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The Right-Wing Coup in Bolivia Is Exactly the Opposite of What Democracy Looks Like

While emboldening the right wing at home, the face of U.S. foreign affairs once again masks evil with indefensible hypocrisy for people all around the world to see.

 UTOP policemen are driving away demonstrators who support former President Morales and demand the resignation of current interim president Jianine Añiez. (Photo: Gaston Brito/picture alliance via Getty Images)

 UTOP policemen are driving away demonstrators who support former President Morales and demand the resignation of current interim president Jianine Añiez. (Photo: Gaston Brito/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The case of Bolivia should sound the alarm for a manufactured coup at the expense of democracy. Not only was Evo Morales elected by a majority, he offered to run the elections again to prove it before mobs of right-wing opposition—fueled by the U.S. in material aid and alliance—burned Morales' sister's house, held another elected official hostage at gunpoint, and basically firebombed their way through government buildings and public infrastructure (public buses were targeted because they represent socialist reforms). These violent actions forced the president to resign—and the U.S. government supported it, cheered it on, even boasted that such violence was upholding democracy in the hemisphere.

While emboldening the right wing at home, the face of U.S. foreign affairs once again masks evil with indefensible hypocrisy for people all around the world to see. Nothing endangers our country and our veterans more than this kind of foreign policy because no matter how much propaganda, and no matter how much repression, the people will not forget; not the crimes against humanity such as the coup against Salvador Allende in 1973, not the coup attempts against Hugo Chávez, nor the kidnapping and ousting of Jean-Bertrand Aristide or that of the legitimately elected leader of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya.

"In light of the struggles for millions of Bolivians to finally gain a foothold to self govern with dignity and with humanist and planet-saving policy at the heart of their political debates, the bold face lie of the president of the U.S. is another indication that we must push the deafening wheels of this empire back with everything we have in this moment."

With our tax dollars—told repeatedly to be used in our “best interest”—thousands of Morales supporters are presently in imminent danger from paramilitary takeovers, right-wing retribution and racism that is unchecked and merciless. The idea that there is a semblance of justification to “defend democracy” for these violent forces now taking power in Bolivia is a blatant lie to the American people—with those propagating such lies criminal by any reasonable account of the facts.

The Organization of American States (OAS) mission to produce a full “audit” of the country’s electoral procedure indeed found irregularities, the kind that one might find under the kitchen sink of any election particularly when their relationship to the communication structures of the country were entirely unclear.

Even so, what they found produced no actual evidence that fraud was committed, as this 2019 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research details. The OAS report rightfully called attention to a bounce from one server to another; suspect for sure, and an issue that appeared to the OAS approximate to a spike in votes to Morales. Yet, other evidence shows a geographic pattern consistent with such a spike since Morales has more supporters in the rural parts of the country.

There was another viable point made in the report of a password account potentially being opened in a new tab (on the same device) within a split frame of time. These are indeed problems. They should be investigated no doubt (as we should investigate any elections that might produce similar “unexplained” technical issues). That said, the OAS was not the definitive source of verification. Ballots were counted by a visible and transparent process to produce tally sheets, which were then counted and transmitted as data regulated by a non-partisan election commission (TSE). Moreover, a pre-poll quick count was consistent with the election, both showing Morales in the lead by a 10-point margin, a fact that was dismissed altogether in most reporting. Regardless of these facts, if one agrees that a recount should take place, the last to handle such work impartially would be the opposition party itself (as is currently being discussed), or the OAS, an organization with known biases stacked with U.S. interests and with no direct and natural bearing on the outcomes of Bolivia’s sovereign elections, much less as referees. Media taking this report uncritically might well turn to the example of Russian interference, and ask themselves if they would allow the Kremlin to audit U.S. elections and then report on their findings as defining evidence (with no other viewpoint) while they fomented street riots and overran the government.

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Rather than reporting on the hostile and violent conditions under which the right wing in Bolivia extorted the election, egged on by the OAS report, however, the New York Times and even some progressive outlets tell us in their headline that “Mr. Morales lost his grip on power,” that “the population” rose up in revolt, or, as the right-wing U.S. press claims, that Morales is “on the run” suggesting falsely that he was caught doing something wrong. There is no mention of the millions of people, the majority of the country’s population, the majority indigenous and poor who supported Morales who now face local and national paramilitaries with no defense. Suddenly, it would appear, (after decades of popular support) the masses oppose the president, and suddenly all those remaining, the only ones reported on or visible in any of the mainstream U.S. media, are “celebrating” the police. There is no mention of Morales being willing to hold an additional election to appease the violence, and no mention of the decades-long effort by the U.S. to oust Morales in exactly this fashion. The Times reveals its true position in the announcement of these attacks on democracy: that in the end, they are unethically aligned with what has degenerated into the death star of U.S. imperialism.

The principal architect of this anti-democratic assault is none other than the White House, and we all must be clear of the duplicitous lie in so-called official statements from the U.S. president that “Morales’ departure preserves democracy and paves the way for the Bolivian people to have their voices heard.” In light of the struggles for millions of Bolivians to finally gain a foothold to self govern with dignity and with humanist and planet-saving policy at the heart of their political debates, the bold face lie of the president of the U.S. is another indication that we must push the deafening wheels of this empire back with everything we have in this moment.

It is a moment when our press behave with impunity over embedded reporting on Latin America that distorts reality to the point of becoming a political agent. It is a moment when the right-wing opposition to president Morales has mobilized to take power as if they are impartial candidates capable of facilitating a process of so-called free and fair elections from this point forward. After all, as the self-proclaimed interim president, a staunch opponent of Morales, Jeanine Áñez Chávez, is known to have openly tweeted, “I dream of a Bolivia free of indigenous satanic rituals, the city is not for the indians send them to the high plains or to the Chaco!”

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people in support of the president have assembled in El Alto to demand that Morales be returned as the rightful leader of the country, and people keep coming.

The coup and the veiled lies by media outlets professing to uphold democracy is a driving example for us all to throw weight behind the nearest candidates who have the guts to be forthright in their denouncement of the coup and commit to fight shoulder to shoulder for the planet, for our sisters and brothers of the south, for indigenous sovereignty around the planet, and most, for our own integrity as a people. To hear Trump say, “We are now one step closer to a completely democratic, prosperous, and free Western Hemisphere” should cause revulsion in any sentient being. We are very clear Señor Presidente, this is NOT what democracy looks like.

Angela Marino

Angela Marino

Angela Marino, Ph.D is Associate Professor in the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of California Berkeley where she also serves as associate chair of the Latinx Research Center (LRC).

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