ROLLBACK OF THE ELITE
Anti-indigenous coup in Bolivia
By Otto Konig and Richard Detje
[This article published on November 24, 2019 is translated from the German on the Internet: www.sozialismus.de/]
Evo Morales between the national flag and the Whipala, the indigenous flag
South America won't calm down. In Ecuador, a revolt against IMF policy has forced the government to give in for the time being. In Haiti, a revolt is raging against the US-backed government. In Chile, millions protest and strike for an end to neoliberal politics and a new constitution. In Colombia, hundreds of thousands take part in a general strike against a reactionary economic and social policy.
On the other hand, Bolivia is threatened with a rollback to reverse the achievements of the indigenous population and restore old ethnic and social hierarchies. Evo Morales has been in exile in Mexico since November 12, 2019. The indigenous politician, who ruled Bolivia for 14 years, has been asked to resign by Yuri Calderón, commander general of the police force, and William Kaiman, commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Only a few hours later, the opposition senator Jeanine Áñez appointed herself the new "president". "I dream of a Bolivia free from devilish indigenous rites," she wrote in 2013, "the city is not for Indians, they should disappear into the highlands or into the Chaco! Not a single indigenous member belongs to its 'transitional government'.
The "trigger" for the coup was the elections on October 20. President Evo Morales, the candidate of the Movement for Socialism (MAS), was declared the winner by the Civic Community Alliance with 47.08% of the vote and a difference of 10.5 points from the conservative candidate Carlos Mesa (36.51%). Nevertheless, Morales was weakened as he no longer had 60% of the electorate behind him. According to the Constitution, a candidate is elected if he has more than 40% of the votes and at the same time more than 10% lead over the runner-up. The Organization of American States (OAS) spoke of "clean elections" and of a narrow victory.
This was the signal for the ultraconservative forces to call for protests against the election results. The government then commissioned the OAS to review the election results. In its preliminary report, however, the OAS found only "indications of irregularities" in the transmission of 78 result protocols - 0.22% of all protocols. While the OAS has not yet submitted a final report of its audit, the Washington Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) concludes that "the results of the preliminary recount are consistent with the final result". Statistical irregularities had only occurred in 274 of the 34,551 polling stations; the patterns to be found were known "in a similar form to elections from Honduras, Austria or the US state of Wisconsin", the report states. And: The data did not allow any doubt that Morales' lead was more than 10%. Thus the accusation of electoral manipulation is twice rejected.
Morales made political mistakes. Among other things, he disregarded a referendum that prohibited him from being re-elected President of Bolivia for the third time. The Constitutional Court allowed him to stand for re-election. The good political cause is harmed if the leader of a political movement considers himself irreplaceable. But to assume, therefore, that the right-wing opposition is acting out of democratic conviction and defending republican institutions is nonsense. The oligarchs simply want to protect the privileges they have enjoyed since colonial times, which Morales, who ascended from a simple Aymara coca farmer to the highest office of the nation, has diminished with his social and redistribution policies.
The rejection of the OAS election audit by the right-wing opposition and their demand for new elections underscore that the driving forces behind the overthrow - the big landowners, oligarchs and entrepreneurs in the soya, timber and oil industries - were not concerned with correcting an allegedly "falsified election result". They are pursuing a coup strategy to expel the MAS from the government. Redistribution in favor of the impoverished indigenous population, especially in the highlands, as well as the nationalization of important mineral resources, has always been a thorn in their side. Morales had systematically and successfully promoted both since the beginning of his first term in office in January 2006.
Two weeks before the parliamentary elections, Luis Fernando Camacho, president of the "Pro-Santa-Cruz" citizens' committee, which is dominated by entrepreneurs, had already spoken of the electoral fraud of the ruling socialists and had called for Evo Morales not to accept a victory under any circumstances. The demands then radicalized: Camacho gave Bolivia's president a 48-hour ultimatum to resign. The wave of violence instigated by the right, during which state radio and television stations were occupied by government opponents, MAS officers were attacked and maltreated, increased. Paramilitary gangs began to set fire to union headquarters and the homes of candidates and political leaders of the ruling party.
The police and military finally forced the president to resign. "My sin was to be indigenous, left-wing and anti-imperialist," says Morales. Vice President Garcia Linera and the parliamentary chairmen were also violently pushed aside. Following the resignation of the president, Camacho, who the British BBC recently called the "Bolivian Bolsonaro", stormed into the presidential palace, a flag in one hand and a Bible in the other. "The Bible returns to the government palace," he announced. Añez also ostentatiously carried a huge Bible in front of her when she moved into the presidential palace.
Against the majority of the Bolivian population from indigenous people and mestizos, a re-catholization is to be forced. The secular state has a constitutional rank. "The state respects and guarantees the freedom of religion and spiritual faith, following the world view of everyone. The state is independent of religion".
