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November 15, 2019

Rightwing coup or popular uprising?


November 15, 2019

Socialist Bolivian president Evo Morales has been forced to resign. A well-prepared rightwing coup removed him from power. The military intervened after 18 days of protests and asked the president to resign.

Evo Morales declared his ouster from power as a civic coup organised by his rightwing opposition. The first indigenous president has been forced to resign and flee from the country. The leftwing Mexican government has provided him political asylum.

In his resignation speech, Morales said that “my sin is to be indigenous, trade unionist and coca grower”. Millions supported and loved him as a leader of indigenous and poor people but US imperialism and the Bolivian elite hated him for his pro-people and anti-imperialist policies.

He fled the country after violent attacks on his house, his family members and party leaders by violent opposition protesters. Some houses of his party leaders were burnt down. The police refused to provide protection to him and his party leaders.

The Bolivian rightwing opposition is trying to give the impression that president Morales was brought down by a popular uprising, not the military -- even though opposition leaders have admitted that the troops did not take to the streets during the unrest. The fact is that without the support of the army, the opposition was not in a position to oust him.

The rightwing calls it a victory of the people for democracy but the left across the globe calls it a coup against democracy and the working people of Bolivia.

It is not yet an outright military coup as happened in a number of countries in Latin America since the 1960s to topple left-leaning governments. It is a well-documented fact that most of those military coups were organised with the practical help of the CIA to serve the interests of American imperialism.

But this time in Bolivia, a different strategy was used: giving it a civilian face. It is a masked coup with opposition leaders at the forefront but with the military doing all the maneuvering from behind.

There is no doubt that Bolivian army backed the opposition forces and refused to support the democratic government. It was clear that Morales had lost control of crucial parts of the state machine. He has been removed as the result of a very well executed plan. The Bolivian military junta played a key role in this plan. The Trump administration, military, police and rightwing capitalist opposition forces joined hands against the socialist president.

The opposition forces mobilised their supporters in big numbers. They created chaos and anarchy on the streets. The police joined the protesters and organised a mutiny. The military top brass used the situation to exert pressure on the president to resign.

The neoliberal capitalist class finally succeeded in ousting an anti-imperialist, anti-neoliberal and leftist leader to replace him with a pro-imperialist, pro-neoliberal and rightwing leader to serve the interests of the capitalist elite and American imperialism.

The opposition used irregularities in the October 20 presidential election which was won by Morales as an excuse to launch its plan to remove the democratically elected constitutional president from his office. Morales won 47.8 percent of the vote as main opposition candidate Mesa got 36.5 percent.

Pro-Morales protests have been taking place in many parts of the country. The situation is not clear yet. It is not yet clear whether these protests will grow and spread and also pose a serious challenge to the coup consolidating its power.

Whatever one likes to call it, the fact is that the period of stability, economic growth and pro-people reforms has come to an abrupt end. The most stable democratic socialist government in Latin America has been removed. Morales came to power on a radical reformist programme in 2006. He promised to end neoliberal and free market economic policies, reduce poverty and introduce social programmes to lift millions out of poverty and hunger. He fulfilled many of those promises.

Morales remained in power for 14 years and won three presidential elections with a wide margin. He reduced the number of people living in poverty by half. The size of the GDP was quadrupled. The economy performed very well under his rule. He made access to clean air and water a legal right. His government carried out partial nationalisation of the gas industry, telecommunication company, and introduced subsidies for the poor. The working class, poor indigenous population and peasants made gains during his government.

Morales was a popular leader. But his decision to hold a referendum in 2016 to amend the constitution to run for a fourth term did not go well with some sections of the population. He lost the referendum. But he still managed to get permission from the Supreme Court to run for a fourth term.

His support started to fall since 2016. Morales won over 63 percent of the vote in the 2014 election; in October 2019 his vote fell to 47 percent. Meanwhile, the opposition regrouped.

The writer is a freelance journalist.