Economists' and statisticians' sign-on letter regarding the Bolivian elections

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We the undersigned call for Bolivia’s democratic institutions and processes to be respected.

The Trump administration has openly and strongly supported the military coup of November 10 that overthrew the government of President Evo Morales. Everyone agrees that Morales was democratically elected in 2014, and that his term does not end until January 22; yet many outside of the Trump administration seem to accept the Trump-supported military coup.

Many people who supported the coup have claimed that Morales stole the election. This story of fraud was given a very big boost by a statement issued by the Organization of American States the day after the October 20 election, which it subsequently repeated in similar forms. The statement, from the OAS Electoral Observation Mission for Bolivia, announced “deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results after the closing of the polls.” No evidence in support of this statement was included. However, it was widely interpreted as an allegation of fraud, and such allegations became common in the largest media since the election.

In fact, it is easy to show with election data, which is publicly available, that the change in Morales’ lead was neither “drastic” nor “hard to explain.” There was a pause in the “quick count” of the vote results — when 84 percent of the votes were counted — and Morales’ lead was at 7.9 percentage points. At 95 percent, his margin had increased to just over 10 percent, which allowed Morales to win in the first round, without a runoff. By the end, the official count showed a lead of 10.6 percent.[1]

It is not uncommon for election results to be skewed by location, which means that results can change depending on when different areas' votes get counted. No one argued that there was fraud in Louisiana's November 16 gubernatorial election, when the Democratic candidate John Bel Edwards, pulled out a 2.6 percentage point victory, after being behind all night, because he won 90 percent of the vote in Orleans County, which came in at the end of the count.

And the change in Morales’ lead was not “drastic” at all; it was part of a steady, continuous increase in Morales’ lead for hours before the interruption.

This graph shows that the lead held by President Evo Morales (light blue dots) and by his party in parliamentary elections (dark blue dots) rose at a steady rate for most of the vote counting. There was no sudden surge at the end to put him over the 10 percent threshold.

This graph shows that the lead held by President Evo Morales (light blue dots) and by his party in parliamentary elections (dark blue dots) rose at a steady rate for most of the vote counting. There was no sudden surge at the end to put him over the 10 percent threshold.

The explanation for the increase in Morales’ margin was therefore quite simple: the later-reporting areas were more pro-Morales than earlier-reporting areas.

In fact, the final result was quite predictable on the basis of the first 84 percent of votes reported. This has been shown through statistical analysis and also by even simpler analysis of the differences in political preferences between later and earlier-reporting areas.

We call upon the OAS to retract its misleading statements about the election, which have contributed to the political conflict and served as one of the most-used “justifications” for the military coup. We ask the Congress of the United States to investigate this behavior of the OAS, and to oppose the military coup, the Trump administration’s continuing support for it, and the continuing violence and human rights violations of the de facto government.

Media outlets and journalists also have a responsibility to seek independent experts who are at least familiar with the election data and can offer an independent analysis of what happened, rather than simply take the word of OAS officials who have now repeatedly shown to be wrong about this election.

Many lives may depend on getting this story straight.

Signers (in alphabetical order)

(name, affiliation for identification purposes)

Alan Aja, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

Randy Albelda, University of Massachusetts Boston

Greg Albo, York University

Gar Alperovitz, The Democracy Collaborative

Yali Amit, Department of Statistics, University of Chicago

Eileen Appelbaum, Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Mariano Arana, Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento

Michael Ash, Professor of Economics and Public Policy, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Winston Alarcón Athens, Profesor retirado, Escuela de Matematicas, Universidad de Costa Rica

Venkatesh Athreya, Adjunct Professor, Asian College of Journalism

Dario Azzellini, Visiting fellow, LASP, Cornell University

Amiya Kumar Bagchi, Institute of Development Studies Kolkata

Dean Baker, Co-Founder, Senior Economist, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Nesecan Balkan, Hamilton College

Amit Bhaduri, Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Rafael Bianchini, Teacher at GVLaw

Peter Bohmer, The Evergreen State College

Mario Boido, President, Canadian Association of Hispanists, University of Waterloo

Korkut Boratav, Turkish Social Science Association

Pablo Gabriel Bortz, Universidad Nacional de San Martín

Manuel Branco, University of Évora

David Brotherton, City University of New York

Jorge Buzaglo, Independent researcher

Rogelio Caballero, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Andrea Califano, IUSS Pavia

Al Campbell, University of Utah

Jim Campen, Professor of Economics, Emeritus, UMass/Boston

Gian Enrico Casartelli, World Bank (retired)

Shouvik Chakraborty, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Ha-Joon Chang, Director of the Centre of Development Studies, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge

Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Professor (Retired), Jawaharlal Nehru University

Anis Chowdhury, Western Sydney University

Savvina Chowdhury, The Evergreen State College

Alan B. Cibils, Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento

Nathaniel Cline, University of Redlands

Andrew Cornford, Geneva Finance Observatory

Anthony D'Costa, University of Alabama in Huntsville

Dante Dallavalle, Adjunct Lecturer, John Jay College, City University of New York

