Recent events in Bolivia in the light of our religious faith. By Bishop Robert Flock #BolivianCrisis


Open up the gates that a righteous nation may enter, one that keeps faith.”

(Isaiah 26,2)

The dramatic and historic events that we have experienced in Bolivia since the fraudulent elections of Oct 20 culminating in the configuration of a new national government on Nov 12 give us abundant reason to give thanks to God who guides the destinies of the world in wisdom and hears the cry of his people in mercy.

It needs to be recognized that the civic movement that called for new transparent and democratic elections with new election officials and excluding the participation of those responsible for the fraud, was not only a demand for our earthly authorities. It was above all the cry to heaven that God might intervene in this just cause. And we believe that God heard the prayers that were publicly expressed in the massive cabildos as well as in the road blocks and neighborhood groups characterized by an extraordinary and peaceful discipline at all times.

In contrast, we were witnesses to how the highest level of government responded, threatening to surround the cities, cut off food supplies and wage war in the streets. The violence committed almost exclusively by government supporters left many wounded and several dead, but it also served to reveal the true character of the Movement to Socialism (MAS), which is still trying to sow chaos and fear in the population. From its conception and in its ideology, this is a movement to savagery, fueled by the discourse of racism and resentment, and openly rejecting the Church and God himself, as was evidenced by the words of now ex-president Evo Morales: “Should anyone say [salvation] comes down from heaven, No. From heaven comes only the rain, salvation does not come to us from heaven” (Jan 22, 2015). His fall from power demonstrates the opposite.

To be clear, not all “masistas” share these attitudes. In my years in Cochabamba I observed that the vast majority of their leaders and officials were ignorant of and uninterested in the ideology of the movement. The allied themselves because of its apparent identification with the Andean indigenous populations and because it was the only way possible to obtain public works, as the centralist government conditioned any and all programs in terms of staying in power, in express contradiction to what Pope Francis had to say about Bolivia´s “process of change” when he visited the country and participated in the II World Encounter of Popular Movements:

This change is understood not as something which comes about because this or that political option was imposed, or because this or that social structure was installed. Painfully we know that structural change which is not accompanied by sincere conversion of hearts and attitudes, will sooner or later become bureaucratized, corrupted, and collapse. There must be a change of heart. This is why I so like the image of a process, and of processes, where the passion to sow and to serenely cultivate what others will see flourish replaces the anxiety to occupy all available seats of power and see immediate results. The option is to generate processes and not to occupy the seats of power.” (July 9, 2015, Santa Cruz).

The Movement to Socialism preaches a gospel in defense of the poor and the indigenous, of social inclusion without racism and discrimination, and of ecology and the rights of mother earth. However, as Jesus himself observed: “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thorn bushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6,43-45). Among other fruits we witnessed handicapped people being teargassed after their march to La Paz, the kidnapping of the IX March of Indigenous Nations in Chaparina, and the colonization of the Chiquitana region with authorization to burn it down. Tragically, MAS produced evil from the store of evil in the hearts and ideology of its leaders. No one can deny that the indigenous peoples of Bolivia have suffered greatly; but the road to justice and peace cannot be built from resentment, nor from ideologies that exclude our Creator who owns everything and everyone.

Given this reality, we call upon all our people to undertake an authentic process of change according to the call of Pope Francis, beginning with the heart, humbly recognizing that we all fall easily into sin and error, and that those who think differently can widen our points of view to more clearly see the path forward. I ask for MAS and all other political, economic and social actors to transform into a Movement to the Servant of all, which will allow itself to be guided in all its determinations by the wisdom and goodness of heaven.  Everyone must renounce recourse to violence and terror, the weapons of Satan. It’s great that the Bible has returned to the Government Palace in La Paz, but it is much more important that the Word of God be present in the hearts of those who govern and of the true sovereign, the people who elect them.

Open up the gates that a righteous nation may enter, one that keeps faith. With firm purpose you maintain peace; in peace, because of our trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever! For the LORD is an eternal Rock.” (Isaiah 26,2-4).

+ Robert Flock

Bishop of the Diocese of San Ignacio de Velasco

November 14, 2019