Patricia Arce, mayor of Vinto and a member of the Movimiento al Socialismo leftist party led by Morales, was dragged into the street by anti-government protesters who forcibly cut her hair, poured red paint on her and forced her to walk barefoot and sign an impromptu resignation letter. Arce was accused of contributing to the arrival in the city of Morales supporters who a few hours earlier had been involved in some clashes that had led to the death of a 20-year-old boy.
After being held hostage by protesters for four hours, who in the meantime had also set fire to the building of the municipality, Arce was rescued by the police and taken away. After the attack, Morales wrote on Twitter: "All my solidarity with our sister mayor of Vinto, Patricia Arce, abducted and cruelly abused to express and defend her ideals and the principles of the poorest".
Toda mi solidaridad con nuestra hermana alcaldesa de Vinto, Patricia Arce, secuestrada y vejada cruelly por expresar y defender sus ideales y le principos de los mas pobres. Condenamos violentas acceded que causan luto y dolor in the Bolivian family.
– Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) November 7, 2019
The attack on Arce is not the only episode of violence that has occurred in recent days in Bolivia. Only Wednesday, during the anti-government demonstrations held in many cities in the country, 90 people were injured, some of them seriously. Protests and clashes continued in various parts of the country on Thursday, including La Paz. So far three people have been killed in the protests.
The demonstrations began on Monday 21 October after the preliminary results of the presidential elections that were held the day before had been released: Morales had obtained 47.07%, against 36.51% of the challenger and former president Carlos Mesa.
To win in the first round, Morales needed more than 50 percent of the votes, a target not reached, or a 10 percent advantage over his opponents, a measure that was achieved. Tens of thousands of Bolivians, however, had begun to protest disputing the results, considered suspicious by many because of some oddities in the dissemination of data. The results of a preliminary counting of votes – different from the official one, and organized to give greater transparency to the process – gave the two closest candidates within ten points. But then the Supreme Electoral Court had stopped updating the results for a day, and when it had resumed the gap between Morales and Mesa it had widened just above the ten points, detachment then confirmed by the official count.
Morales is a former coca collector and was the first Bolivian of Indian origin to be elected president. He has been in power for fourteen years, when he won the elections for the first time: he has enjoyed very high consensus for a long time and is still a very popular leader today, but his long stay in power has started to give him criticism and accusations of authoritarianism. In February 2016 he lost a referendum just slightly to confirm a further change to the Constitution that would have allowed him to stand as a candidate also in 2019. The following year, however, the supreme court of the country annulled the result of the referendum, arguing that the limit to number of mandates was a violation of political rights.
Mesa was president from 2003 to 2005, and had returned to popularity in recent years because the Morales government had appointed him as his representative in the legal dispute with Chile over the issue of the landfall.