They are colloquially known as pititas. There are the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators and digital activists that a year ago paralyzed Bolivia for 21 days and are attributed to the overthrow of ex-president Evo Morales in November 2019. This movement reaches Sunday’s elections divided between two options: Carlos Mesa , who has more electoral possibilities than his great opponent, the Morales Movement for Socialism (MAS), and Luis Fernando Camacho, the ultra-conservative leader who led the street protests against the then president.
Although with different electoral preferences, pititas they are a social and political identity whose role in Bolivian politics has been decisive in the past twelve months. This community started with small protests before the referendum organized by Morales in 2016 to try to lift the constitutional ban on a third reelection. “At that time they called us ‘the four cats’”, recalls Claudia Bravo, an activist and politician who has since been against reelection. The movement became much broader – but still without involving large social sectors – when Morales ignored the results of that referendum and made his candidacy via a consultation with the Constitutional Court. And it became massive after Carlos Mesa, who believed he had obtained enough votes to compel Morales to go to a second round, denounced the conduct of a “monumental fraud” in last year’s elections.
Morales initially dismissed this new opposition that sought to confront him, for the first time, in a field where he felt invincible, that of social mobilization. So he baptized her involuntarily, by mocking his technique of blocking the streets with pititas, thin strings. Morales’ irony was assumed by the protesters as a “name of honor” and, with his defeat, made history. Most of the local media called the overthrow of the indigenous president a “Pititas revolution”. Thus, it opened an acute controversy with the national and Latin American left, which interpreted what happened as a coup d’état, because in the decisive phase of the confrontation with Morales, the pititas they received help from the police, who mutinied and failed to obey the Government, and from the Armed Forces, who “suggested” to the president to resign.
Since then, several books on chronicle and defense of the movement have been published, which emerged after allegations of fraud. The last one is entitled 21 Days of Resistance. The fall of Evo Morales and was written by Robert Brockmann, a renowned historian who considers himself pitita. “The pititas, a national collectivity as large as it is diverse and dispersed, they are, we are, possessors of a genuine political victory in the streets, product of a spontaneous mobilization, result of a collective ideal of democracy that was being violated and kidnapped. The pititas they succeeded, even though the goddess Fortuna had mediated, what Venezuelans or Syrians could not, even with enormous sacrifice of human lives, ”wrote Brockmann in an article entitled Yo, pitita.
Many sociologists disagree with the definition of this social group as “a national collectivity as large as it is diverse and dispersed”. Although at its best it included many popular sectors unhappy with Morales, above all it is a movement of the middle classes. Both from that which in Bolivia takes the name of “traditional”, formed by people who earn between 10 and 50 dollars a day (55.70 and 278.48 reais, approximately), and by the upper layers of the “vulnerable” middle class, whose members earn between $ 7 and $ 10 a day.
Both social groups do not consider themselves indigenous. Studies show a close correlation between “non-indigenous” identity and opposition to MAS. In the neighborhoods with the most rural immigrants in the city of El Alto, for example, up to 90% of the population votes for Evo Morales’ party. In the more accommodated neighborhoods of La Paz, where indigenous people do not live, the opposite is true.
The perception that pititas have of themselves is very different. “There is a heterogeneity; it has a lot of middle class, people from very rich areas, but also university students, peasants, etc. We made the blocks sharing corners with ladies from the markets, with students; It was a joint struggle and that was why the MAS was overthrown; it was a citizen movement ”, says Bravo. The activist highlights the participation of young people and women, who were at the forefront of street clashes and today are the most active critics of MAS on social networks. “It is a generational movement. The new generation surpassed their parents who spent 14 years [durante o Governo anterior] in their homes and doing nothing. So be pitita is to be a kind of superhero ”, continues Bravo.
Acting President Jenine Áñez called one of her dogs pitita. At the beginning of his government, this policy represented the movement better than anyone, but later, while stumbling over serious management difficulties and his candidacy weakened the “unity against MAS”, he became a controversial and conflicting character even for these groups. “The problem is that there are those who want to arrogate the deed for themselves,” writes Brockmann. “We didn’t do it”, exemplifies, in reference to Camacho, Mesa and Áñez; “We didn’t do it for any of them. They did it with us against the attempt to hijack our democracy and install the dictatorship ”.