Fascism Ahead of the May 3 Elections in Bolivia

‘Bolivia: An Election in the Midst of an Ongoing Coup’, Vijay Prashad, mronline.org, Feb. 12, 2020 (CC, non-commercial)


“On May 3, 2020, the Bolivian people will go to the polls once more. They return there because President Evo Morales had been overthrown in a coup in November 2019. Morales had just won a presidential election in October for a term that would have begun in January 2020. Based on a preliminary investigation by the Organization of American States (OAS) that claimed that there was fraud in the election, Morales was prematurely removed from office; the term for his 2014 presidential election victory did not end until January. Yet, he was told by the military to leave office. An interim president—Jeanine Áñez—appointed herself. She said she was taking this office only on an interim basis and would not run for election when Bolivia held another election. She is a candidate for the May 3 election. (For more information on what is happening in Bolivia, see this overview from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.)

Meanwhile, Morales has been in exile in Argentina. His party—the Movement for Socialism (MAS)—has candidates for the presidency and the vice presidency, but their party cadres and followers are facing a difficult time making their case to the people. Their radio stations have been blocked, their leaders arrested or exiled (or sitting in foreign embassies waiting for asylum), their cadre beaten up and intimidated.

The United Nations secretary-general’s personal envoy Jean Arnault released a statement on February 3 that expressed caution about the elections. The situation in Bolivia, Arnault said, is “characterized by an exacerbated polarization and mixed feelings of hope, but also of uncertainty, restlessness and resentment after the serious political and social crisis of last year.” This careful language of the UN needs to be looked at closely. When Arnault says there is “exacerbated polarization,” he means that the situation is extremely tense. When he asks that the interim government “outlaw hate speech and direct or indirect incitement to violence or discrimination,” he means that the government and its far-right followers need to be very careful about what they say and how much violence they use in this election.

On February 6, Morales spoke in Buenos Aires, where he urged an end to the violence so that the election could bring the fractured country together. He called for a national agreement between all sides to end the dangerous situation. In a pointed way, Morales called upon the government to respect diversity, noting that people wearing distinct clothes and wearing the signs of a certain political party were facing intimidation and violence. He meant the indigenous population of Bolivia, and the supporters of MAS; it is widely accepted that the violence has been coming from the far right’s paramilitary shock troops, and the intimidation has been coming from the government.

For instance, the Bolivian authorities have been routinely charging MAS leaders with sedition, terrorism, and incitement to violence. Morales faced these charges, along with dozens of important MAS leaders, most recently Gustavo Torrico who has been arrested. Matters are so bad that the UN’s special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, took to Twitter to express his concern at the “use of judicial and fiscal institutions for the purpose of political persecution. The number of illegal detentions grows.” This has not stopped Áñez, who says she will move her government to investigate at least 592 people who held high office in Morales’ 14 years in government. This means that the entirety of the MAS leadership will likely face harassment between now and the May 3 election.

U.S. Interference

In 2013, Morales expelled the U.S. government agency USAID; he accused USAID of working to undermine his elected government. Before that, Morales, as is his constitutional right, informed Salvador Romero—the head of the election agency (TSE)—that when his term ended in 2008, he would not be retained. This is a normal practice.

Romero went to the U.S. Embassy to complain. He met with U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg to complain about this and urged the U.S. to do something. It was clear that Romero and Goldberg knew each other well. When Romero left his post at the TSE, the U.S. establishment took care of him. He went to work at the National Democratic Institute in Honduras. The National Democratic Institute, based in Washington, is loosely affiliated with the U.S. Democratic Party, and is part of the universe that includes the National Endowment for Democracy. These are all U.S. government-funded agencies that operate overseas to “oversee” what is known as “democracy promotion,” including elections.

