The coup d’état consummated against President Evo Morales marks a tremendous political setback in our region and for the battle to build a fair, democratic and inclusive society.
Bolivian elites, the right wing grouped around former candidate Carlos Mesa, and the president of the Santa Cruz Civic Committee, Luis Fernando Camacho, unleashed violence in the country, in the first instance ignoring the electoral results of the past elections and then openly calling for the overthrow of President Evo.
Immediately, the big international disinformation media and social networks were activated in a destabilizing campaign, with messages full of racism and contempt for the humble, that is, the Indigenous people who happen to be the majority in the country.
Events were hastened, surely accelerated by the urgency of overthrowing Evo and to act before Alberto Fernández takes office in Argentina and in this way, preventing a regrouping of progressive governments in the region.
The so-called «Civic Committees» of the Bolivian «Media Luna» had already rehearsed their fascist violence back in 2008, but the popular mobilization and decisive action of the governments of the region prevented in that opportunity the overthrow of Evo. Today, Camacho, president of the «Santa Cruz Civic Committee,» is the most violent and intolerant agent of coup factors in Bolivia.
The violence was unleashed after the last elections on October 20, with the excuse of an alleged electoral fraud, that gave Evo a 10% advantage over Carlos Mesa, which signified Evo’s victory and eliminated the need for a second round.
Carlos Mesa did not recognize the results; and as well as Camacho, asked his respective supporters to take to the streets. The major international media and social networks insisted on fomenting violence. No one proposed solutions, no one wanted dialogue. The destabilizing operation was already underway.
Evo invited the OAS to carry out an audit of the electoral process, giving, in what would be a serious error, preeminence to this very discredited body in the region, which has always acted with double standards and interfering interests.
In its preliminary report, the OAS does not mention 33% of irregular acts, it refers to 23% of a sample of 333 acts, out of a total of 34,555; this represents only 0.22% of the acts, that is, the sample is not representative enough to determine irregularities in the whole process.
However, as is logical to suppose and as a result of the manipulation of both the media and the OAS itself, the preliminary report only cast more elements of doubt on the electoral process, questioning it as a whole, giving arguments to the opposition and further weakening the position of the president.
When the Police in La Paz and other important cities joined the coup in March, the violence was unleashed. In the absence of authority, the proto-fascist groups set fire to the houses of Evo’s supporters, his sister, social leaders, politicians, government officials. Beatings, kidnappings of family members, burning of government offices, taking of media and images of torture and humiliation of Indigenous leaders, which were widely disseminated on social networks, exacerbating fascist violence and fear.
The response of the social movements and the political entities supporting Evo’s government was timid. There was a march for peace, rallies in El Alto and sporadic expressions of support in the streets. Fascist violence was hitting the social base of the Indigenous movement in support of Evo. The confrontation developed with violence in the cities, far from the peasant areas, where there is broad and majority popular support for Evo.
The position of the Armed Forces of not being involved as a method ¨to preserve the constitutional order, to stop the violence and to maintain the peace of the country, gave the coup de grace to the government. They sustained the coup plan and then ordered the president to resign.
Although Evo called for new elections and the renewal of the country’s electoral body, the right wing was already emboldened and in the street, imposing terror. Carlos Mesa declared that he had nothing to negotiate with Evo, that Evo should withdraw from the presidency, and that he should not even participate as a candidate in a new electoral process.
It is in the context of this situation that President Evo and his Vice-President, García Linera, announced their resignation from their posts and their willingness to stay in the fight. They retreated to the tropical, peasant-populated areas of the country. The coup d’état had been consummated.
Immediately, we receive news of the fascism unleashed, the burning of houses, the attack on the embassies of Mexico and Venezuela, the beatings, the humiliations, the persecutions against social and government leaders. The threat on Evo himself and García Linera, the detention of the authorities of the Electoral Organisms, makes foreseeable a wave of fascist violence that will remind us what happened in our country, namely, those fateful 11th and 12th of April 2002.
President Evo Morales and Vice-President García Linera deserve all my respect and appreciation. We had a closer, closer relationship with Evo, because we knew him before he became president and because then we had to work together with him and President Chávez on so many issues of bilateral cooperation, especially, in the process of strengthening the recently nationalized oil and gas industry, and in the social programs that were developed in that country.
Long conversations, where I was an exceptional witness, between Evo, President Chávez and Commander Fidel, allowed me to see in Evo a profoundly honest man with convictions, revolutionary, and with a good heart. He was a true socialist of an extraordinary human quality, and whose passion could sometimes be considered naivety.
Evo, a faithful and genuine representative of the humble, peasant and Indigenous majorities of his country, was determined to re-establish rights and justice in favor of his people who, for centuries, have been humiliated, mistreated, and dispossessed by an elite, White, Creole, who owned the country and maintained Bolivia as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
On the other hand, Vice-President García Linera, although of a different personal disposition, was a fundamental factor in the success of Evo’s government. Likewise, a man of conviction and revolutionary zeal, and integrity, always worked tirelessly to achieve the people’s sovereignty and the construction of socialism.
Evo kept his word to the Bolivian people. He did it, and he did it with courage. He promoted profound political, economic, and social transformations in the country, in spite of the virulent opposition of the right wing, the privileged elites, who until that moment owned Bolivia, its natural resources, hydrocarbons, public services, water, transportation, countryside, everything.
The successes of the government of Evo Morales are undeniable, irrefutable, show the ability of socialism to achieve the development of our country with social justice. Want a good example? Let’s see:
In terms of sovereignty, it successfully nationalized the hydrocarbon, oil and gas industry; state-owned company YPFB took control of operations and renegotiated gas supply contracts with Brazil and Argentina, to put them in terms of justice for Bolivia. It also developed important projects for gas industrialization, petrochemicals, and large thermoelectric plants.
