The Planned Coup in Bolivia
(This is the English translation of a video commentary ENFOQUE WASHINGTON on Rompeviento TV broadcast Nov. 17, 2019)
Evo Morales arrived on Tuesday, thanking Mexico for “saving his life” after the coup d’etat that has left Bolivia without a legitimate president and plunged the nation into chaos and violence. Morales’ arrival in Mexico was a journey, according to the Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, that reflected the geopolitical map of the
continent when right-wing governments denied the use of their airspace to transport the president.
The Mexican government’s decision to grant asylum to Bolivia’s indigenous president has caused a stir in Mexican social networks and media. The López Obrador administration explained that its decision to his Andean counterpart, who faced death threats in his country, was made in accordance with the principles of Mexico’s foreign policy, humanitarian considerations and national and international law. The decision was brave and commendable.
Bolivia now confronts the extreme right seizure of its government. In the international community, the coup has sparked debate and divided leaders into ideological camps. But apart from ideologies, this is a coup that violates the constitutional order and must be condemned by the whole world.
First, for the role of the armed forces. On November 10, the commander of the Armed Forces Williams Kaliman “suggested” the resignation of Constitutional President Evo Morales. Hours later, the president presented a letter of resignation “to avoid violent events and return to social peace ”. Note: The armed forces do not “suggest” the resignation of their commander in chief. Their pronouncement was a direct threat, and was accompanied by burning and raids of government officials’ homes, and physical attacks and threats against MAS party members and their families.
Second, the coup to bring about regime change was long planned by the rightwing and imperialism. Years ago, civic groups in Santa Cruz began with a strategy of separatism. The United States Embassy supported the civic committee of Santa Cruz and other opposition groups, betting on the balkanization of the country and when that didn’t work they raised the possibility of a military coup.
A Wikileaks cable from the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia, November 2007, noted encouragingly: “There are strong indicators of a division in the military forces and they could be very reluctant to follow orders.” General Kaliman was sent to Washington between 2013-2016 and trained in the School of the Americas. The police chief who betrayed the government the day before was also trained in Washington. Luis Fernando Camacho, leader of the
civic committee of Santa Cruz, has received funding and direct support from the U.S. government.
Trump is seeing a dream come true now in Bolivia. In his statement following the coup, he states in a
triumphalist tone: “The United States applauds the Bolivian people for demanding freedom and the Bolivian military for abiding by its oath to protect not just a single person, but Bolivia’s constitution. These events send a strong signal to the illegitimate regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua that democracy and the will of the people will always prevail. We are now one step closer to a completely democratic, prosperous, and free Western Hemisphere.” In the effort ito maintain U.S. capitalist hegemony, democracy and legality don’t figure in.
The Organization of American States played a conscious and catalyzing role in the coup. First, just hours after the polls closed the OAS issued a statement with the clear aim of delegitimizing the elections, an unprecedented move for any responsible Electoral Mission. Their preliminary report shows a lack of professionalism in statistical analysis, as noted by an analysis by experts from the Center for Economic and Political Research. It does not distinguish between the non-binding preliminary count and the official binding count and casts suspicions on a fully anticipated voting trend in Morales’ favor. The report unleashed, intentionally, the political crisis that now is taking lives. The OAS has blood on their hands.
Meanwhile, the national and international press is filled with images of Bolivians celebrating the coup and the exile of the president. The majority who voted for Morales and who demonstrate against the coup disappeared almost completely from the news, along with the police repression against them. They do not exist, despite the dead.
Third, with Chile and Honduras and other countries in political crises and a part of the left supporting the ouster of Morales, there is a lot of debate about what is a popular insurrection and what is a coup. In addition to the reasons above, the responses tell much of the story. President Morales offered new elections after the OAS questioned the first round results. But the opposition, already smelling blood, and in control of the security forces and with the support of imperialism, rejected the offer of dialogue. Democracy does not exist when a person from a party that has never won more than 5% of the vote, is fifth in the line of constitutional succession takes possession in a country where the army is in the streets. Yet that is precisely the situation with Bolivia’s current ruler, Jeanine Añez.
Finally, the crisis in Bolivia coincides with the 30-year anniversary since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The cold war ended, but not the mentality of one against another, virtue against evil, dualisms that blind the analysis of the facts. In the networks, conservative forces celebrated the coup with the phrase “one less”, as if the game of stopping communist dominoes continued and human rights and the defense of democratic principles did not exist. On the right and part of the left, pundits use the term “the people” to sanctify thier own points of view. No one can speak on behalf of the “Bolivian People”, much less “the indigenous people.” Bolivia today is deeply divided and although the Morales administration committed errors- at this point it is clear that the
decision to go to a third re-election after losing a reform referendum had a very high political cost–it’s time to defend democracy and oppose the arrival of the anti-democratic, racist and fundamentalist ultra-right.
Evo Morales won the elections with a clear majority of between 9 and 10 points–all that was in dispute was whether he had the ten-point margin to avoid a second round. Now the future of Bolivia under a spurious right-wing government with real power in figures like “Macho Camacho” who has trained in shock groups with neo-
Nazi ties would be a tragedy.
At this time, Bolivia has an anti-constitutional president who too office in a ceremony in which General Kaliman repeatedly uttered the phrase “Mission accomplished! ” The rightwing installed a bible in the National Palace and expelled the Pachamama. There are video testimonies that the right has launched a witchhunt against followers of the president. The number of political prisoners is unknown. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned “the use of excessive force by the security forces” against the pro-Evo opposition and
widespread persecution campaigns. There are 10 deaths reported, and hundreds injured.
Indigenous leaders and journalists report physical attacks on women wearing polleras, and burning of the whipala, the indigenous emblem.
This is not a popular insurrection that the right commandeered. The right and imperialism have worked for years preparing for this moment. Reports indicate that the rightwing civic and youth groups are armed and trained. Already in power, they have rejected any attempt at dialogue,
It is important to understand the lessons of how Evo Morales lost the support of significant groups of feminists, indigenous peoples and workers, once his base. It is important to continue to criticize the extractivist model that does so much damage to the land, to communities and to our future. It is important to build processes from below to break the patriarchal dynamics and oppressive styles of leadership.
But right now there is a coup d’etat in Bolivia that could result in the long-term dictatorshi of an ultra-right regime that would be a major disaster for indigenous rights, women’s rights and life itself.
In Bolivia, violence reigns. No one knows where the crisis will lead.
It is time for the other countries to take a stand, beyond ideologies in favor of democracy, international law, and peace. It is time for the other countries to take a firm stand against the coup in Bolivia.