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Bolivia Elections, An Opportunity To Defuse Extreme Polarization: UN Rights Chief

The UN’s top human rights official has called on everyone active in Bolivian politics, to ensure calm on the streets, and refrain from any action that could undermine the peaceful conduct of the general elections, taking place on Sunday.

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged all Bolivians to use the polls as an opportunity to “defuse extreme polarization” plaguing the Latin American country over the past few years.

“Everyone should be able to exercise the right to vote in peace, without intimidation or violence”, she said in a statement, on Friday.

“These elections represent an opportunity to really move forward on social and economic fronts, and to defuse the extreme polarization that has been plaguing Bolivia over the past few years.”

In light of the political and human rights crises unleashed during the previous national elections process a year ago, Ms. Bachelet expressed hope that Sunday’s poll would take place in a calm, participatory and inclusive manner, that ensures respect for the human rights of all.

Bolivia fell into crisis last October after President Evo Morales declared victory in disputed elections that would have granted him afourthterm, prompting mass protests. Dozens were killed and hundreds injured, amid reports of widespread human rights violations and abuses.

Mr. Morales later stepped down and left the country.

‘Serious concern’ over inflammatory language

The High Commissioner also voiced serious concern at the inflammatory language and threats made by some political actors in recent weeks, as well as the increasing number of physical attacks that have been taking place.

“It is essential that all sides avoid further acts of violence that could spark a confrontation,” she said.

“No one wants to see a repeat of last year’s events, which led to extensive human rights violations and abuses, including at least 30 people killed and more than 800 injured – and ultimately to everyone losing out.”

The UN human rights office (OHCHR) deployed a mission to Bolivia in November 2019. The mission remains in the country, to monitor and report on any human rights violations and abuses, including in the context of the elections.

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