Skip to main content

Truthout - November 25, 2019

"Using the funds generated from the nationalized resources, Morales’s socialist government embarked on a radical anti-poverty and social inclusion program which achieved remarkable social advances over the last 12 years, including areduction of poverty by 42 percent and extreme poverty by 60 percent; theeradication of illiteracy; a50 percent reduction in unemployment; and the establishment offree universal health care — praised by the World Health Organization as a “model for Latin America”— which covers over 70 percent of the population and has significantly reduced infant mortality and child malnutrition."

Latin America’s groundbreaking experiment in 21st century socialism has suffered another devastating setback with the recent right-wing coup which ousted President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who was democratically elected for a fourth term in October, when he defeated his right-wing challenger 47 percent to 36 percent.

This coup has followed a similar historical formula as most Latin American military coups over the last half-century in countries that have dared to challenge the neoliberal order. The local oligarchy — backed by Washington and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — foments destabilization, violence and unrest, whereupon the military (trained by the notorious School of the Americas) intervenes in the name of “restoring order and democracy,” and takes power. When the police forces abandoned their posts and sided with the coup plotters, the die were cast.

In an effort to end further bloodshed, Morales was forced to resign, and he took a plane to Mexico where he was granted asylum. After Morales left the presidential palace, Bolivian multimillionaire and evangelical Christian Luis Fernando Camacho, who has been linked to fascist paramilitary groups, walked into the palace carrying a Bible and a cross pledging that “Pachamama will never return to the palace,” referring to an Indigenous word for Mother Earth. “Bolivia belongs to Christ.”

After forcing all the top socialist government officials to resign, the white Mestizo elite — predominantly based in the wealthy Santa Cruz province — have hand-picked their new president: opposition Sen. Jeanine Añez Chavez, who recently posted on Twitter: “I dream of a Bolivia free of indigenous satanic rites, the city is not for Indians, they better go to the highlands or El Chaco.” The naked racism of the white elite coup plotters is on full display for the world to see. Morales was not exaggerating when he recently stated, “My sin was being Indigenous, leftist, and anti-imperialist.”

Since his ouster, Morales’s Indigenous supporters have been protesting in the streets, and several have been killed by police forces. The Indigenous majority is now experiencing a racist backlash from the resentful upper classes of European descent, who, during Morales’s tenure, saw Indigenous dress, customs and flags gain increasing prominence in the public arena. Members of Morales’s Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party still control majorities in both chambers of the Parliament, and they have unequivocally rejected the self-declared interim leader Añez.

The Andean nation was of particular interest to the multinational corporations due to it having the richest supply on Earth of lithium, considered the “gold of the 21st century” for its role as the key ingredient in car and smartphone batteries. Bolivia also contains vast reserves of natural gas, much of which Morales has nationalized.

Indigenous Origins

Morales, a member of the Aymara Indigenous people and a former union leader for coca leaf growers, was first propelled onto the world stage of history after his election in 2005 as the nation’s first Indigenous president.

As a union leader during the “gas wars,” — a period in the early 2000s when workers and coca farmers were battling against the privatization of the country’s natural gas reserves to U.S. corporations – Morales observed how military interventionists went from using the anti-communist doctrine in the 1950s and 1960s, to the “war on drugs” in recent decades as a pretext for interfering in the region, ultimately to control the Bolivian people and their natural resources.

The former coca farmer is famous for chewing on a coca leaf at UN summits, a plant that has been targeted as a narcotic by the disastrous U.S. war on drugs. However, Morales has highlighted the medicinal use of this leaf, the chewing of which is an age-old custom among his people, and is an “important symbol of the history and identity of the Indigenous cultures of the Andes,” according to Morales.

After five centuries of Spanish colonialism and U.S. neocolonialism — during which Morales said Indigenous Bolivians “were marginalized, humiliated, hated, despised and condemned to extinction” — the social, cultural and economic rights of the Indigenous majority have been recognized and expanded during Morales’s presidency.

This began with the president spearheading a 2006 elected assembly of Bolivians to create a new and decolonized constitution aiming to empower the Indigenous majority and end the centuries-long rule by a white-Mestizo ruling elite. The new constitution was ratified by a popular vote of over 60 percent in 2009. It established the nation as a pluri-national, secular state recognizing all its peoples and nationalities, and laid the groundwork for Bolivia’s increased sovereignty and control over its own natural resources; the redistribution of land to the poor and excluded sectors; the promotion and inclusion of Indigenous languages and cultures; and the creation of permanent Indigenous seats in the parliament. ...
Read full report at Truthout