Romero essentially worked for the U.S. government in Honduras during the first election after the U.S.-instigated coup of 2009. During this election in 2013, violence against the supporters of Xiomara Castro, the candidate of the left-wing Libre Party, was routine. The day before the election, for instance, two leaders of the National Center of Farmworkers (CNTC)—María Amparo Pineda Duarte and Julio Ramón Maradiaga—were killed as they returned home from a training for Libre election workers. This was the atmosphere of this very tight election, which returned to power the U.S.-backed conservative candidate Juan Orlando Hernández of the National Party. Romero, at that time, was quite pleased with the results. He told the New York Times then that “despite ‘the general perception of fraud,’” the election was just fine.

Right after the coup in November, Áñez brought Romero back to La Paz as the head of the election court, the TSE. He has his old job back. This would have made Bruce Williamson, the U.S. charge d’affaires to Bolivia, very happy. The U.S. has its man at the helm of the May 3 election in Bolivia.

And then Trump said he is sending USAID to Bolivia to help prepare the ground for the election. On January 9, the USAID team arrived to “give technical aid to the electoral process in Bolivia.” Technical aid. The phrase should give a reasonable person pause.

Ten days later, Trump’s legal adviser Mauricio Claver-Carone arrived in La Paz and gave a series of interviews in which he accused Morales of terrorism and creating instability. This was a direct attack at MAS and interference with Bolivia’s electoral process.

If the U.S. intervenes in Bolivia, that is just “democracy promotion.”

But even with the violence from the government and its fascistic paramilitaries, even with Romero at the helm of the TSE, even with USAID on the ground, and even with the shenanigans of Claver-Carone, MAS is fighting to win. The candidates for MAS are Luis Arce Catacora (president) and David Choquehuanca Céspedes (vice president). Catacora was the minister of economy and public finance under Morales and the architect of the administration’s economic success. Céspedes was the foreign minister in that government. He managed Bolivia’s policy of international sovereignty and is an important person to Bolivia’s indigenous and peasant movements. Early polls show that the MAS ticket is in first place.”

Evo is apparently running for a Senate Seat in Bolivia.

More background: ‘USAID Arriving in Bolivia to ‘Monitor Elections,’ Raising Fears of US Meddling in May 3 Vote’; “The Trump administration has clearly picked sides.”, Eoin Higgins, commondreams.org, Jan. 10, 2020 (Creatve Commons; some snippets)

“Seven years after former President Evo Morales expelled the organization from his country, claiming it was undermining his government, USAID is returning to Bolivia at the invitation of Jeanine Añez’s coup government to monitor elections in the Latin American nation set for May 3.

Officials from USAID and the U.S.-dominated Organization for American States (OAS) arrived in Bolivia Thursday to “give technical aid to the election process in Bolivia.”

“The Morales government expelled USAID from Bolivia on May 1, 2013 due to the U.S. agency’s repeated actions conspiring “against the people and especially against the country” of Bolivia.

The right-wing Añez government, which unilaterally declared its own legitimacy in November after toppling the democratically-elected Morales, has focused on privatizating Bolivian resources like the country’s vast lithium deposits, the rolling back of Morales-era reforms, and closer ties to the U.S.

In remarks Thursday, Añez claimed that the country was on the up and up following the coup that led to Morales’ resignation in November.

Bolivia is experiencing a process of democratic recovery,” said Añez. “I was reviewing studies of social behavior and the level of optimism and hope of Bolivians has increased in the last month.”

This earlier historical piece is an astounding exposé; I’ll include just a couple squibs:

‘What the Right Wing in Latin America means by democracy is violence’, Jan 23, 2020 by Vijay Prashad


janine añez, ‘the horror of bolivia’

“The interim president of Bolivia, Jeanine Áñez Chávez, has made inflammatory statements about the indigenous support base of MAS and Morales. She has frequently spoken of them with derision, even saying that she dreams of a Bolivia without “satanic indigenous rites” and that “the city is not for the Indians.” Áñez signed Supreme Decree no. 4078 that exempted the military from any criminal responsibility for its use of force; she wants to ban MAS, and her interior minister has filed a warrant for the arrest of Morales. This is a rapid and disturbing attack on the political fabric of Bolivia.” [huge snip to his ending]

