An Indigenous boy carries the wiphala, an Indigenous flag, at a protest in support of Evo Morales, the former president of Bolivia. Morales was the first Indigenous president of Bolivia. Photo: Santiago Sito
Bolivia is greatly ignored by the corporate media, but the news reports that do filter out indicate state terror reigns. In November, President Evo Morales and other top leaders were, in effect, pushed out by a coup, as military and police leaders withdrew their support from his elected government. The replacement leader, Jeanine Añez, comes from a party that drew less than 4% of the vote in October elections.
On December 3, the Añez outlaw regime announced that it had instituted what it called an “anti-terror” unit. The unit was supposedly to combat foreign groups “threatening” the country. Actually, it is the “anti-terror” unit that is operating at the behest of a foreign group: it is operating as an agency of the U.S. government.
One of the leading members of the right-wing coup government is Arturo Murillo, its Interior Minister who is now responsible for public security in Bolivia. Murillo said this so-called anti–terror group has the mission of dismantling those that “are threatening our homeland.” This is absurd. The threat to the Bolivian homeland is the imperialist behemoth, the United States. The threat is the puppet regime of Añez.
This “anti-terrorism” unit’s purpose is not anti-terror, but rather the escalation of terror directed against the Indigenous and the poor, the supporters of Evo Morales. Morales was Bolivia’s first Indigenous president, and, indeed the first Indigenous president of any country in the Americas since Benito Juárez in Mexico in 1861. This regime’s steps to suppress and massacre the Indigenous majority mean this unit should actually be characterized as an instrument of racist state terror, another Indian-killing unit.
OAS has no credibility
The Organization of American States (OAS) published a 100-page report on Dec. 4, charging “overwhelming evidence” Bolivia’s October 20 election was rigged in favor of Morales.
Let’s take a closer look at the OAS and its attempt to cover some tracks in the wake of the coup. Although OAS bills itself as a promoter of democracy and a defender of human rights, in reality it is a Cold War entity. It was founded in 1948 to stop the spread of progressive and leftist governments. It is anti-socialist and anti-communist. The majority of OAS funding comes from the U.S. government, so we need not guess on which side its decisions fall. In 1962, for example, it passed a resolution asserting that the Cuban government was “incompatible with the principle and objectives of the inter-American system.” The OAS has no credibility in this matter. It is an instrument of U.S. imperialism, not an independent agency.
In Bolivia, U.S. embassy officials had conspired with right-wing so-called “civic committees,” earning themselves expulsion from the country under Morales, along with the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The “civic committees” are made up of wealthy European-descended Bolivians and have frequently initiated violent provocations against both Bolivia’s Indigenous president and the poor and Indigenous communities. Embassy officials were believed by Bolivia’s government to be behind an assassination attempt against Morales.
The claims of election fraud in Bolivia have been debunked by independent sources. The Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research and others have made detailed examinations of the election and concluded there was no electoral fraud.
Even an op-ed in the New York Times, “The Coup Temptation in Latin America” by Steven Levitsky and Maria Victoria Murrillo, cut through all the inane absurdities and concluded: “In effect, Mr. Morales fell prey to a coup.”
Bolivia coup backers are burning the Wiphala flag, an symbol of Indigenous resistance. This is more than symbolic. These violent, racist groups want to rollback the historic gains made by Indigenous people. #thisisacoup
Looking over the 14-year record of accomplishments of the Indigenous socialist government led by Morales, it becomes apparent why U.S. capitalist interests were chomping at the bit to see its demise. Morales had provided an example of what a socialist government can accomplish for its people. The growth rate of Bolivia’s economy was twice that of any other country on the continent. Millions had been lifted out of poverty. Resources were being put at the service of the people, especially the Indigenous and the poor, not capitalist parasites.
In particular, it had seized control of valuable natural resources—most notably lithium, the hallmark mineral for the advancement of many present-day-industries.
When natural resources are used to serve the people, look what happens to improve the lives of the Indigenous and the poor. [In fact, as noted below, Bolivia was far ahead of the U.S. in a myriad of social and economic categories]:
*In Bolivia, life expectancy has increased by nine years. [By contrast, life expectancy in the U.S. has decreased by three years.]*The Morales government had instituted a universal health care system. [By contrast, the U.S. to this day has no universal health care system and the health of needy citizens is on the decline.]*100% of all older Bolivian citizens receive pensions. [In 2011, the Morales government lowered the retirement age at a time when most capitalist countries were raising the retirement age.]*Bolivia achieved a 100% literacy rate.*Morales promoted legislation seizing thousands of square miles of land that was unoccupied or illegally held and redistributed it to landless peasants. [By contrast increasing numbers of U.S. residents are homeless.]*The natural gas, oil, electric, and telecommunications industries were placed under state control.*Morales also continually raised the minimum wage; it tripled under his administration. [Where is the raise of the national minimum wage in the U.S.?]*The constitution Morales had passed in 2009 officially recognizes 39 Indigenous languages and required school children to learn local Indigenous languages. [Where is this happening in the U.S.?]*They advanced democracy by granting autonomy to Indigenous regions.
The U.S. oligarchy hated the model set by an Indigenous socialist government in this hemisphere. The popularity of the non-capitalist road of development exemplified by Bolivia was threatening to the world capitalist system. They looked desperately for a point of vulnerability. That point was found in the top ranks of the military.
