[News] Bolivians Return Evo Morales’s Party to Power One Year After a U.S.-Applauded Coup

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Oct 19 15:26:55 EDT 2020

Return Evo Morales’s Party to Power One Year After a U.S.-Applauded Coup
Glenn Greenwald - October 20, 2020

*In November 2019,* Bolivia’s three-term President Evo Morales was forced
under threat of police and military violence to flee to Mexico, just weeks
after he was declared the winner of the October presidential election that
would have sent him to his fourth term. Installed in his place was an
unelected right-wing coup regime, led by self-declared “interim President”
Jeanine Áñez, who promptly presided over a military massacre
<https://apnews.com/article/530280a8d9674f58ad19af8d3f00edee> that killed
dozens of Morales’s Indigenous supporters and then granted immunity to all
the soldiers involved. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the time cheered
the coup <https://twitter.com/SecPompeo/status/1193600452849475584> by
citing subsequently debunked claims
election fraud by the Organization of American States, or OAS, and urging
“a truly democratic process representative of the people’s will.”

But after the Áñez regime twice postponed
scheduled elections this year, Bolivians went to the polls on Sunday. They
delivered a resounding victory to presidential candidate Luis Arce,
Morales’s former finance minister and the candidate from his Movement
Toward Socialism, or MAS, Party. Although official results are still being
counted, exit polls from reputable firms show Arce with a blowout victory —
over 50 percent against a centrist former president and a far-right coup
leader — and Áñez herself conceded that MAS has won
<https://twitter.com/JeanineAnez/status/1318048552191483904>: “We do not
yet have an official count, but from the data we have, Mr. Arce and [MAS
Vice Presidential candidate] Mr. Choquehuanca have won the election. I
congratulate the winners and ask them to govern with Bolivia and democracy
in mind.”

[image: Luis Arce, center, Bolivian presidential candidate for the Movement
Towards Socialism Party, MAS, and running mate David Choquehuanca, second
right, celebrate during a press conference where they claim victory after
general elections in La Paz, Bolivia, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Juan

Luis Arce, center, Bolivian presidential candidate for the Movement Toward
Socialism Party, or MAS, and running mate David Choquehuanca, second right,
celebrate during a press conference where they claim victory after general
elections in La Paz, Bolivia, on Oct. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)


It is difficult to remember the last time a U.S.-approved military coup in
Latin America failed so spectacularly. Even with the U.S.-dominated
OAS’s instantly dubious claims of electoral fraud, nobody disputed that
Morales received more votes in last October’s election than all other
candidates (the only question raised by the OAS was whether his margin of
victory was sufficient to win on the first round and avoid a run-off).

Despite Morales’s election win, the Bolivian police and then military made
clear to Morales that neither he, his family, nor his closest allies would
be safe unless he immediately left the country, as Morales detailed in an
interview <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hEwE64-kUQ&> I conducted with
him just weeks after he was driven into exile in Mexico City. In that
interview, Morales blamed
not only the U.S. for giving the green light to right-wing coup leaders but
also attributed the coup to Western anger over his decision to sell some of
the country’s valuable lithium supply to China rather than to the West.

After 12 years in office, Morales was not free of controversy or critics.
As the first elected Indigenous leader of Bolivia, even some of his core
supporters grew wary of what they regarded as his growing reliance
on quasi-autocratic tactics in order to govern. Several of his most
prominent supporters — both in Bolivia and in South America — were critical
of his decision to secure judicial permission
to seek a fourth term despite a constitutional term-limits provision of two
terms. Even Morales’s long-time close Brazilian ally, former President Lula
da Silva — who correctly predicted in a 2019 interview
with me that “you can be certain that if Evo Morales runs for president,
he’ll win in Bolivia” — nonetheless called
Morales’s pursuit of a fourth term a “mistake.”

But none of those criticisms changed a central, unavoidable fact: More
Bolivians voted for Morales to be their president in 2019 than any other
candidate. And in a democracy, that is supposed to be decisive; for those
purporting to believe in democracy, that should be the end of the matter.
That is why Lula, in his Guardian interview shortly after the coup where
he criticized Morales’s bid for a fourth term, nonetheless emphasized the
far more important point: “what they did with him was a crime. It was a
coup – this is terrible for Latin America.”

And whatever critiques one can legitimately voice about Morales — it is
hard to imagine any leader ruling for more than a decade without alienating
some supporters and making mistakes — there is no question that Morales’s
presidency, by almost every metric, was a success. After decades of
instability in the country, he ushered in a stable and thriving
democracy, presided
over economic growth
that even western financial institutions praised, and worked to ensure a
far more equitable distribution of those resources than ever before,
particularly to the country’s long-oppressed Indigenous minority and its
rural farmers <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgxK9w5DSvQ>. That success
is what was destroyed, on purpose, when the Bolivian presidency was decided
in 2019 not democratically but by force.

The West’s reaction to the 2019 Bolivian coup featured all of its classic
propaganda tropes. Western officials, media outlets, and think tank
writers invoked
the standard Orwellian inversion
<https://twitter.com/Yascha_Mounk/status/1193152753079668737> of heralding
a coup
of any democratically elected leader they do not like as a “victory for
democracy.” In this warped formula
<https://twitter.com/ClaraJeffery/status/1193682649535135745>, it is not
the U.S.-supported coup plotters but the overthrown democratically elected
leader who is the “threat to democracy.”

Depicting U.S.-supported coups as democratic and democratically elected
leaders disliked by the U.S. as “dictators” has been a staple of U.S.
foreign policy propaganda for decades
That is the rubric under which the Obama administration and its Secretary
of State John Kerry somehow celebrated
of the world’s worst despots, Egyptian Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, as
“restoring democracy” following the brutal military coup he carried out.

But thanks to Sunday’s stunning rebuke in Bolivia, the standard tactics
failed. Ever since Morales’s election victory almost exactly one year ago
today, Bolivians never stopped marching, protesting, risking their liberty
and their lives — even in the middle of a pandemic — to demand their rights
of democracy and self-governance. Leading up to the election, the coup
regime and right-wing factions in the military were menacingly vowing — in
response to polls universally showing MAS likely to win — that they would
do anything to prevent the return to power of Morales’s party.

At least as of now, though, it looks as though the margin of victory
delivered to MAS by the Bolivian people was so stunning, so decisive, that
there are few options left for the retrograde forces — in Bolivia,
Washington, and Brussels — which tried to destroy the country’s democracy.
Anyone who believes in the fundamentals of democracy, regardless of
ideology, should be cheering the Bolivians who sacrificed so much to
restore their right of self-rule and hoping that the stability and
prosperity they enjoyed under Morales expands even further under his first
democratically elected successor.
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