“In 1967, Che Guevara and his National Liberation Army of Bolivia operated near the Ñancahuazú River in Bolivia’s southeast. The government of General René Barrientos Ortuño, the CIA agent Félix Rodríguez, and the Nazi Klaus Barbie ran the operation [Operation Condor] to destroy Guevara’s campaign. They named their operation the Ñancahuazú Campaign. The Anti-Imperialist School in Bolivia now honors the men—led by a CIA agent and a Nazi—who killed Che Guevara. It sends a message to the Che Guevaras of today:

We will get you. This is the democracy of the oligarchy in Latin America today.”

(cross-posted from Café Babylon)

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center into my mind after reading that anti-coup protesters were murdered, no doubt with U.S. deep state blessing.

And that's why Chris Mathews is afraid of political change. He is projecting his apathy toward those whose governments we routinely topple, and whose citizens we routinely murder. He's paranoid that karma will bite him in the ass for all of the murdering that he has cheered for.

Fucking grow up Chris, you goddamned cry-baby. People just want bankruptcy-free healthcare and jobs that pay enough not to eat cat-food. All of the rest of the shit inside your pea-brain is paranoid delusion, a reflection of the shit you have condoned again and again.

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I don't want Trump to win, but I do want the establishment Dems to lose due to their cheating and undemocratic practices in the primary. And I will do whatever I can to help that happen.

wendy davis's picture

@entrepreneur

you haven't the time to red the entire post, i'd think you might like to read VJ Prashad's ‘What the Right Wing in Latin America means by democracy is violence’at the bottom. i'd only included two snippets, but on twitter he has this:

which of course is william blum's quip:

'Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List', by William Blum (may he rest in power)

Instances of the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government since the Second World War. (* indicates successful ouster of a government)

a very long list since 1949, and he ends:

Q: Why will there never be a coup d’état in Washington?

A: Because there’s no American embassy there.

but sure, it's all been scripted before, is US/OAS-approved, and especially with VZ and bolivia, it's about resource wars and reversing the Pink Tide.

funny, i haven't seen chris matthews since he'd heard that sarah palin had been put forward by bill kristol as john mcCain's running mate, and he said 'i got a tingle up my leg!' OMG.

thanks for the correct thought, entrepeneur.

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wendy davis's picture

@entrepreneur

would have had janine añez with him at the state of the onion along with guado, save for the fact that guaido was on a charm tour, and could just stop by...

@bretgustafson

Bolivia journalist with key role in opposition media during Evo ouster wins a women's prize from the US State Department and an all-expense (US tax dollar) paid 3 week trip to the USA to meet Mike Pompeo and Melania Trump, to promote "human rights and gender equality". (the image)

https://twitter.com/AndeanInfoNet

Ollie Vargas @OVargas52 5h
‘Bolivia's Movement Towards Socialism have declared a state of emergency, due to attempts by the regime's electoral council to ban Evo Morales and Luis Arce (their presidential candidate) from standing.’

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Shahryar's picture

the octopus has its tentacles everywhere.

The US govt./capitalistic weapons controllers want it all. They're not interested in "80% of the world is good enough for us". They want it all and any country that goes against TPTB is at risk. Maybe not this week but eventually.

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wendy davis's picture

@Shahryar

'Maybe not this week but eventually.'

anthony freda made one w/ a frayed amerikan flag wrapping around the planet like tentacles. all i could find was this one:

iran, russia, china...syria...

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wendy davis's picture

@Shahryar

nicaragua again, iraq again (for the pentagon/trump's/ jonesin' for the oil). on edit: honduras says 'thrice'.

should we doubt that the new PM of iraq will be more...pliable...or otherwise?

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wendy davis's picture

so i'll go with this as a closing song and dance:

good night; thanks, all.

