Although not widely reported in the media as such, a coup has forced out Bolivian President Evo Morales.
Morales’s candidacy would have originally been unconstitutional — a three term limit outlined in the 2009 Constitution of Bolivia. But, in 2017, Bolivia’s Constitutional Court ruled against imposing term limits, claiming limits demonstrate a violation of human rights.
This was rightly questioned as a case of governmental overreach. Bolivian citizenry had voted only one year prior in favor of a referendum disallowing three consecutive terms. Morales, who has been president since 2006, would have been in violation of this had the courts not stepped in.
While there exist serious flaws with the democratic validity of Morales’s entrance into the race, election day had confirmed his mandate to govern with a 10-point margin over his main opponent, former President Carlos Mesa. Claiming election fraud, Mesa deliberately motivated violent opposition protests that would eventually be joined by the army.
After an audit conducted by the continental Organization for American States — a forum led by the right-wing governments of countries like Brazil and the United States — determined that claims of election fraud and tampering were now seen as legitimate by an agitated militant opposition. This is all, of course, substantiated by literally no evidence.
Morales offered to participate in new elections to confirm his support among the Bolivian people, but this was not enough. Facing these pressures, he fell, announcing his resignation on Nov. 10.
The reign of Leftist thought, whether in a radical or social democratic tradition, has been dominant in Latin America for many years. In the second half of the 20th century, this would often lead to violent military coups sponsored by the United States. Countries like Guatemala, Brazil and Chile are among the many countries in South America with historically Leftist governments that suffered at the hands of the United States coups and military operations.
This begs the question, what was so terrible in these countries that would warrant the bloodshed and political instability that followed the United States military operations? A democratically elected Jacobo Árbenz wanted to peacefully redistribute land from corporations to the poor in Guatemala. A democratically elected Salvador Allende sought to nationalize key industries and place power in the hands of the Chilean worker. They simply had the audacity to put people before profit.
A true “pink tide” of Left governments would not come again until following the fall of the Soviet Union, a moment that would soothe the United States’ Red Scare just enough to allow a resurgence. Hugo Chávez’s 1998 victory in the Venezuelan presidential election marked the beginning of a new wave of radical governments. Morales’s 2006 victory in Bolivia is often seen as an extension of this movement.
Morales’s tenure as president has produced one of the most successful socialist economic transitions in history. He acts as head of the Movimiento al Socialismo, or Movement toward Socialism, a federation that is the foundation of his progressive platforms.
By nationalizing industries such as gas, oil and communications along with redistributing vital resources such as land to the poorest Bolivians, poverty was slashed in half. Morales invested in infrastructure and public transportation, increasing quality of life for the indigenous and rural communities of Bolivia. An increasing minimum wage, powerful unions and a deep culture of political mobilization among common Bolivians were all strengthened under his administration.
The interim “president” of Bolivia, Jeanine Áñez, has set a vicious anti-indigenous and anti-worker tone in the first few days of her administration. She was chosen without the proper quorum for representatives and outside the proper line of succession. She is the product of a coup and her current rhetoric reflects this.
Many pro-Morales protestors, largely poor and indigenous Bolivians, have been killed by security forces defending the acting government.
Áñez has in the past referred to indigenous religious practices as “satanic” and upon her declaration of power declared the “Bible has returned to the palace.” With the targeting of pro-Morales leaders and Leftist opposition to the coup, the transition of power has set the stage for a dangerous right-wing or fascist presence though Áñez, a sad addition in a long line of such regressions in Latin America.
Morales has for now been granted asylum in Mexico and hopes that he may return to seek office once again. What we are seeing now is nothing new. The crimes with which Morales is burdened are the same of his predecessors.
Morales is the first indigenous president of Bolivia. He is a cocoa farmer, a labor leader and a man willing to put his people above profit.
For that he has been silenced — it is now up to the Bolivian people to speak for him.
Veenay Komaragiri is a Rutgers Business School senior majoring in business analytics and information technology. His column, “Bleeding Heart,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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