Caracas, July 13, 2020 (OrinocoTribune.com).- In this new episode of Chavista Chronicles from Caracas we had the pleasure and honor to interview Ollie Vargas in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Vargas is a Bolivian/British journalist reporting from Bolivia since December 2019 and covering the Jeanine Añez dictatorship, a highly repressive right wing regime.
Our first question to Vargas was about his personal safety due to the fact that many other foreign journalists have suffered repression and even death after the presidential elections in Bolivia in October, 2019, as in the case of the Argentinian journalist Sergio Moro, found beaten in his house and dying a few days later. No one responsible has been brought to justice in his case.
The Bolivian journalist explained to us that it is always a complex scenario, working as a journalist under the current dictatorship, because they not only have to deal with a repressive de facto government but also with paramilitary groups supporting the dictatorship. Vargas let us know that the news agency he is currently working with, Kawsachun News, is based in Cochabamba, to be more precise in the Tropico of Cochabamba, an Evo and MAS stronghold. That fact makes things a bit easier for him to do his job but, whenever they have to move outside, they are always under alert and practicing security measures.
ur second question was about the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for September 6th where the main pollsters show a big gap between Luis Arce, MAS presidential candidate, and Carlos Mesa (in second place according to polls) or Jeanine Añez (third place). We also ask him about the regime’s willingness to actually hold the elections.
Ollie Vargas said that the gap between Arce and the other right wing candidates is very big and even an alliance between Añez and Mesa won’t let them win but will force a second round. The journalist was still optimistic in that scenario because he said that there is plenty of MAS/EVO support in remote areas of Bolivia that are underreported in the polls that mostly reflect the sentiment in the cities.
He added that his main concern and a very probable scenario is having Añez suspending the elections using any argument, just because they know they won’t be able to win unless they commit massive fraud.
In that sense, we asked him about the MAS contingency plan to avoid the right wing’s theft of the elections, especially the vote in those remote areas supportive of MAS. His answer was that MAS is prepared to fight for each vote. He also said that there is an initiative to invite international personalities to work as observers, including CODEPINK and other internationally recognized progressive groups and individuals.
Our next question was about the Covid-19 pandemic and its status in Bolivia. He told us that the situation is worse than the media portrays, that there have been basically no political willingness from the Jeanine Añez government to properly address the emergency and that they are just jumping from one corruption scandal to the other in connection to the pandemic.
He added that the situation in Beni is very sensitive especially because that is a jungle area in the border with Brazil and indigenous communities are threatened to their very core due to Jeanine Anez negligence. He sees the situation in Bolivia very similar to the one lived in Ecuador a few months ago.
Our last question was about the frictions within MAS amidst the presidential elections, how the selection of Luis Arce might affect the balance of power within MAS, and its effect on a positive electoral outcome.
He admitted that the process itself was not the best and that the grassroots formula was David Choqueuampa and Andronico Rodriguez (for president and vice president respectively) but a MAS special meeting in Argentina opted for the Luis Arce and David Choqueuampa ticket. That might have created some frictions at the beginning but now it seems to have vanished due to the good results shown by the ticket in the polls.
He added: Luis Arce was the Minister of Economy and he really is seen by many Bolivians as a key to economic recovery especially when it is very well known that the dictatorship mismanagement has put Bolivia back into a terrible economic situation.
In the second part of the interview Ollie Vargas asked us about the perception among Venezuelans about what has happened in Bolivia in recent months, across the political spectrum, but also he wanted to know how we Venezuelans see Jeanine Añez, a self-proclaimed president in comparison with Juan Guaido.
We told him that most progressive forces in Venezuela were in shock after the coup d’etat against Evo Morales, and how badly it affected the balance of power on the continent. We also told him that at least Jeanine Añez managed to get control of the government in Bolivia, nothing in comparison with the endless sequence of failures of Juan Guaido. There is no real comparison besides the bizarre way they chose to self swear themselves in as “interim presidents”.
We added: Guaido does not control a single block in his neighborhood or the neighbors meeting in the condo where he lives. He is not the president or interim president of anything and since January he is not even president of the Venezuelan National Assembly.
Featured image: Photo composition courtesy of MintPress. Ollie Vargas and an indigenous Bolivian woman.