Eduardo Leal

Documentary Photographer
    
Ghost Town Democracy
Location: Macau, China
Nationality: Portuguese
Biography: Eduardo Leal is a Portuguese documentary photographer based in Macau, China, that focus his work mostly in South East Asia. Previously he worked for several years in South America. He graduated in Journalism at Escola Superior de Jornalismo (ESJ)... read on
Public Story
Ghost Town Democracy
Credits: eduardo leal
Updated: 11/30/16
Location: La Paz, Bolivia
Archived as:  ,

Countries like the United States and the UK are trying to integrate elections seamlessly into daily life—you can vote by mail as if you were depositing a check, or even from your car while the engine idles. Voting takes place on weekdays. And yet, more often than not, voters just ignore the process altogether.

Bolivia does things differently. The South American nation, which reelected leftist Evo Morales to an unprecedented third presidential term on the back of strong economic growth, is one of the small minority of countries that has compulsory voting. And to make sure everyone does their part, the country shuts down. No driving, no rallies, no domestic flights, no alcohol.

La Paz is usually a chaotic city, with cars, motorbikes, dogs, people, and the crowded mini-vans that double as buses all jostling for space on its streets. But on election day, the usual buzz was replaced by silence, broken only by voices and children playing and riding bicycles on the main roads. Completely empty of traffic, La Paz, becomes a ghost town.

Compulsory voting starting in Bolivia in 1952, and voting day restrictions have grown since then. Alcohol cannot be sold for 48 hours before and 12 hours after the polls close (Bolivians are fond of forms of pure alcohol and even industrial-grade alcohols that would wobble any democracy). Public gatherings or shows are forbidden; no vehicles can drive on the streets except with a permit from the Electoral Tribunal. Getting anywhere during an election is a challenge: La Paz’s bus and train terminals shut from Saturday 4 pm until 3 am the following Monday morning. Even flights are grounded, except those leaving the country or the international flights on a layover.

Some residents turned the once-crowded streets into their playground, riding bikes or playing soccer. Others complained about the disruptions to their business, their daily life and—the irony of democracy!—their freedoms.

6,014

By Eduardo Leal —

STORY

Sangam

By Eduardo Leal — India’s Kumbh Mela is considered the largest gathering of humanity on Earth. Just on the last Kumbh, that finished on Prayagraj last March, it..
STORY

In the Ring

By Eduardo Leal — About 15 years ago seeing women on a ring fighting Muay Thai in Thailand was almost unheard off, unless it was in a ceremonial fight in the local..
STORY

Plastic Sea

By Eduardo Leal — Every year more than 448 million tons of plastic are produced worldwide, of these between 5.3 million to 14 million tons enter the oceans, meaning..
STORY

Cholita's Rise

By Eduardo Leal — As recently as 10 years ago, Bolivia’s indigenous Aymara and Quechua women were socially ostracized and systematically marginalized. Known as..
STORY

St. Bartolomeu

By Eduardo Leal — Every year on 24 August, faith and tradition join thousands of people at the feast of St. Bartolomeu do Mar, for an unusual ritual that mixes the..
STORY

Afterquake

By Eduardo Leal — On the 16 th April 2016 at 18:58 local time, the earth became alive for 75 seconds in Ecuador. An earthquake of the magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter..
STORY

Revolution Chronicles

By Eduardo Leal — At the end of June 2011, I arrived in Caracas, the capital of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela with the objective to cover the celebrations of..
STORY

Copa do Povo

By Eduardo Leal — Even if football was born in England, Brazil is considered the spiritual home of the game. During a month, from the 12th June 2014, the world will..
STORY

Bolivian Ball

By Eduardo Leal — Travis Dupree comes from Eastman, a small town in central Georgia. He played basketball at Voorhees College in South Carolina but after graduation..
STORY

Killer Bean

By Eduardo Leal — The soybean will in a few years become one of the most important food commodities on earth. No other fruit is produced with comparable..
STORY

The Island

By Eduardo Leal — Surrounded by sand and lagoons in Lençois do Maranhão National Park, an area that stretches 155 thousand hectares on the State of Maranhão in..
STORY

Wrestling Cholitas

By Eduardo Leal — Every Sunday afternoon on the city of El Alto, once merely suburb of the city of La Paz situated at 4,150 meter high, hundreds of Bolivians and..
STORY

Forcados

By Eduardo Leal — Portuguese forcados lie somewhere between the bull riders of the Americas and the bloodier bullfighters of Spain. Unlike in Spain, where the bull..
STORY

Plastic Trees

By Eduardo Leal — The world consumes 1 million every minute, it was considered by Guinness World Book of Records as “the most ubiquitous consumer item in the..
STORY

Victims & Heroes

By Eduardo Leal — Colombia’s armed conflict, which started in the 1960’s, might be close to an end. After almost four years of negotiations between the Colombian..
STORY

Bolivian Dreams

By Eduardo Leal — Linked to the celebration of the harvest and the arrival of the rains in the La Paz region, the Alasitas Festival is the feast of the dreams for..
Join us
for more access