Five Lessons From The US-Supported Coup In Bolivia

Above: Screen grab taken from a handout video released by Bolivia TV showing Bolivian President Evo Morales leaving after announcing his resignation on November 10, 2019 in a televised address from Cochabamba, Bolivia, Photo by HO / Bolivia TV / AFP.

The Bolivian tragedy eloquently teaches us several lessons that our people and grassroots social and political forces must learn and permanently etch into our consciences. Very briefly, and while events are unfolding, I will list some of them as a prelude to a more detailed discussion later.

ONE, no matter how exemplary one is with the national economy, as Evo’s government was—ensuring growth, redistribution of wealth, investment flows, and improvements to all macro and microeconomic indicators—the Right and imperialism will never accept a government that does not place itself at the service of their interests.

TWO, we must study the manuals published by various U.S. agencies and their spokespersons disguised as academics or journalists in order to detect the telltale signs of an offensive. Their writings invariably stress the need to destroy the reputation of a popular leader, which in the specialized terminology is called character assassination, calling him or her a thief, corrupt, dictator, or ignorant. This task is assigned to social communicators, self-proclaimed “independent journalists,” who under almost monopolistic control of the media drill all of these accusations into the population’s heads. And in the case at hand, they are accompanied by hate speech aimed at the native peoples and the poor in general.

THREE, once the above is accomplished it is the turn of the political leaders and economic elites to call for “a change” and the end of “the dictatorship” of Evo who, as the disgraceful Vargas Llosa said a few days ago, is “a demagogue who is trying to stay in power forever.” I imagine he is drinking champagne in Madrid upon seeing the images of the fascist hordes looting, burning, and chaining journalists to a post, shearing a female mayor and painting her red, and destroying the records of the recent election to carry out Vargas Llosa’s order and liberate Bolivia from that evil demagogue. I just mention him because he has been and continues to be the immoral standard-bearer of these vile attacks, these limitless felonies that crucify popular leaders, destroy democracy, and install a reign of terror run by hit men hired to teach a lesson to those honorable people who dared to try and be free.

FOUR, the “security forces” come on the scene. In this case we’re talking about institutions controlled by numerous military and civilian agencies of the United States government that arm and train them, conduct joint exercises, and provide political education. I had the occasion to see this for myself when Evo invited me to speak at the opening of a course on “Anti-imperialism” for senior officers in the three branches of the military. I was stunned to see how much they had taken on the most reactionary American slogans inherited from the Cold War, as well as their blatant displeasure at having an indigenous president in their country. What these “security forces” did was abandon the scene, leaving the field open for the unchecked actions of the fascist hordes, like those who acted in Ukraine, Libya, Iraq, and Syria to overthrow—or attempt it in the latter case—leaders that the Empire dislikes. In this way they can intimidate the population, members of the party, and even government officials. In other words, it is a new socio-political technique: a military coup “by omission,” leaving the reactionary bands, recruited and financed by the Right, to impose their law. Once terror reigned and the government was rendered defenseless, the outcome was inevitable.

FIVE, law and order and public safety in Bolivia should never have been entrusted to institutions such as the police and the army, which are colonized by imperialism and its lackeys, along with the country’s own right wing. When the offensive against Evo was launched, they opted for a policy of appeasement rather than responding to the provocations of the fascists. That only emboldened them to up the ante: first they demanded a new vote; then they proclaimed there had been fraud and demanded new elections; later came Evo’s resignation; and finally, given his reluctance to give in to blackmail, they sowed terror in the population with the complicity of the police and the military. This forced Evo to resign. Just like in the manuals.

Will we ever learn these lessons?