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Bolivian transport crisis threatens to deepen Morales-Arce rift

Bolivia’s ongoing transport problems, caused by roadblocks on the border with Peru and local conflicts, are causing difficulties across the country and threaten to worsen a rift between President Luis Arce and his predecessor and key ally Evo Morales, causing concern in the ruling MAS party.

Due to the ongoing blockade of the key Desaguadero border pass between La Paz department in northwest Bolivia and Puno province in eastern Peru, the Bolivian government has had to negotiate opening an alternate route with its Peruvian and Chilean counterparts, the public works ministry said in a release.

The border pass has been blocked for over 50 days as a result of the ongoing anti-government protests in Peru.

According to Bolivia’s foreign trade institute (IBCE), the conflict has caused losses of around US$350mn in terms of halted imports and exports.

Former president Morales, who has clashed with Arce previously over issues such as corruption and economic management, blasted the current administration’s handling of the issue and called for the government to lift restrictions on exports to bring in US dollars for the central bank, whose reserves are under pressure due to high demand for hard currency. 

“The apathy and lack of solidarity with the working people shown by some ministers undermine the chances of an economic recovery,” Morales wrote on social media. 

Arce has opted to avoid a direct confrontation with the ex-president and called for the MAS party to avoid division.

“Unity is the only path to face the right-wing that is being organized to face us in the next elections,” he was reported as saying by Venezuelan news agency Telesur. 

While Bolivia’s next general election is scheduled for 2025, it has been reported that both Morales and Arce want to run, which puts them on a collision course to win the candidacy in a primary vote.

Both have supporters in the party and their rivalry came to the fore during last year’s vote on the 2023 budget bill, which was at one point blocked by legislators who back Morales.

Former vice president Álvaro García, who served under Morales during his entire presidency (2006-19), told daily La Razón that any conflict between the two could lead to “electoral suicide.” 

Source: bnamericas