OU students gather to protest Bolivian election

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Bolivia protest (copy)

Protestors hold signs outside Bizzell Memorial Library Oct. 28.

A student shouted into a bullhorn in front of Bizzell Memorial Library hoping to make a difference and support friends and family back home.

More than a dozen students and community members gathered to protest a Bolivian election that has drawn international scrutiny. Bolivia’s electoral tribunal declared that incumbent President Evo Morales won the election by a sufficient margin to avoid a runoff, The New York Times reported

Many of the students were originally from Bolivia. Some were draped in red, yellow and green Bolivian flags, and others held signs. The students shouted messages in both English and Spanish, explaining their cause to students hurrying to class through brisk fall weather.

Finance sophomore Ainara Moreno has been studying in the U.S. for five years but is originally from Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Moreno said the students held the protest because people across Bolivia are protesting the election.

“Everything in Bolivia has stopped,” Moreno said. “All the main cities have been protesting. My city, Santa Cruz ... no one moves, all the roads are blocked, no one can go to work, my sister doesn’t go to school and people are just out there protesting. They have been gassed. I have friends out there, I don’t know how they’re going to be.”

Moreno said there has been little violence in the protests until now, but the protests are important. 

Morales would begin his fourth term in office after the election, which took place Oct. 20. Reuters reported in 2017 that a Bolivian constitutional court allowed him to run for a fourth term in office, despite a 2016 referendum in which 51 percent of Bolivian voters rejected his proposal to end the existing two-term limit — a referendum Morales had previously accepted.

The validity of the elections has also come into question, The Times reported, as election observers from the Organization of American States “have accused (Morales’s) party of improperly using state resources during the campaign” and “expressed skepticism about the integrity of the vote count.” 

Both the European Union and Brazil’s Foreign Ministry have called for a new election, The Times reported.

Moreno said she was in Houston this weekend protesting, and there were protests elsewhere across the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Canada. 

“We just want to stand with them,” Moreno said. “We just want to stand with our people who have not been to work, have not been to school, have been out there protesting, out there risking their lives and they just want democracy. They just want the will of the people to be heard. The least we can do from here is show them we are here, we support them, and we appreciate them.”

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