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wendy davis's picture

Bolivia’s Coup in PracticeFeb. 5, 2020, Guillaume Long (creative commons)

'Within days of taking power, the Añez government had cut off relations with Venezuela, expelled its diplomatic staff, recognized instead the self-proclaimed government of Juan Guaidó, and swiftly abandoned the ALBA group of states to join its right-wing counterweight, the Group of Lima. Bolivia soon reestablished diplomatic relations with Israel and rekindled close ties with the United States that had been seriously eroded since the US ambassador to Bolivia had been caught having secret meetings with key opposition figures in the midst of a violent separatist movement aimed at ousting Morales’s government in 2008.
...........................................................
The Internationalization of Domestic Politics

The man in charge of this resurgence of the “internal war” ― Latin America’s infamous national security doctrine of the military dictatorships of the 1960s and ‘70s ― is Interior Minister Arturo Murillo. Murillo makes no secret of his international alliances to root out subversives and terrorists: “We have invited [the Israelis] to help us. They are used to dealing with terrorists. They know how to handle them.”

As for the widespread denunciations of human rights abuses that have resulted from such an approach, they are, for Patricio Aparicio, Añez’s ambassador to the Organization of American States, simply “lies and falsehoods.” Aparicio labeled the report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and its denunciation of the Senkata massacre, merely the result of the workings of “consultants and operators from a certain type of international leftism, implanted in many inter-American institutions, who are not interested in the truth.”
............................................
The international context has played a decisive role in bolstering Añez’s crusade against the Left. The Brazilian government, for one, has provided much support and encouragement. The Israeli foreign minister confirmed Brazil’s influence when he acknowledged “the help of the Brazilian president [Jair Bolsonaro] and [his] minister of foreign affairs” in the reestablishment of Israel’s relations with Bolivia, and, naturally, the importance of the coup: “The departure of President Morales, who was hostile to Israel, and his replacement by a government friendly to Israel, allows the fruition of the process.”

Notwithstanding the issue of Israel, it is clear that the Brazilian president is delighted with developments in neighboring Bolivia. Whereas Bolsonaro is a Catholic who was supported by Brazil’s many conservative evangelical churches in the 2018 elections, Añez is, in fact, the real thing: a devout hard-right evangelist with no love for progressive issues or for Latin America’s historic separation of church and state.
...................................................
The Break with Cuba

Even the Trump administration, which has resuscitated Title III of the Helms Burton Law to pile more economic pressure on the island, has not yet swept aside the diplomatic relations with Cuba established under its predecessor. This is not to say, however, that Bolivia’s maverick approach to the Left in Latin America is not heartily encouraged in Washington. The influence of Marco Rubio on all things Latin American [i'd add bob menendez] and the calculations ― or miscalculations ― of Trump’s presidential campaign keep fueling the US administration’s ever more aggressive stance toward the region. Ultimately, Bolivia’s Cold War-era politics is a leap back into a dark, undemocratic past which fits snuggly with Trump’s Monroeist vision of Latin America’s “backyard” role in the international system.
..............................................
In recent days, Añez’s foreign minister, Karen Longaric, was warmly received by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro followed suit, and Longaric celebrated his “crucial role in the defense of democracy and the rule of law” and formally offered him Bolivia’s backing in his reelection bid at the head of the organization. The OAS was key in undermining the October 2019 elections and in bolstering a flawed narrative of fraudulent elections that greatly contributed to Morales’s overthrow. Longaric then gave a presentation at the Inter-American Dialogue on the importance of espousing a nonideological foreign policy. That afternoon, relations with Cuba were broken. At the event, Longaric was not confronted with uncomfortable questions.

From unlikely caretaker emerging from obscurity, to presidential candidate with a growing set of international allies, Añez has successfully made her zealous foreign policy a stalwart of her political strategy. In a regional and international context in which far-right extremism, far from being isolated, has become politically profitable, it is no wonder that Jeanine Añez should feel so emboldened.'

nice work, guillaume. CEPR rocks!

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