Bolivia: a blatant coup of the worst kind

We must build an international movement in solidarity with those resisting the Latin America’s latest right-wing outrage, writes KEN LIVINGSTONE.

LAST Sunday, a right-wing coup ousted President Evo Morales amid a wave of violence and abuse directed against indigenous people across the country, particularly supporters of Morales’s Movement for Socialism (MAS) party.

Whilst some in the media have ridiculously claimed this is not a coup, what other word in the English language can describe a situation when army generals appear on TV demanding the resignation of an elected head of state while their allies detain and torture government officials?

Installed in Evo Morales’ place as the self-declared interim President is deputy Senate speaker Jeanine Anez, an apparently Christian-supremacist politician.

If further proof that a coup had occurred was needed, parliament was inquorate, but the military swore her in anyway.

The coup follows the defeat suffered by the right wing in the presidential election on October 20, in which Morales secured 47.08 per cent against his nearest challenger, Carlos Mesa, with 36.51 per cent. MAS also won absolute majorities in both the Congress and Senate and the vast majority of the municipalities also being contested in the election.

Under Bolivia’s constitution, the vote gave Morales victory, since a candidate has to receive at least 50 per cent of the vote, or 40 per cent of the vote and 10 per cent more than the second candidate, to be elected without the need for a second round of voting.

Anticipating the final result would hand Morales victory as votes from rural, indigenous-populated and Morales-supporting areas were counted, the right-wing opposition launched violent protests.

Their attacks included burning down vote-counting centres, vandalising Morales’s party headquarters and assaulting indigenous supporters of Morales and the MAS.

The right-wing opposition received encouragement from the Organisation of American States (OAS), which has become increasingly dominated by the “regime change” agenda of the Trump administration in the region, and suggested electoral fraud.

This charge was comprehensively rebutted by Mark Weisbrot of the Washington-based Centre for Economic and Policy Research, who pointed out that the OAS statement “provides absolutely no evidence — no statistics, numbers, or facts of any kind — to support this idea. And in fact, a preliminary analysis of the voting data at all of the more than 34,000 voting tables — which is all publicly available and can be downloaded by anyone — shows no evidence of irregularity.”

As the violent attacks escalated, sections of the police force stayed in their barracks and failed to protect the civilian population now subjected to right-wing thugs on the rampage.

Despite Morales agreeing first to a full audit of the election results by the OAS, and later to fresh elections under a revamped Electoral Commission, the right-wing coup advanced.

Rejecting Morales’s call for dialogue, Carlos Mesa urged supporters to intensify the campaign of violence and called for the resignation of Morales and his vice-president Alvaro Garcia Linera and a bar on their standing as candidates in any new election.

Faced with the army’s demand for his resignation, Morales stood down in the hope of averting further bloodshed and flew into exile in Mexico a few days ago.

But whilst repression against supporters of Evo Morales — including notably indigenous groups, trade unions and socialist politicians — is intensifying from the coup regime, so is resistance. Massive protests have taken place and more are planned for the coming days.

Evidence of US involvement and backing for the coup also seems to be growing, with Argentina’s president-elect Alberto Fernandez on Tuesday criticising the US stance, saying that with regards to the Trump administration’s “regime change” agenda in the region, “in my opinion, the United States regressed decades. It returned to the bad times of the ’70s.”

Following public hostility to the Evo Morales government earlier in the year, Trump on Monday hailed Morales’s departure as good for democracy, a view that clashed directly with leftist government leaders in the region, including the government of Mexico and that of Fernandez who have publicly backed Morales and said he was the victim of a coup.

Trump is of course talking rubbish and really has his eyes on Bolivia’s lithium reserves. Those who claim to be progressives who will not call this a coup need to seriously consider why they are on Trump’s side on this matter, rather than that of Lula, Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.

As Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard put it, “What happened (in Bolivia)… is a coup because the army requested the resignation of the president and that violates the constitutional order of that country.”

We must now build a massive international movement to oppose this coup and say we will not stand by and let there be any more Pinochets in Latin America. We must also oppose Trump’s aggressive “regime change” agenda, not only in Bolivia but across the region.

Please support the newly launched Friends of Bolivia in their vital work this regard.

First published by the Morning Star.