The coup d’etat in Bolivia has divided not only that country but the world. The mainstream press, the Trump administration, the Washington-compliant Organization of American States, and right-wing governments have hailed the ousting of Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president.
That’s to be expected. The US has long plotted regime change for a government that not only openly espoused socialism, but set a terrible example – in the logic of the still-present Cold War—by succeeding in improving the living conditions of its population and attaining the highest growth rates in the region.
What’s unexpected is the defense of the coup from parts of the left that have refused to call it a coup, and instead insist that the actions of the Morales government led to its own downfall.
The events and the aftermath tell a clear story: There was a coup in Bolivia, which has installed a virulently racist and fundamentalist, anti-women regime, with the full support and planning from the U.S. government and the OAS. This new regime has no intention of returning to constitutional order (despite claims to carry out elections under its terms), has eliminated separation of church and state, and has already launched multiple murderous attacks on its opponents. Security forces have murdered scores of protesters, mostly indigenous people, as the regime grows increasingly desperate and repressive.
The international community – and progressives – must join quickly in condemning the illegal act before more people are killed and thrown in prison.
Here are the classic traits of a coup: First, there’s the role of the armed forces. On November 10, military commander Williams Kaliman “suggested” that president Evo Morales, who had just been proclaimed the winner of the 2019 elections – and who had two months remaining on his previous term besides – resign immediately. Hours later, Morales presented a letter of resignation “to avoid these violent events and return to social peace.”
Now, armed forces do not “suggest” that their commander-in-chief resign – their statements were a public threat to the MAS president’s life and that of his cabinet and their families. This threat was backed up by the burning and raiding of the homes of government officials, and physical attacks and threats against MAS party members and their families.
Second, there’s the fact of prior planning. Regime change in Bolivia was long planned by the right and the US government. Years ago, the conservative “civic committees” based in the white, wealthy area of Santa Cruz began a strategy of separating from the nation ruled by a very popular indigenous, leftist president. The US embassy supported the civic committee of Santa Cruz and other opposition groups, betting on the balkanization of the country.
When that strategy failed, they began to develop a plan to foment conditions for a military coup. As for General Kaliman, he was trained at the infamous School of the Americas. The police chief who betrayed the government the day before also received training in Washington. Luis Fernando Camacho, leader of the Santa Cruz civic committee and the emerging leader of the 2019 coup, has also received direct funding and support from the US government.
Trump’s instant recognition of the coup regime was openly celebratory even as violence gripped the country. In the cold war that never ended, what matters is maintaining US hegemony, not democracy and legality. Third, there’s the effort to legitimize the coup using supranational institutions. In this case, the Organization of American States played a conscious, biased, and blatant role.
Its first act was to issue a statement questioning the vote just hours after the polls closed, with the obvious intention of delegitimizing the elections. This is an unacceptable act for a responsible electoral mission. The preliminary OAS report shows a lack of professionalism in its statistical analysis, as experts from the Center for Economic and Political Research have pointed out. It does not distinguish between the non-binding rapid count system and the official binding count.
Yet the report was key in detonating the political crisis. The OAS now has blood on its hands, and the international community must demand a full investigation into its responsibility for causing illegal acts, violence, and conflict – the opposite of its mandate in the region.
Meanwhile, the national and international press carried images of Bolivians celebrating the coup and the president’s departure. The majority who voted for Morales and who demonstrate against the coup disappeared almost completely from its pages. Police repression against them did not exist, despite the mounting dead. Only in recent days, with Amnesty International and other human rights groups issuing strong statements against the regime’s violent repression and imprisonment of opposition members, has the repress begun to report on the crackdown on protests.
Fourth, there’s everything that’s happened since the overthrow itself, which point to stark authoritarian tendencies. President Morales offered new elections when the protests broke out, eliminating all political justification for his ouster. But the opposition, already smelling blood, decided to go in for the kill. In control of the security forces and with the Trump administration at its back, it rejected any offer of dialogue.
Democracy does not exist when an individual from a party that has never won more than five percent of the vote, who is fifth in the line of constitutional succession, takes power in a country where the army is in the streets.
Excerpted from: 'What’s Happening In Bolivia Is a Violent Right-Wing Coup'.
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