On the coup in Bolivia

Grayson Walker is a junior Philosophy, Politics and the Public and Philosophy double major. He is a guest writer for the Newswire from Greenville, S.C.

It has been said that there are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen. Although the whole global order seems to be unravelling before our eyes—from Paris to Baghdad, Santiago to Hong Kong—the turbulence all across South America in particular has all but confirmed this.

Perhaps the pure rapidity of successive events has contributed to the confusion about the situation in Bolivia. Many people, including many nuance-mongers on the left, have assumed that the anti-Morales protests belongs to the same kind as that of Chile or Ecuador in being a popular movement against an unpopular government. They, uncritically, lend their support to military’s removal of Evo Morales from office and welcome the “restoration” of democracy. Morales, who was elected to a fourth term in office, is decried as an autocrat with ambitions to dismantle Bolivian democracy.

Yet as anyone who has been keeping up with the situation can attest to, the “restoration of democracy” has produced anything but a calm situation – much less has it “restored” democracy. Bolivian police officers cast off the indigenous Wiphala flag from their uniform, vowing to “slaughter” the pro-Morales indigenous protestors flooding the streets. Jeanine Áñez, who has previously called indigenous Aymara celebrations “satanic,” entered office carrying a Bible and has claimed secularism to be an invention of Morales’ MAS party. Coup leader and Áñez-ally Luis Fernando Camacho, who has an explicitly Christo-Fascist background replete with Nazi salutes, has proclaimed that Bolivia to be finally “for Christ,” that “Pachamama will never again enter this palace.” Pachamama, for reference, is an indigenous goddess worshipped by the Ayarma people; the statement is an allusion to Morales’ Ayarma background.

Bolivia today resembles a warzone. In response to the ousting of Morales by the military, millions of indigenous people across Bolivia have mobilized in support for their ousted President, with tens of thousands of indigenous people pouring into El Alto awaiting the return of Morales. In response to this, the military and police face down indigenous protestors with armored vehicles. Things are heating up to resemble a civil war situation. Indeed, indigenous protestors have adopted a new chant: “Civil War! Civil War!”

At the time of writing this, at least 33 people have been murdered by the militarized police, with hundreds more injured. The police have showed no hesitance to open fire on the protestors, not unlike in Ecuador a few months ago when US-backed snipers picked off unarmed protestors in the streets.

Yet The New York Times broke the news that Morales has “resigned” in the face of “huge protests set off by a disputed election.” Quartz, much like clueless liberals obsessed with #Russiagate, blames foreign conspiracy. Marco Rubio celebrates the Bolivian people “standing up for democracy” in rejecting the “would-be autocrat” Morales. The Associated Press celebrated Áñez as a “woman’s rights activist.” Fascism is lauded so long as it appeases the woke liberals of the West.

Among all the politicians in the race, Bernie Sanders stands alone as the only one so far to come out and condemn the events as a coup. The best other candidates have been able to cough up is either outright celebration of the military’s deposal of Morales or a weak hope that elections are called following Áñez’s unelected interim presidency.

So how did we get here? And is there any credence to the narrative that such a deposition was a win for democracy?

It is worth noting that Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, has cut poverty by more than half, and has overseen an economy growing two times the average rate in South America. His time in office has been nothing other than a success story. Of course, his path has earned him lots of enemies. Morales’ nationalization of key industries and commitment to social justice has earned him the resentment of local oligarchs, of whom Camacho belongs, and the animus of American companies who want free reign over Bolivia’s rich resources.

One of those resources is lithium, which Bolivia holds massive reserves of. As a part of Morales’ anti-imperialist agenda, the President voiced plans to nationalize lithium. Coincidentally, Tesla, a company which relies on lithium batteries, has seen its stock soar since the chaos of October 20th’s election and Morales’ subsequent flight to Mexico.

Morales thus does have an opposition. One cannot pretend he has the entire country unified behind him. But his enemies are the oligarchs and monied interests in his country, not the indigenous majority. There is no denying he did win the election, which was verified by Bolivia’s supreme court as legitimate. OAS, a mainly U.S.-funded organization founded with the intent on curbing leftist movements in the Western Hemisphere and which is headquartered in D.C., has been the institution most cited in calling the elections as illegitimate. But their claims are based on an unofficial “quick-count” which omits the 10.6% margin of Morales’ electoral victory, and thus have quite literally no legal basis. For those who love to hark on the ‘unconstitutionality’ of Morales’ fourth term in office, they themselves clearly have no respect for legal procedure.

Morales’ opposition by the monied interests of Bolivian society did materialize into an opposition on the streets. But his opposition never represented more than a loud-mouthed minority of the people, whose class interests were at odds with the popular program of the MAS party (which is the reason why the protests in favor of Morales have dwarfed those previously against him – and unlike the anti-Morales opposition, the pro-Morales demonstrations are violently crushed). His enemies are the comprador bourgeoisie and PMCs who, as with the Venezuelan opposition, are ready to sell out the people to foreign powers at the highest bidder.

It is emphatically true that not all protests are created equal. The protestors in opposition to President Morales in Bolivia, or to Maduro in Venezuela, cannot in any way be compared to the protests in Chile, Ecuador, or Columbia. Not only are the former numerically smaller, but their class nature is entirely different. They are more aptly compared to the Muscadin (“perfumed”) protestors during the French Revolution, who—like the Guaido-led opposition in Venezuela—align themselves with anti-popular forces within their own country.

The only ‘failure’ of the Bolivian experiment in “Democratic Socialism” has been its softness towards its adversaries, who have proven more than ferocious in smearing, sabotaging, and ultimately overthrowing a democratically elected government. The same situation was played out in Nicaragua, Chile, Brazil, and, recently, attempted in Venezuela. If there is one lesson to be learned from Bolivia, it is not that one can’t commit to social justice all the while retaining a growing and prosperous economy. It is rather that the oligarchs and bloodsuckers will do everything they can to claw their way back into power, and that no haste should be spent in depriving them the means of conspiracy.

Those who pretend to a ‘neutral,’ ‘non-biased,’ or ‘nuanced’ position in these instances in reality take the side of the oppressor. There is nothing democratic about the military ousting a democratically elected president. There is nothing democratic about installing a fascist fundamentalist as unelected president, nor anything democratic about bullets and bombs used against unarmed protestors. There is nothing democratic about turning Bolivia into a playground for multinational corporations and giving free reign to Western capital. And yet there are Western liberals who condemn the repression against Hong Kong protesters, but turn a blind eye or worse when Bolivian protestors are massacred and their leaders jailed.

Like Morales has said, his ‘crime’ had nothing to do with fraudulent elections, a lie peddled by the oligarchs and their lackeys. His crime “is to be a union leader, to be indigenous, and to be a part of the anti-imperialist left.” For this the media crucifies him, but Evo Morales—a true son of the people—will be absolved by history.

Originally posted 12/4/2019 11:05am

Page updated by Bridget Walsh | Online Editor, 12/5/2019 9:40am