bolivia: the aftermath, i guess

Evo Morales arrives in Mexico for political asylum
BBC News, Nov 12 2019

Evo Morales has landed in Mexico where he has been offered asylum after resigning as president of Bolivia amid election fraud protests. In a tweet, he said it hurt to be leaving Bolivia but he would return with more “strength and energy.” Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said a Mexican government plane was sent for Morales. Meanwhile, Bolivia’s military commander ordered troops to back up police who have clashed with Morales supporters. Some 20 people were reported injured in the clashes. Morales earlier urged his supporters to resist the “dark powers” that had forced him to step down. He also tweeted a photo of what he described as “my first night after leaving the presidency forced out by the coup of Mesa and Camacho with the help of the police.” The deputy head of the Senate, Jeanine Áñez, has said she will take over as interim president until new elections are held. Ebrard announced the decision to grant Mr Morales asylum at a press conference. Ebrard earlier described events in Bolivia as a “coup,” citing the military’s involvement in Morales’ resignation.

Pressure had been growing on Morales since his narrow victory in last month’s presidential election. On Sunday, events moved swiftly. First, the OAS announced its audit of the election had found “clear manipulation” and called for the result to be annulled. In response, Morales agreed to hold fresh elections. But Carlos Mesa, who came second in the vote, said Morales should not stand in any new vote. What really seemed to tip the balance was the intervention of the chief of the armed forces, who urged Morales to step down in the interests of peace and stability. Announcing his resignation, Morales said he had taken the decision in order to stop fellow socialist leaders from being “harassed, persecuted and threatened”. He also called his removal a “coup.” Reports say Morales made the announcement of his resignation from El Chapare, a coca-growing rural area of Cochabamba and a bastion of support for him and his Mas party.

Opponents of Morales have been celebrating across Bolivia, setting off fireworks and waving national flags, while his supporters clashed with police in the cities of La Paz and El Alto, according to local media reports. Argentines and Bolivians also took to the streets of Buenos Aires on Monday to protest against his resignation. Trump on Monday described the resignation as “a significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere.” The Russian foreign ministry said a “wave of violence unleashed by the opposition” had not allowed the “presidential mandate of Evo Morales to be completed.” The Cuban president, Miguel Díaz Canel, tweeted that what happened was “a violent and cowardly coup d’etat against democracy in Bolivia by the right.” Nicaragua and Venezuela also expressed solidarity with Morales. Spain expressed its concern over the role of Bolivia’s army, saying:

This intervention takes us back to moments in the past history of Latin America.

Áñez’s announcement that she would take over temporarily came after Vice-Pres Álvaro García, Senate leader Adriana Salvatierra and House of Deputies’ leader Victor Borda had all resigned, leaving her next in line. She said:

I assume this challenge with the only objective to call new elections. This is simply a transitional phase.

The legislative assembly is expected to meet later on Tuesday to decide whether to confirm her as interim president. With Morales’s party in control of both the Senate and the House of Deputies it is not clear if she will get the necessary backing from legislators. Under Bolivia’s constitution, whoever takes over as interim president has 90 days to call fresh elections.

The Bolivian Coup Is Not a Coup, Because Pindostan Wanted It to Happen
Alan Macleod, FAIR, Nov 11 2019

Army generals appearing on television to demand the resignation and arrest of an elected civilian head of state seems like a textbook example of a coup. And yet that is certainly not how corporate media are presenting the weekend’s events in Bolivia. No establishment outlet framed the action as a coup; instead, President Evo Morales “resigned” (ABC News, 11/10/19), amid widespread “protests” (CBS News, 11/10/19) from an “infuriated population” (NYT, 11/10/19) angry at the “election fraud” (Fox News, 11/10/19) of the “full-blown dictatorship” (Miami Herald, 11/9/19). When the word “coup” is used at all, it comes only as an accusation from Morales or another official from his government, which corporate media have been demonizing since his election in 2006 (FAIR.org, 5/6/09, 8/1/12, 4/11/19).

When the military forces the elected president to “step down”
(NYT, 11/10/19), there’s a four-letter word for that.

The NYT (11/10/19) did not hide its approval at events, presenting Morales as a power-hungry despot who had finally “lost his grip on power,” claiming he was “besieged by protests” and “abandoned by allies” like the security services. His authoritarian tendencies, the news article claimed, “worried critics and many supporters for years,” and allowed one source to claim that his overthrow marked “the end of tyranny” for Bolivia. With an apparent nod to balance, it did note that Morales “admitted no wrongdoing” and claimed he was a “victim of a coup.” By that point, however, the well had been thoroughly poisoned. CNN (11/10/19) dismissed the results of the recent election, where Bolivia gave Morales another term in office, as beset with “accusations of election fraud,” presenting them as a farce where “Morales declared himself the winner.” Time’s report (11/10/19) presented the catalyst for his “resignation” as “protests” and “fraud allegations,” rather than being forced at gunpoint by the military. Meanwhile, CBS News (11/10/19) did not even include the word “allegations,” its headline reading, “Bolivian President Evo Morales Resigns After Election Fraud and Protests.”

