Andres Oppenheimer

Evo Morales’ power grab would be a great Netflix series. Call it ‘Emperor of the Andes’ | Opinion

After changing Bolivia’s constitution in his favor, Evo Morales claims to have won a fourth term as president.
After changing Bolivia’s constitution in his favor, Evo Morales claims to have won a fourth term as president. Getty Images

Dear Netflix content director,

Thank you for your recent television series about political corruption and government abuses in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Cuba, some of which I have truly enjoyed. But if you’re looking for new ideas for a series taking place in Latin America, I strongly suggest you do one about Bolivia.

I know, Bolivia rarely makes headlines, and its 11 million population market is too small to justify one of your tens-of-millions-of-dollars mega-productions. But, if you keep reading, you will see that a TV series on Bolivia’s transition from an authoritarian democracy to a full-blown dictatorship might attract audiences everywhere.

If it weren’t for the fact that at least three people have died and 170 were wounded in recent days in the national protests over President Evo Morales’ dubious victory in the Oct. 20 elections, a TV series about Bolivia’s political crisis would even be amusing — almost.

The central character would be Morales, a former coca growers’ leader who became his country’s first president of indigenous descent in 2006. But he soon started living like a king, becoming increasingly egocentric and grabbing near-absolute powers.

Morales bought himself a luxurious $38 million plane and erected a grandiose 29-story presidential palace that overlooks much of the capital. He also built a $7.1 million museum — the country’s biggest — to glorify his life story, which led critics to call him, jokingly, “Ego” Morales.

Despite the fact that Bolivia’s constitution allowed him to rule for only two consecutive terms, Morales changed the constitution to run for a third term. Then, in 2016, he convened a national referendum to change the constitution once again so that he could run for a fourth term.

Morales lost that 2016 referendum, but came up with a new — and ridiculous — scheme to stay in power: He argued that his human rights would be violated if he were barred from running for office. Bolivia’s Constitutional Tribunal, which he controls, rubberstamped his argument, and he ran for a fourth term in the Oct. 20 elections.

The story got even wilder. At 8 p.m. on election night, with 83 percent of the votes counted, official results showed Morales would not win in the first round. The conventional wisdom was that Morales would lose in a runoff election, because most opposition candidates would unite against him.

All of a sudden, shortly after the 8 p.m. results were announced, the vote counting was stopped, and the system remained down for the next 23 hours. When the new results were announced the next day, the voting trend miraculously changed in Morales’ favor. Shortly thereafter, he announced that he had won in the first round.

A 92-member electoral observation mission from the Organization of American States later ruled that the suspension of the vote counting was “inexplicable” and recommended holding a runoff election. Then, the private company hired by the Morales regime to do an audit of the election results ruled Friday that it could not validate Morales’ self-declared victory. The company’s name is — no kidding — Ethical Hacking.

Morales said that the opposition was staging a “coup” against democracy. He got the OAS to send a new team of 30 election auditors , which Bolivia’s opposition leaders say are biased in favor of the Morales regime.

Why would non-Bolivians care about all of this? Because some Latin American leaders such as Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Argentina’s President-elect Alberto Fernandez have congratulated Morales for what they described as his Oct. 20 electoral “triumph,” while many others have remained silent.

And because there are many other angles that make Bolivia’s drama interesting. There’s an alleged mistress who claimed to have had a love child with Morales; there are spineless business people who profit from the president’s favors; and there are foreign fortune-seekers eager to get a slice of Bolivia’s huge lithium reserves.

What’s happening in Bolivia, much like what happened in Venezuela and Nicaragua, could become a fascinating TV series about the slow-motion demolition of democracy. Trust me, a lot of people would watch it. Why don’t you call it, “Emperor of the Andes?”

Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show at 8 p.m. E.T. Sunday on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera

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