The upheaval of the past 14 years was marked by decolonization. Within the social movements that brought Morales to power, indigenous visions of socialism and the values of Pachamama (Andean Mother Earth) emerged. The sociologist Marco A. Gandarillas, director of the Documentation and Information Centre CEDIB in Cochabamba, sees above all in the new "pluri-national constitution" the most important merit of the Morales government.
With the constitutional reform of 2009, the individual ethnic groups were guaranteed political rights, autonomy, and co-determination. But the pluri-national indigenous state was an imposition on the 15% white landowners and cattle breeders from the outset.
Economically, Morales' years in office are the most successful in Bolivia's history. According to data from the Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL), Bolivia's economy grew by 4.5% last year. The per capita income of the eleven million inhabitants doubled during Morales' term of office. The MAS government reduced illiteracy to 2.4% and reduced the unemployment rate from 9.2% 13 years ago to 4.1%, the lowest in the region. Moderate poverty fell in this period from 60 to 34.6%, extreme poverty from 38.2 to 15%. In addition, free health care and education were introduced.
In 2006, the Bolivian government had nationalized the mineral resources, especially the world's largest deposits of lithium needed for mobile phones, computers, and electric cars. The profits from gas and lithium exports remained in the country and also benefited the poor and indigenous rural population.
This was one of the reasons for the fall of Morales because the white and rich elite never overcame the fact that an indigenous person nationalized the mineral resources and used the profits to finance social programs for the indigenous majority. And Morales did not make the mistake of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, with an extractive economic policy to concentrate ultimately on distribution measures, but not to further develop and renew the country's productive resources.
"The Morales government does not follow the usual storyline of the radical left that comes to power and ruins everything, economically and politically, creates poverty and seeks to maintain its power through authoritarian measures. Proof of the non-authoritarian character of Morales' government is that he did not 'clean' the army and police of his adversaries - which is why they could now turn against him."
In the meantime, a law has been passed in parliament to pave the way for new elections. According to this law, no more candidates*who have held political office throughout the past three legislative periods will be admitted. Morales itself is thus excluded from participating in new elections. At the same time, the request for an amnesty for him and others was rejected.
One of Jeanine Añez's first official acts was the issuing of a decree stating that in operations "to restore internal order" the Bolivian military were "released from criminal responsibility". This is a license to kill in the suppression of protests against the new rulers in La Paz. On the same day, nine people were shot dead in the city of Cochabamba.
Around the turn of the millennium, the rise of the Bolivian left began there with resistance to the privatization of the water supply, the sale to a US corporation.
At the same time, Añez immediately began to reposition Bolivia's foreign policy and initiate measures against Cuba and Venezuela. The more than 700 Cuban doctors who have contributed to improving Bolivia's health care must leave the country immediately. The coup government broke off diplomatic relations with Venezuela and ended its membership in the alliance ALBA ("Alternativa Bolivariana para Los pueblos de Nuestra América"). US President Trump's Twitter account then read: "These events send a strong signal to the illegal regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The federal government was not allowed to stand back. The forced resignation of the president is an "important step towards a peaceful solution", declared government spokesman Steffen Seibert, who stubbornly refused to distance himself from the actions of the Bolivian military.
The coup is also supported by the parliamentary group of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, whose foreign policy spokesman Omid Nouripour said that "the military made the right decision to side with the demonstrators". A very one-sided assessment at a time when the military is shooting at the protesting indigenous population. At least 27 people have died and more than 715 demonstrators have been injured.
After the new rulers publicly burned the Whipala indigenous flag - Bolivia's national flag in addition to the red-yellow-green tricolor-, policemen took it from its buildings and cut it out of the badges of its uniforms, thousands of land-dwellers* and members of various social groups rose. "We do not accept the civil-police coup d'état, not even that of the media," explained the leaders of the rural teaching staff. Throughout the country, there were demonstrations by indigenous people, farmers, workers, miners and trade unionists against the coup and the "interim president" and the repressive actions of the security forces.
Not surprisingly, "while the Indians are taking in the bodies (...) of murdered dead whose material and moral originators say they did so to save democracy. (...) Racial hatred can only destroy. It is not a horizon, it is nothing more than primitive revenge of a historically and morally decadent class," writes Álvaro García Linera in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada.
 CEPR: What Happened in Bolivia's 2019 Vote Count?, cepr.net/publications/reports/bolivia-elections-2019-11
2] Opponents of the MAS mayoress of Vinto, Patricia Arce, poured red paint over her and dragged her barefoot and with her head shorn through the streets.
3] Slavoj Zizek: Was this a coup d'état in Bolivia?, in FAZ of 24.11.2019.Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)