Panelists at the People’s Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) meeting in Brasilia, Brazil, expressed their solidarity with former Bolivian President Evo Morales after he was ousted by the military in the resource-rich Latin American country in a coup strongly supported by the right.
After the election held on 20 October 2019, the Organisation of American States (OAS) made allegations, thus far unsubstantiated, of manipulation and rigging. The organisation is predominantly funded by the US and supported the US-backed coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the elected president of Haiti in 2004.
The allegations led to protest marches, which were joined by a number of police and army officials. There were clashes between people against the Morales government and those in favour.
A group of anti-Morales protesters set fire to the town hall in Vinto, central Bolivia, after dragging the mayor, Patricia Arce, from her office to the streets, soaking her in red paint and cutting her hair. She is part of the same party as Morales. The multi-coloured Wiphala flag of the indigenous people was set alight and several news outlets had to halt broadcasting because of attacks.
Morales offered to initiate a new election process, but on 10 November he announced his resignation as president shortly after the military commander General Williams Kaliman publicly instructed him to step down. His home was raided on the same day, and electoral officials were detained. He left the country, reaching asylum in Mexico.
Morales, the first indigenous president in Bolivia in a country with a 63% indigenous population, first came to power in 2006. He is the longest-running president from the group of left-leaning leaders that come to power on the “Pink Tide” in the late 1990s. The Pink Tide swept over the continent in the form of electoral victories for governments wishing to distance themselves from the “Washington Consensus” and its neoliberal policies.
Fighting the coup
Speaking at the People’s BRICS, Brazilian congresswoman Jandira Feghali expressed concern over the growing fascism in electoral processes and the role of fake news which, she said, has added to the climate of violence.
“It is important what is happening here with the help of the military. They say they defend the constitution but privatisation is unscrupulous … the armed forces are submissive,” she said.
Military coups in Latin America are all happening around the same time, she explained. She also praised Venezuelans for resisting an attempted coup and Chileans for rising up.
Fernanda Melchionna, a Partido Socialismo e Liberdade [Socialism and Liberty Party] representative at Brazil’s National Congress, said a military coup was taking place in Bolivia with the possible help of foreign powers including Brazil, and it is being led by the economic elite in Bolivia.
“The group is targeting above all the indigenous people in Bolivia and Bolivian sovereignty,” she said, telling the plenary it was up to the people to strengthen and organise themselves and be clear about the exploitation of natural resources.
“The escalating violence still persists, especially with the militias,” said Melchionna. The tasks for internationalists and activists are to stand for the Bolivian people’s right to self-determination and fight against the coup.
Feghali said social forces need to integrate themselves and stop looking only to themselves. “We must not limit our scope. We must broaden our horizons. We can only defeat fascists if we look at everyone … at all democratic, progressive forces in Latin America. We can defend our leaders and strengthen the fight for democracy.”
Jeanine Áńez, the second vice president of the Bolivian Senate and a partisan of the far right, has taken over the reins following Morales and his vice president Álvaro Garcia Linera’s resignation.
During his tenure, Morales’ government boosted social development, reduced the poverty rate, increased the size of the economy and nationalised resources to improve the lives of Bolivians – much to the displeasure of many international corporations. But his decision to run for a fourth term was controversial.
The country has various sought-after minerals required for smart TVs and electronic vehicles. Relations with China provided a temporary oasis to bone-dry investment while a few evergreen contracts allowed other companies to continue to thrive.
On the final day of People’s Brics, a group broke away early to go to the Bolivian embassy in Brasilia to show their solidarity. Both the Bolivian flag and the Wiphala flag are a ubiquitous feature inside and outside the embassy.
The ambassador of Bolivia to Brazil, José Kinn Franco, received social movements, academics and unions from different countries including Morocco, Venezuela, South Africa and Mauritania. Franco gave a passionate and political speech denouncing the coup and thanking everyone for their solidarity.
Partido Socialista Brasileiro [Brazilian Socialist Party] federal deputy Bira do Pindaré called the Bolivian situation a movie they did not want to see again. “They are violating the citizens and hurting other compositions of power,” he said.