Graffiti of President Morales on a wall in Villazón, Bolivia. (Photo: Flikr, Randal Sheppard) Graffiti of President Morales on a wall in Villazón, Bolivia. (Photo: Flikr, Randal Sheppard)

A US-backed coup has forced Bolivia’s socialist, indigenous President out in a dangerous turn of events that must be resisted globally, reports Orlando Hill

It seemed that the tide was turning in favour of the progressive forces in Latin America. In Mexico, Andrés López Manuel Obrador won the presidential election in December 2018. The neoliberal candidate Macri was defeated in Argentina by Alberto Fernández. The newly elected vice president told a celebrating crowd that the country would never again return to austerity. Chilean protesters took to the streets in a massive protest against neoliberalism. Finally, over this weekend Lula walked free from prison to be greeted by a jubilant crowd.  

Evo Morales won the 20 October presidential elections by just over 47% – 10% more than the second-place Carlos Mesa guaranteeing his fourth mandate without having to go to a second round. 

However, faced with allegations of “fraud” and threats of confrontation, Evo agreed to carry out an audited recount by the Organization of American States (OAS).

The opposition parties rejected the call for dialogue and supported by the rioting police and the Armed Forces pressured the president to resign. “We have resigned so they stop burning houses, intimidating and threatening our families, that’s why we have resigned,” explained Morales. 

The strange thing about this coup is that the background is not one of economic crisis. Since Morales’ first government in 2006, Bolivia’s GDP has grown on average 4.5% a year. This is even more impressive if compared to its neighbours Argentina and Brazil which saw their economy shrink. Under Morales extreme poverty has been reduced from 38.2% to 15.2%. 

The coup, which clearly has the backing and support of the Trump administration, is driven by the elites’ desire to stem the spread of left-wing movements and the growing opposition to the neoliberal order across the region.

There are signs of a fightback. On the evening of 10 November, there were signs of anger on the streets of La Paz and El Alto, and road blocks continued in the Altiplano. Opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho, president of the right-wing Pro Santa Cruz Civic Committee, tried to disembark at the international airport El Alto, but was forced to backtrack by a crowd of Evo Morales supporters. His intention was to hand an ultimatum letter to President Morales. 

Camacho has personal business reasons for wanting to overthrow Morales. His father Luis Camacho is the founder of Sergas, a gas company that owes 20 million bolivianos (over £2 million) for tax evasion. The hope is that by overthrowing Morales, the company’s debt will be forgiven according to Telesur

It is not clear how things will develop in Bolivia. The wide opposition front, which included the Armed Forces, after having succeeded in overthrowing Evo Morales does not seem to agree on what to do, how to do it and how far to go. The military high command could try to fill this power vacuum, though civic leaders are active in pursuing their own agenda. 

The left in the region and around the world needs to respond to this attack by strong protests against US involvement in the coup and the widest solidarity and support with the Bolivian movement.

This Wednesday at 6:30pm, there is a rally in solidarity with the people of Bolivia in London at the National Education Union, Hamilton House, WC1H 9BD. Lindsey German, Tariq Ali and Bolivian trade unionist Manuel Bueno and community activist Javier Sanchez are among the speakers.

Orlando Hill

Orlando was born in Brazil and was involved in the successful struggle for democracy in the late 1970s and 80s in that country. He teaches A level Economics. He is a member of the NEU, Counterfire and Stop the War.

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