The self-proclaimed president Jeanine Añez set the stage for massacres with her description of Indigenous religion as “satanic.” This far-right religious fanatic assumed the presidency holding above her head an enormous Bible standing beside an aide prominently displaying a large cross. This lame effort to establish theocratic rule in the country is a gross insult to all the Indigenous of the Western Hemisphere. It calls to mind the murderous conquistador Francisco Pizzaro who ravaged the Inca Empire and murdered its leader Atahualpa in 1533 and put it under Spanish rule with the same theocratic gestures.
Añez’s latest pronouncements are that if Morales returns to Bolivia he will be charged with sedition, terrorism, and “crimes against humanity.” This is an attempt to provide a cover, a distraction if you will, for the atrocities her illegal regime is carrying out against the Indigenous and the poor of Bolivia.
The international community should:
1) refuse recognition to this murderous regime, and
2) demand the reinstatement of the rightful president, Evo Morales.
There should be demonstrations in support of these two demands, particularly in the U.S., in light of the fact that the impetus for this coup was orchestrated in the clandestine inner sanctums of the White House.
The role of the military
The question was raised in an earlier column and in this one of dealing with the military and police in relation to smashing capitalism and reaching socialism. In the Bolivia situation, and others, the military has been the “Achilles’ heel” of a people’s government, particularly in Latin America.
To address this issue briefly: The leftover military of the bourgeois state can’t be trusted, in particular the top military brass. This is abundantly illustrated by the lessons of history. The top brass has to be dismissed or at least kept under surveillance as was done in the Bolshevik Revolution. Also, a “people’s militia” can be organized to replace the standing army and other security forces. To my knowledge, neither course, unfortunately, was followed in the Bolivian struggle.
Lenin had much to say on this matter. In 1917, he called for “Replacement of the old organs of oppression, the police, the bureaucracy, the standing army, by a universal arming of the people, by a really universal militia.” Speaking in 1918 on the refusal of the Constituent Assembly to recognize the land decrees issued by the Soviet government, he said, “There is no doubt that the socialist revolution cannot be presented to the people at once in all its pristine, obvious, and flawless perfection; that it cannot but be accompanied by civil war and by the phenomena of sabotage and opposition.” Socialist forces must be prepared for the possibility of civil war. This is the inevitability of the class struggle.
The resistance of the bourgeoisie, in fact, becomes more desperate after a seizure of power by the people. Morales’s enemies, no doubt, were plotting against him from the very day he took office. In so many situations, attention is given to the technical and combatant side of the military, not to the political and ideological. The crux of the problem is in the highest military officers, not the rank and file, as the rank and file are drawn from the masses of the people. In Latin America, the armies have been used for the bloody suppression of the people.
“That the armed forces asked [Morales] to resign is treason, that the police mutinied is treason,” noted Bolivian Sen. Monica Eva Copa. “The request by the commander of the armed forces to ask ‘Mr. President resign’ is traitorous,” she said. The senator disclosed that Morales used to meet with the military and police commanders every Monday. These commanders, the command staff, were all the while treacherously plotting behind his back.
I am sure in Bolivia the rank and file are drawn from the Indigenous and the poor. There should be a rank-and-file revolt against their traitorous commanders and the illicit government officials, instead of slavish obedience. The highest command staff should be arrested for treason along with the members of the fascist Añez regime. Concomitantly, Evo Morales and his government’s ministers should be reinstated to their rightful positions to resume the path of socialist development.
But, of course, what should happen is too often not what actually happens. There is so much confusing information from online news reports in regard to the current situation that it is very hard to determine what is credible and what is not. There are disturbing reports that Morales’s party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), is reaching an agreement with the wealthy European-descended and mestizo elite that compose the fascist usurper government for elections without the exiled president, giving some legitimacy to the coup. Moreover, on December 12, it was reported that Morales had relocated from Mexico to Argentina for asylum.
To add further confusion, the MAS announced that Morales would be directing the electoral campaign from exile, but Argentine Foreign Minister Felipe Sola said his government wanted a commitment from Morales not to make any political statements while in the country. Then on Dec. 15, Argentine cabinet chief Santiago Cafiero contradicted Sola and said Morales would be allowed to make political statements.
There does seem to be some clarification, at this time, as on December 16 Morales announced that he would continue to be involved in Bolivian politics and would campaign to help MAS win new elections. However, the interim government so far has set no date for the next elections.
Albert Bender is a Cherokee activist, historian, political columnist, and
freelance reporter for Native and Non-Native publications. He was an organizer
and delegate to the First and Second Intercontinental Indian Conferences held in
Quito, Ecuador and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Recently, he has been an active
participant and reporter in the Standing Rock struggle in North Dakota. He is an
attorney and is currently writing a legal treatise on Native American
sovereignty. He is also writing a book on the war crimes committed by the U.S.
against the Maya people in the Guatemalan civil war of the late 20th century. He
is also the recipient of several Eagle Awards by the Tennessee Native American
Eagle Organization and a former Director of Native American Legal Departments
and a Tribal Public Defender.
This article originally appeared on People's
World. It is published under a Creative