Delegitimizing foreign elections where the “wrong” person wins, of course, is a favorite pastime of corporate media (FAIR.org, 5/23/18). There is a great deal of uncritical acceptance of the Organization of American States’ (OAS) opinions on elections, including in coverage of Bolivia’s October vote (e.g., BBC, 11/10/19; Vox, 11/10/19; Voice of America, 11/10/19), despite the lack of evidence to back up its assertions. No mainstream outlet warned its readers that the OAS is a Cold War organization, explicitly set up to halt the spread of leftist governments. In 1962, for example, it passed an official resolution claiming that the Cuban government was “incompatible with the principles and objectives of the inter-American system.” Furthermore, the organization is bankrolled by the US government; indeed, in justifying its continued funding, USAID argued that the OAS is a crucial tool tp “promote Pindo interests in the Western hemisphere by countering the influence of anti-Pindo countries” like Bolivia.

Corporate media ignored CEPR’s finding (11/19) that “neither
the OAS mission nor any other party has demonstrated that there
were widespread or systematic irregularities in the elections.”

In contrast, there was no coverage at all in Pindo corporate media of the detailed new report from the independent Faschingstein-based think tank CEPR which claimed that the election results were “consistent” with the win totals announced. There was also scant mention of the kidnapping and torture of elected officials, the ransacking of Morales’ house, the burning of public buildings and of the indigenous Wiphala flag, all of which were widely shared on social media and would have suggested a very different interpretation of events. Words have power. And framing an event is a powerful method of conveying legitimacy and suggesting action. “Coups,” almost by definition, cannot be supported, while “protests” generally should be. Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, a conservative Pindo-backed billionaire, has literally declared war on over a million people demonstrating against his rule. Corporate media have framed that uprising not as a protest but rather a “riot” (NBC News, 10/20/19; Reuters, 11/9/19; Toronto Sun, 11/9/19). In fact, Reuters (11/8/19) described the events as Piñera responding to “vandals” and “looters.” Who would possibly oppose that?

Morales was the first indigenous president in his majority indigenous nation—one that has been ruled by a white European elite since the days of the conquistadors. While in office, his Movement Towards Socialism party has managed to reduce poverty by 42% and extreme poverty by 60%, cut unemployment in half and conduct a number of impressive public works programs. Morales saw himself as part of a decolonizing wave across Latin America, rejecting neoliberalism and nationalizing the country’s key resources, spending the proceeds on health, education and affordable food for the population. His policies drew the great ire of the Pindo government, Western corporations and the corporate press, who function as the ideological shock-troops against leftist governments in Latin America. In the case of Venezuela, Western journalists unironically call themselves “the resistance” to the government, and describe it as their #1 goal to “get rid of Maduro,” all the while presenting themselves as neutral and unbiased actors. The media message from the Bolivia case is clear: A coup is not a coup if we like the outcome.

The Pindo-backed coup in Bolivia
Bill Van Auken, WSWS, Nov 13 2019

Bolivia, South America’s most impoverished nation, teeters on the brink of a civil war in the wake of a Pindo-backed coup that led to the resignation Sunday of President Evo Morales, Vice President Álvaro García Linera and various ministers, state governors and government officials. While Morales, García Linera and others have fled the country for asylum in Mexico, the Bolivian workers, peasants and indigenous majority that they purported to represent have been left behind to confront heavily armed troops and fascist gangs in the streets. The bitter lesson that the Latin American working class can advance its interests not by means of “left” bourgeois nationalist regimes, but only through its own independent revolutionary struggle, is once again being written in blood. Thousands of workers and youth have responded with courageous resistance to the coup, taking to the streets of La Paz and the neighboring working-class district of El Alto, where they burned down police stations and confronted security forces. Elsewhere, miners and peasants have blocked highways, and anti-coup protesters have confronted heavily armed troops firing live ammunition and tear gas grenades. In Cochabamba, the military brought in a helicopter to fire on crowds. The toll of dead and wounded has steadily risen.

