Elections Between Witch Hunts, The Coup Plan In Bolivia

Above photo: A supporter of Evo Morales is injured by the Jeanine Añez administration’s security forces in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Nov. 18, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

NOTE: Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK and Wyatt Reed are reporting live from Bolivia.

A colleague who had to leave Bolivia writes to me. She is being chased along with her partner who, they told her, they are looking for him to “liquidate him”. Since before Evo Morales was forced to resign, a list of names began to circulate; its application accelerated from that moment. It was Arturo Murillo, de facto government minister, who was responsible for putting it in black and white: he talked about “hunting” three leaders, after chasing parliamentarians accused of “sedition” and “subversion.” Communication minister Roxana Lizárraga pointed to “journalists and pseudo-journalists”, and on Thursday the Telesur TV channel was taken off of Bolivian television stations.

The strategy of decapitation and persecution is part of the coup d’etat architecture that moves according to a series of planned steps. The first was to force the resignation of Evo and Álvaro García Linera. The second, build a de facto government, materialized from the self-proclamation of Jeanine Añez. The third, initiated before and deepened in these days, is the persecution of leaders, along with the beginning of militarized repressions. The latter was announced with the decree to exempt the armed forces from criminal responsibility and an additional budget credit of four thousand eight hundred million dollars.

The fourth step is the one that is under development without having yet materialized, the call for general elections, for which new authorities of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the Departmental Electoral Courts must be appointed. This is the point of greatest complexity for those who are leading the coup. The appointment of authorities for the TSE must pass through the legislative branch, where the Movement to Socialism (MAS) has two-thirds of the seats. The de facto government and the real powers in the coup seek to force the agreement with MAS to accept the electoral call according to their conditions. That means getting MAS to recognize Añez as president, impose the electoral authorities, and, simultaneously, outlaw Evo.

The fifth and final step will be the election as such. There is still no agreement within the coup block about the date. Fernando Camacho said that the deadline for the contest is January 19 – the 20th would end Evo’s mandate – while other voices have already raised that there are no conditions to achieve the election in January. This point is central to the structure of the coup d’etat that from the beginning was presented as democratic and thus was backed by President Donald Trump and his administration, by the secretary of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro and by the European Union.

But the democratic fiction that conceals the coup requires the call for elections. Añez appeared from the outset as interim president and the OAS itself, which denies that there has been an “institutional breakdown” – as Uruguay did, for example, asking to be incorporated in the last OAS resolution – urges the de facto government and the politicians to achieve that electoral call. What the coup leaders debate, without internal agreement so far, is about the times and conditions for those elections. They seek to guarantee the proscription of Evo Morales, some claim to do the same with MAS, and, in turn, have a TSE under control.

While that happens, the persecution deepens, police and military repressions have killed more than thirty people, pain and rage increase. Given this, there is resistance in the streets and in the legislative power that advance together, although not necessarily in a coordinated way. MAS, it has already announced, works to achieve electoral output in the least unfavorable conditions. Can they achieve it? Several parliamentarians are under threat in a context of absolute coup impunity that has come, as it turns out, to a self-proclamation without quorum and persecution even of dead people.