based blockade of the country. The article also examines overlooked political dynamics to conclude that Evo’s departure does not satisfy standard definitions of a “military coup.” This accusation diverts attention from the chain of events leading to Evo’s resignation—from the botched elections to the unexpected snowballing of protests that in turn produced splits within the regime over how to respond. What the 2019 election crisis in Bolivia suggests is that protest and regime paralysis may be necessary conditions for defeating incumbents in less-than-democratic systems.

About the Author

Fabrice Lehoucq is professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the author of Political Instability and Its Legacies: Regime Trajectories in Latin America (forthcoming).

View all work by Fabrice Lehoucq