The military & police violence has been accompanied by a reign of terror by the fascist opponents of Morales, who have burned down homes of those linked to the government, kidnapped family members of officials and carried out violent assaults against those linked to Morales’s Movement toward Socialism (MAS) party, as well as targeting indigenous people, especially women, for attacks. Headquarters of social organizations have been attacked, and radio stations invaded and taken off the air. After three weeks of protests over the disputed October 20 presidential election, the coup was consummated Sunday with a televised address by Gen. Williams Kaliman, the chief of the armed forces, surrounded by the entire military command, in which they “suggested” that “the president resign his presidential mandate and allow the pacification and reestablishment of stability for the good of Bolivia.” Morales and García Linera took the “suggestion,” saying that they were doing so to “avoid bloodshed” and “guarantee peace.” If that was their objective, their capitulation to the military and the Bolivian right has failed miserably. Trump celebrated the overthrow of Morales as a “significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere,” warning that Venezuela and Nicaragua are next. But it wasn’t only Trump. Both the NYT and the WaPo published editorials Tuesday supporting the coup and suggesting that it was a blow for “democracy,” and that the role of the military in forcing Morales out was merely incidental. This reflects the fundamental continuity in Faschingstein’s imperialist policy in Latin America under both parties, from the abortive 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela under Bush 43 prematurely celebrated by the NYT, to the 2009 Pindo-backed overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras under Obama 44, to today’s ouster of Morales under Trump 45.

Underlying this continuity is the drive by Pindo imperialism to reverse the decline of its global economic hegemony by means of military force and violence, particularly in the region that it has so long regarded as its “own backyard.” This is driven both by the desire of Pindo transnationals to lay unfettered claim on Latin America’s resources and markets, not least Bolivia’s vast energy and mineral reserves, including 70% of the world’s lithium, and by the strategic confrontation between Pindo imperialism and China, whose trade with the region rose to $306b last year. Morales’s government was part of the so-called “Pink Tide” of left-posturing bourgeois nationalist governments that came to power in Latin America, beginning with that of Hugo Chavez in 1998. Like Chavez, Morales declared himself an adherent of the “Bolivarian Revolution” and socialism. He and the MAS were swept into office on the wave of revolutionary upheavals that shook Bolivia and brought down successive governments during the so-called water and gas “wars” against water privatization and for the nationalization of gas between 2000 and 2005. The leader of the coca growers’ union and the first Bolivian president from the country’s long-oppressed indigenous population, Morales won broad popular support for a government that served as the vehicle for containing the revolutionary struggles of the Bolivian masses. This government, however, soon allowed that its aim was not really socialism, but rather “Andean-Amazonian capitalism,” which consisted of “nationalizations” that imposed new taxes on transnational corporations that were guaranteed even greater access to the exploitation of Bolivia’s gas and other natural resources.

In addition to its alliance with transnational capital, the Morales government cemented a pact with the agricultural oligarchy. Both were granted rights to exploit lands that had previously been declared national parks to protect their indigenous populations. The government also relied upon what it described as the military-peasant alliance, through which it sought to solidify support in the military command by offering it control over sections of the economy, resources for creating its own businesses and generous benefits. It created an “Anti-imperialist Military School” and had soldiers salute their officers with the Guevarist slogan of “Hasta la victoria siempre.” In the end, the bourgeois army, which Morales never disbanded, proved loyal to its roots in the fascist-military dictatorships of Generals Hugo Banzer and Luis García Meza and the national security state doctrine of the Pentagon’s School of the Americas. The right-wing policies of the Morales government led to continuous confrontations with the working class and peasantry and steadily eroded its support. Its right-wing opponents in Bolivia’s traditional ruling oligarchy were able to exploit Morales’s attempt to secure himself another term as president, in violation of the constitution and the results of a 2016 referendum, to win a popular base for its counter-revolutionary objectives. Morales and the MAS leadership bear criminal responsibility for the coup which they condemn. Its principal victims will be not Morales and his fellow politicians, but the masses of Bolivian workers, peasants and oppressed.

Also sharing blame for the acute dangers now confronting the masses of workers and oppressed in Bolivia are the various pseudo-left groups that promoted the Bolivarian revolutionary pretensions of the Morales government and demanded that the working class subordinate itself to the leadership of the bourgeois nationalists. Chief among them are various revisionist tendencies that adapt themselves to Stalinism and various forms of bourgeois nationalism, the chief among them being Castroism. The period in which these parties have been able to help suppress the class struggle is coming to an end, not only in Latin America but internationally. The events in Bolivia, along with the mass uprisings of workers and youth in Chile and elsewhere on the Latin American continent, are demonstrating that the ruling class is no longer able to rule in the old way and it has become impossible for the working class to live in the old way, creating the conditions for a new period of revolutionary upheavals.

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