A new MIT study has found no evidence of fraud in Bolivia’s 2019 election, despite allegations of serious irregularities by the Organization of American States (OAS), which led to the ousting of Evo Morales in a military coup.
John Curiel and Jack R Williams examined the OAS’s report and published their findings in the Washington Post on Thursday. “As specialists in election integrity, we find that the statistical evidence does not support the claim of fraud in Bolivia’s October election,” they wrote.
New research shows there was no fraud in Bolivia's October elections, which Evo won.
— Ollie Vargas (@OVargas52) February 27, 2020
The MIT researchers said the OAS had adopted a “novel approach to fraud analysis” and that its statistical conclusions would appear to be “deeply flawed.”
Headlines across the world unquestioningly declared ‘overwhelming evidence’ of fraud after the OAS claimed “deliberate” and “malicious” attempts had been made to rig the vote in favor of Morales.
The allegations were quickly seized upon by opposition forces and eventually led to a military coup which saw a right-wing government headed by Jeanine Anez come to power. Morales was even forced to flee to Mexico and from there on to Argentina where he was granted political asylum.
.@washingtonpost now reports fraud allegations in Morales' October 2019 reelection had no basis – but its editorial board wasted no effort demonizing @evoespueblo & claiming he was "undermining democracy" in #Bolivia in the crucial weeks between the election & coup. pic.twitter.com/sDuEO2LQbT
— Morgan Artyukhina (@LavenderNRed) February 27, 2020
The MIT study was commissioned by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). Its director Mark Weisbrot said Thursday that the OAS “greatly misled the media and the public” about Bolivia’s election. “The OAS needs to explain why it made these statements and why anyone should trust it when it comes to elections,” he said.
Under the OAS’s odd criteria for fraud, it is even possible that US elections, in which votes counted later in the day tend to lean Democratic, could be classified as fraudulent, the researchers said.
Morales told RT last November that the OAS had made a “political decision” and played a key role in deposing him, though he was roundly dismissed by Western media at the time – including the Washington Post, which published the latest findings.
He even recalled attempting to contact OAS’s Secretary General Luis Almagro and warning an aide on the phone: “If you do not review your report… you are going to set Bolivia on fire and there are going to be deaths.”
Deaths did indeed follow; Bolivia was engulfed in riots and protests between Morales supporters and security forces.
Curiel and Williams said they had reached out to the OAS for comment, but did not receive a response. The researchers ultimately warned that “relying on unverified tests as proof of fraud is a serious threat to any democracy.”
Featured image: OAS electoral observers on their way to present their preliminary report hours before Evo Morales was force to resigned.