According to CELAG, in its «Radiography of the Bolivian Economic Situation»:
- «Bolivia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew during the government of Evo Morales (2006-2017 period), 78% at constant prices, 27% more than the previous twelve years.
- Public investment reached 12.6% of the country’s GDP, compared to neighbouring countries such as Brazil and Chile, which only reached levels of 1.6% and 2.6%, respectively.
- Net Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) received, which went from 335 million dollars in 2016, to 725 million in 2017, representing an increase of 116%.
- International reserves account for 27% of GDP, making the system robust and showing low external vulnerability. At the regional level, Bolivia continues to rank first in terms of the weight of international reserves in relation to GDP, which allows it to have an important source of resources in the event of financing needs, and the full capacity to control the exchange policy that has led it to have practically no variation in the exchange rate with respect to the U.S. dollar.
- One of the greatest successes of the Bolivian economy has undoubtedly been the process of de-dollarization, allowing it to achieve the sovereignty of monetary policy due to the stability and good macroeconomic results of recent years.
As for the social indices, the success is also conclusive.
- In the economically active population, unemployment rates in Bolivia are only 2.9 per cent for men and 4.1 per cent for women.
- The minimum wage increased from 500 to 2,060 Bolivianos, an increase of 312%. If annual inflation of 5.5% is taken into account, there is strong growth in real wages. The nominal wage index increased by 85 per cent over the period under review for all occupational groups.
- Extreme poverty in Bolivia, a great scourge that affected almost half the population at the end of the twentieth century, has gone from affecting 45.2% of the population in 2000 to 17.1% in 2017. These numbers lead Bolivia to be the country in the South American region that has most reduced extreme poverty in the period 2005-2016.
What reflections or teachings does this sad episode of Evo’s overthrow leave us?
Our region, Latin America, drags like a weight that does not let us advance, that keeps us at the bottom in a tale of the world: The arrogance and power of the economic elites of our countries.
These have demonstrated, on multiple occasions, in tragic episodes that have plagued our hemisphere with violence and coups d’état, that they are politically backward and violent elites; that they are not willing to give up their privileges, even if they mean to keep a whole country backward.
The economic elites of our region have built great fortunes based on the dispossession of our countries, of social wealth, the exploitation of underpaid, almost slave, labor. They act as agents of transnational interests.
There may be successful governments in the region that bring progress to our countries, such as that of Evo Morales, but nevertheless, the elites do not care. They prefer to finish everything, to retreat, to maintain their gross privileges.
Socialism, or at least socially progressive society, cannot be built if economic advances are not accompanied by progress in the consciousness of citizens, especially within the middle class. If the relations of production, and the values and hegemonic objectives in society point mostly towards selfishness, the individual exits, the fractionation of national unity and of collective interests occurs, will always prevail.
On the contrary, solidarity, the common good, social duty, the good living of all citizens, participatory and protagonist democracy, the empowerment of the people in decisions and power structures, work and honesty, must be values assumed by the entire society.
The dilemma of how to sustain the continuity of a process of political, economic and social transformation, beyond the leadership of one person, must be resolved. How to strengthen an institutionalization of the powers of the State, acting in accordance with the Constitution, the laws, the general interest, that preserves the political, social and economic conquests of the country, so as not to be so vulnerable to the violent actions of the elites of the right. A generation of relief must be formed.
The role of the Armed Forces is fundamental. They must be the decisive factor to preserve the social conquests and the Constitution, to not bend to the interests of the elites. Their sword should only be wielded to defend the sovereignty of the people and social guarantees.
Empower the people, build a powerful vanguard, with a strong fabric of political and social movements, with a diversity of positions necessary for their criticism and action to advance the country, which protects society as a whole from violent action, or destabilizing any power group.
A full, protagonist, participative democracy that opens the debate of ideas, that nurtures the course of the processes of transformation, that is responsive to criticism and to the spiritual needs of the whole society, that is not sectarian, in which meaningful accountability exists. This deeply democratic element, far from weakening society, strengthens the conscience of the whole society in time.
To develop a strong national, sovereign conscience, integrated to the rest of the region, in a communion of interests and objectives that protect us against foreign interference and the destabilizing action of the big transnational interests, in which we move in our own collaborative regional strategy, and not subordinated to any foreign power. Look to the South, not the OAS. Our references, in our own natural instances, are UNASUR and CELAC.
Evo, every 11, has its 13.
Although a feeling of sorrow and sadness runs through our region because of all that happened in Bolivia, I am fully confident that Evo’s leadership will be able to act decisively to re-establish constitutional order and democracy in Bolivia.
From our own experience when we suffered the coup d’état on April 11th, 2002, and after the initial hopelessness and confusion, our people knew how to react, in a massive way; our patriotic officers did it, fulfilled their responsibility and managed to re-establish the constitutional order. At that time, we learned an important lesson: when the people have hope, passion and leadership, they are able to overcome the violent action of the elites. Everything has its own time, its own circumstances, its own characteristics.
The Bolivian people, the native peoples, the humble majorities of the country, will come out of the stun caused by fascist violence. “El Alto” and “Cochabamba” will set the path, the peasants, the social movements, will know how to respond to fascism.
Evo and the Bolivian popular leadership need to defend themselves from fascist violence, the tactical retreat allows the reorganization of the popular movement and the resuming of the mobilization throughout the country, demand the cessation of violence, re-establish constitutional order and keep the Bolivian people on the path towards hope and well-being, a path traced by our brother, President Evo Morales. We will win!