Peter Dorman, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy, Evergreen State College

Mathieu Dufour, Université du Québec en Outaouais

Amitava Dutt, Professor of Economics and Political Science, University of Notre Dame

Gerald Epstein, University of Massachusetts

Jeff Faux, Founder, Distinguished Fellow, Economic Policy Institute

Chiensan Feng, National Cheng Chi University

Julia Martinez Fernandez,        Observatorio de la Sostenibilidad en la Región de Murcia

James Galbraith, The University of Texas at Austin

Clara Garcia, Complutense University of Madrid

Jayati Ghosh, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Sam Gindin, Retired, UNIFOR Staff

Daniele Girardi, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Carmine Gorga, President, The Somist Institute

Daphne Greenwood, University of Colorado

Josué Guzmán, American Statistical Association

Guillermo Hang, economist, Universidad Nacional de La Plata

GC Harcourt, UNSW Sydney

Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, Universidad de La Habana

Barbara Hopkins, Wright State University

Gustavo Indart, University of Toronto

Ian J Seda Irizarry, John Jay College, City University of New York

Raja Junankar, University of New South Wales

Arne Kalleberg, Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Stephanie Kelton, Stony Brook University

Farida C. Khan, Chair and Associate Professor of Economics, University of Colorado Colorado Springs

Mary C. King, Professor of Economics Emerita, Portland State University

Cedric Koch, WZB Berlin

Conrad J Koeneke, New Jersey Institute of Technology

Ingrid Harvold Kvangraven, University of York

Susan Lambert, University of Chicago

Michael A. Lebowitz, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Simon Fraser University

Thea Lee, Economic Policy Institute

Stephan Lefebvre, American University

Dominik A. Leusder, Economist and Independent Consultant

Oliver Levingston, Postdoc, Centre d’études européennes et de politique comparée, Sciences Po

Noemi Levy-Orlik, Economic Faculty, UNAM

Gilberto Libanio, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

Arthur MacEwan, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Massachusetts Boston

J. W. Mason, John Jay College, City University of New York

Inderjeet Mani, Georgetown University (retired)

Kathleen McAfee, Professor, International Relations, San Francisco State University

Pankaj Mehta, Associate Professor of Physics, Hariri Institute for Computing, Boston University

Nicola Melloni, Visiting Fellow, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto

Lara Merling, International Trade Union Confederation

Josep Amer Mestre, European University Institute

John Miller, Wheaton College

Alexis Sánchez Miño, Lecturer of Statistics and Probabilities, Technical University of Ambato

Mritiunjoy Mohanty, IIM Calcutta

Anu Muhammad, Jahangirnagar Universty

Kamal Munir, University of Cambridge

Isabel Ortiz, President, Global Social Justice

Mustafa Özer, Professor, Anadolu University

Leo Panitch, York University

Francisco Javier Pantoja Pantoja, Universidad del Cauca Colombia

Christian Parenti, John Jay College, City University of New York

Mark Paul, New College of Florida

Eleuterio Prado, University of São Paulo

Renee Prendergast, Reader, Economics, Queen's University Belfast

Alicia Puyana, FLACSO MÉXICO

Rahim Quazi, Prairie View A&M University

Rodrigo Quiroga, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba

R. Ramakumar, Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences

Andrés G. Mejía Ramón, The Pennsylvania State University

Miriam Rehm, University of Duisburg-Essen

Hye Jin Rho, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Joseph Ricciardi, Babson College

Alfredo M Rosete, Central Connecticut State University

David Rosnick, Economist, Center for Economic and Policy Research

C Saratchand, Satyawati College, University of Delhi

Gonzalo A. Saraví, CIESAS - México

Angshuman Sarma, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Saskia Sassen, Professor, Columbia University

Antonio Savoia, Global Development Institute, The University of Manchester

John Schmitt, Economic Policy Institute

Stephanie Seguino, Professor of Economics, University of Vermont

Heidi Shierholz, Economic Policy Institute

Marcie Smith, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Kannan Srinivasan, Independent Scholar, Wertheim Study, New York Public Library

Kendra Strauss, Simon Fraser University

Donald Swartz, Associate Professor (retd.), School of Public Policy and Administration

Matt Templeton, American University

Martha Tepepa, Levy Economics Institute of Bard College

Chris Tilly, Professor of Urban Planning and Sociology, UCLA

Alissa Trotz, Professor, Women and Gender Studies and Caribbean Studies, University of Toronto

Oscar Ugarteche, Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas UNAM

Antonio Urbina, Technical University of Cartagena

Matias Vernengo, Bucknell University

Scott Weir, Economics (retired), Wake Technical Community College

Mark Weisbrot, Co-Founder, Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Jack Williams, MIT Election Data and Science Lab

John Willoughby, Professor of Economics, American University

Richard Wolff, The New School

John Womack Jr., Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics, emeritus, Harvard University

Anna Zalik, York University

Ben Zipperer, Economic Policy Institute


[1]  The official count, unlike the “quick count” cited by the OAS, is the only legally binding vote count and was not interrupted.