An allegation from a right-wing watchdog helped legitimize the overthrow of the socialist ruler.
On Oct. 20, Bolivia held its general election. The key element of this election was selecting the country’s next president. Evo Morales, the incumbent, is a wildly popular indigenous man whose socialist policies have slashed poverty rates and supported Bolivia’s large indigenous population.
The election was declared finished when Morales had collected about 47 percent of the vote, just above 10 percent more than the runner-up. This was enough of the vote to allow the election to be over, but some people in Bolivia suspected election fraud. This suspicion was mostly driven by an OAS report, an agency run by several right-wing governments in the Americas. Morales volunteered to allow a second election to guarantee legitimacy, but now the opposition called for his outright resignation.
This unrest culminated in the removal of Morales from the government by the Bolivian military. Many mainstream media outlets in America have refused to call this action a coup. Morales had faced many legitimate calls for his resignation after the events of the election without resigning. He decided to flee the country minutes after the military leaders “requested” his resignation. The only reason such a response would be justified is in the face of a threat of overwhelming force, otherwise known as a coup.
Now Jeanine Áñez, Bolivia’s Senate’s vice president, has declared herself the new leader of Bolivia. Despite the fact that she hasn’t gone through any electoral process, this transfer of power has been crowned a triumph of democracy, and her authority has been recognized by the U.S. The White House went as far as to claim the coup is a step towards having “Bolivian people … have their voices heard.”
Áñez herself is a right-wing christian who swore on a Bible while saying, “God has allowed the Bible to come back into the palace.” Several of her tweets have surfaced wherein she espouses anti-Indigenous viewpoints, saying, “Indians … should stay in the highlands.” She made these comments in the face of the 20 percent indigenous population of Bolivia while claiming to represent the will of her country’s people.
U.S. influence is certainly existent, the question is to what degree was the coup influenced by neo-imperial actors. Several of the key plotters of the coup were trained by the School of the Americas, an organization headquartered in Americas responsible for training many brutal regime-leaders. The plotters acknowledged the support their coup would receive from right-wing U.S. figures like Ted Cruz and eventually Trump. There was also an influx of bot activity on Twitter supporting the coup with some location tags within the U.S.
It is impossible to not compare this coup with the many that have occurred before it in Latin America. In 1973, Salvador Allende, a democratically elected socialist, was removed by a U.S.-backed coup. The Reagan administration supported the Nicaraguan Contras, who fought against the Sandinista socialist government. Funds for supporting the Contras came from selling arms to Iran, which was under an embargo, and violated established laws.
This is not to say there isn’t legitimate opposition to Morales within Bolivia, but it is important to remember where the interests of the powerful lie. The U.S.’s interest lies with the continuation of the flow of global capital, whether or not democracy leads to it. To imply this takeover is in any way democratic or helpful to the people of Bolivia is a ridiculous misrepresentation of the facts.