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Who is Eva Copa, the little-known figure who helped pave the way for new Bolivian elections?

Photo of Eva Copa from the Bolivian Senate's Instagram account.

Until recently, the prospects for new elections in Bolivia appeared bleak. Announcing new elections was a key condition for the country to begin the process of pacification after weeks of strikes, protests, road blockades and violence following the contested October 20 presidential elections that led to resignation of President Evo Morales. Opposing parties from the interim government led by President Jeanine Áñez and Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) political party were having difficulty reaching a consensus on the conditions for new elections.

Based on negotiations and consensus-building, however, a law was signed on Sunday, November 24 that cleared the way for new elections to take place on an as-yet-unspecified date.

A key figure in the convening and negotiation process was the current president of the Bolivian Senate, Mónica Eva Copa Murga, or Eva Copa as she is better known. After the resignation of the previous President of the Senate and other high-ranking party officials, Copa, a MAS senator from El Alto, Bolivia, assumed the leadership position due to Senate succession rules. Many Bolivians, however, did not know much about her.

As Daniel Gómez of the news site ALnavío put it,

Eva Copa, no quiere más muertos ni más violencia en Bolivia. Quiere negociación, diálogo y paz. Su apuesta es porque se arribe lo antes posible a elecciones urgentes, como señala el acuerdo que firmó este domingo con la presidenta interina, Jeanine Áñez. No hay que olvidar que Eva Copa es dirigente del MAS, el partido de Evo Morales. Un MAS dividido entre los radicales del evismo, y los pragmáticos. Ella representa a estos últimos.

Eva Copa doesn’t want any more deaths or violence in Bolivia. She wants negotiation, dialogue and peace. This is the reason she’s working to make sure these crucial elections happen as soon as possible, as signaled through the agreement she signed this Sunday with interim President Jeanine Añez. Let’s not forget that Eva Copa is the head of MAS, Evo Morales’ party. A party divided between Evo-ist radicals and pragmatists. She represents the latter.

María Galindo from the feminist collective Mujeres Creando (Women Creating) recently published a short Spanish-language essay profiling Copa in the Argentine online monthly magazine La Vaca. In the essay, Galindo shares her admiration for Copa's courage and provides some background to introduce readers to this unfamiliar leader:

Tiene 32 años, es alteña, hace semanas que no duerme en su casa por razones de seguridad; es estudiante de Trabajo Social y la vida no le ha dado la oportunidad de terminar su carrera. Estudia en la universidad pública de El Alto […] No es chola, aunque seguramente su madre o su abuela lo son: ella es birlocha. Viste un cómodo pantalón y su cabello negro largo y brillante no esta trenzado, sino suelto o con cola. Sus labios café oscuro, sus mejillas quemadas por el sol alteño y más que nada su forma de hablar -con una mezcla extraña de parquedad, solidez y timidez- la colocan como la antítesis política de Yanine Añez.

(Copa) es una mujer que asumió el peso del que otros y otras huyeron. Cuando le pregunté comó y por qué se había animado a hacerlo me dijo: “porque soy alteña, porque no tengo otra salida, porque no me voy a ir de Bolivia a otra parte: no tengo por qué escapar”. Y cuando le pregunté ¿y por qué han escapado tantos y tantas?, responde: “Dicen que por razones familiares”.

She is 32 years old from the city of El Alto, for weeks she has not slept at home for security reasons; she is student of social work student and life has not given her the opportunity to finish her career. She studies at the public university of El Alto […] She is not a chola [person of indigenous peasant background], although surely her mother or grandmother are: she is birlocha [a term denoting the children of cholas]. She wears comfortable pants and her long shiny black hair is not braided, but rather it is loose or held together with a ponytail. Her lips are dark brown, her cheeks burnt by the El Alto sun and above all, her way of speaking — with a strange mixture of roughness, firmness and shyness — position her as the political antithesis of Yanine Añez.

(Copa) is a woman who assumed the burden from which that others fled. When I asked her how and why she was motivated to do so, she said: “Because I am from El Alto, because I have no other way out, because I am not going to leave Bolivia to go somewhere else: I do not need to escape.” And then I asked her, then why have so many escaped? She responded, “they said it was for family reasons”.

Galindo concludes the essay praising Copa for her handling the pressure in the face of overwhelming odds:

La ciudad de El Alto es una ciudad donde cotidianamente las mujeres cargan en sus espaldas grandes bultos en aguayos, llevan su mercadería, o sus wawas, sus angustias o sus esperanzas a cuestas. Eva carga un bulto también: el bulto de esperanzas para frenar una guerra civil, el bulto de ungüentos con que conjurar la violencia de los asesinos, carga el bulto de los sueños de los asesinados, carga el bulto de las lágrimas de las dolientes que no paran de llorar, dejando claro una vez mas que las mujeres no queremos ocultar nuestra fragilidad y nuestro dolor.

Eva es la antítesis de Yanine Añez, pero también de Evo.

El Alto is a city where on a daily basis women carry large bundles in aguayos [a traditional multi-colored wrap], carry their merchandise, or their babies, their anguish and hopes in tow. Eva also carries a burden—the hopeful burden of halting a civil war, the burden of the balm that conjures up the violence of murderers, the burden of the dreams of those murdered, the burden of the tears of the mourners who cannot stop crying—making it clear that women do not want to hide our fragility or our pain.

Eva is the antithesis of Yanine Añez, but also of Evo [Morales].

Galindo also interviewed Copa on her radio program broadcast on the Radio Deseo station in La Paz.

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