Above Photo: REUTERS / David Mercado
Latin American and European researchers built a map that reflects how a network of US government agencies, private corporations, foundations, non-governmental organizations and the media were ‘essential’ to get Evo Morales out of power. Sputnik spoke with one of its creators, Silviana Romano.
📇 Bolivia en tiempos de @evoespueblo experimentó el mayor crecimiento económico, social, político y militar de toda su historia; sin embargo, los grandes medios catalogan su derrocamiento por hordas racistas como un acto profundo de democracia 👇 https://t.co/8Tu1T7KFpX
— Sputnik Mundo (@SputnikMundo) November 26, 2019
Romano has a degree in history and also in communication, is a doctor in political science and has dedicated her last years of study to US relations with Latin America, “with special emphasis on issues of psychological warfare,” she said in a dialogue with Sputnik.
The researcher created the map with Tamara Lajtman, a Brazilian based at the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina), Aníbal García Fernández, a Mexican trained at the National University of Mexico (UNAM), and Arantxa Tirado, based in Barcelona, they have all taken, at some point, classes at the UNAM.
“The team started being about the relationship between the United States and Latin America, but a year ago it was reformulated to include other powers such as Russia and China, which dispute the interests of the US,” Romano explained.
Before the change of power suffered by the government of the Movement To Socialism (MAS) in Bolivia, headed by Evo Morales, and that caused his exile in Mexico – with other members of his government – the team presented its geopolitical analysis of this event in the form of a map of power that was published by the Latin American Strategic Center for Geopolitics (CELAG) in a report entitled “United States and the construction of the coup in Bolivia”.
What is a Map of Power?
“There is always talk of imperialism and domination, but people disregard this proposition because they say they lack evidence. The network or the map of power is a way to materialize and synthetically show how power operates,” explained the doctor.
Romano pointed out how in the case of Bolivia, the pairing of interests between US government agencies and transnational corporations is confirmed, which are shared by officials through mechanisms such as the revolving door, which allow the passage from the public to the private sphere; and the political institutionalization of market techniques such as the lobby.
The doctor in political science included in her analysis a mechanism described in the 80s by communication theorists that includes the media in this scheme.
“The concept ‘manufacturing consent’ comes from the work of Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky called “The Guardians of Freedom”, a 1988 book and the ideas about ‘the network’ were contributed by Armand Mattelart with his studies on the political economy of critical communication, but since they are not postmodern authors, they have been forgotten,” said Romero, who pointed out the relevance of these theoretical frameworks to understand the current reality of Latin America.
“When there are those asymmetric relationships, where there are places that do have tools to generate a discourse that has real strength for the number of times it is repeated, for how it crushes on social networks and leaves no room for contrary opinion,” she explained, we can see this mechanism of creating consensus in operation, which, according to this study, is financed and exogenously directed to the countries and can be applied to the current Bolivian crisis.
“This map of power of the coup in Bolivia shows the link between local, regional, transnational and personal trajectories. It is a work of the sociological type and helps in this case to understand a minimum percentage, a little part of how these institutions linked to the local and transnational right wing when they disagree on the political, economic drift of a government,” said the co-author.
A coup story: the Bolivian case and its main actors
Romano is a specialist in this type of coup. The first in history was the one who overthrew Jacobo Árbenz of the Presidency of Guatemala in 1954.
“When we talk about power, we talk about decision-making to convince on the ideological level and the favoring of its reproduction, by financing it in material terms,” she explained.
The map was constructed following the financing schemes from two governmental instances of the United States such as the Agency for International Development, which, in turn, finances the National Foundation for Democracy, an organ “linked since its creation in 1980 to counterinsurgency financing” and that now appears behind key organizations in the promotion of the coup against Evo Morales, according to the investigation.
“The NED did not contribute so much with money, but with the approval of its lines of work and its international projection,” Romano said. “This network includes foundations and NGOs, as well as links with US think tanks that generated an ‘expert opinion’ on Evo Morales during the past two or three years, which said that while the economy was going well, Bolivia had a problem with democracy,” Romano said.
This problem that the United States think tanks identified said that “Bolivian democracy was authoritarian, that it was not normal as it should be and that it was most likely that in the 2019 elections there would be a scenario of destabilization and violence if it did not go to the second round,” Romano said.
That is, they anticipated the scenario that we now see materialized. “They had already written it then. Now, was that a probable or desirable scenario? As it was a desirable one, they sought to generate it with those projections,” she explained.
According to the researchers, the NED directly finances the National Press Agency of Bolivia and the Nueva Democracia Foundation, founded by the senator of the Democratic Unit by the Department of Santa Cruz, Oscar Ortiz Antelo, an opponent of MAS.
In turn, Nueva Democracia is a member of the Atlas Network, identified by Romano as an organization created in the 1980s by American conservatives to “promote free markets and liberal values, according to their own website,” she said.
The Atlas Network is linked to other recent destabilizing processes in Latin America through other members such as Students for Liberty in Brazil and in Honduras with Eleutera.
“They do not arrive saying that they are going to overthrow the government, but to start training courses for young leaders, in democracy and human rights. Then, a speech is reproduced that is the center of the reproduction of the hegemonic ideology,” said the researcher Silvina Romano to Sputnik.
The third element is the media, which choose the sources that replicate that discourse.
“A key actor in Bolivia is Raúl Peñaranda, who was linked to the Zapata affair, who falsely accused Evo Morales of having an unrecognized son. That had an impact on the outcome of the referendum because he questioned Evo’s moral quality and they knew that would happen,” Romano said.
The researcher explained that Peñaranda founded the Fides press agency – linked to the Church – as well as giving talks to the Interamerican Dialogue, “one of the most important think tanks on Latin America,” directed by Michael Shifter, a participant in NED since its inception
“That is, they are people with a trajectory that goes between the government and the private sector in a revolving door that makes them share certain interests and practices and ways of doing things,” she explained.
On the NGOs financed or guided by this foreign scheme, they only put one: Standing Rivers or Standing Rivers led by Jhanisse Vaca Daza, an NGO that gained visibility by accusing Evo Morales of being responsible for not accepting foreign aid during the Amazon fires.
“Standing Rivers is an NGO linked to the Human Rights Foundation of Norway, which includes ultra-right-wing characters and has Islamophobic programs, but with great impact on the big media such as CNN, Forbes or Fox,” Romano said.
“In addition, Jhanisse Vaca Daza was present in a repudiation of Evo Morales when she spoke publicly at UNAM days ago,” she added. “What is not understood is that the NGOs came to fill the gap left by the State in everything related to socio-economic welfare and social justice,” said the source.
The worrying thing, according to Romano, is that these organizations and trusts that have previously been linked to USAID and the NED “later proved to be spaces of political formation of opposition to the governments of the day,” she said.
“That, anywhere in the world, is considered a foreign intervention and it is a case that must be prosecuted. You cannot go to another country to harangue against the government just because you want to. But this happens all the time,” she concluded.