Reflections on the coup in Bolivia

“…what happened for such a long-running process with a broad popular base like the one in Bolivia to collapse so easily? Why didn’t the social movements and the left-wing parties step up to offer a strong resistance to the coup participants?”

This article is part of the series Latin America and the Caribbean 2021: a new series in Catalejo.

The tendency to look at Latin American and Caribbean politics through “progressive cycles,” “turn of the century,” and “the right-wing counterattack,” etc., does not take into account the problems, movements and connections that move through the region, their deep causes, particularities and conflicts. As we consider the region too important to ignore what is happening in this shared geopolitical space, Catalejo has asked a range of academics—almost all residents in these countries and regions—to critically examine its national and international context. In what way can the repeated impact of the pandemic, the electoral processes that have already begun, and the social and political convulsions that move through the region be read with intelligence and realism, without ideological mirrors, but starting from their current stories and their short and medium term tendencies? As per the usual custom, entry into the debate is free.

On November 10, 2019, an event shook everyone. In a television newscast, live and directl, Evo Morales announced his resignation from the presidency of the Multinational State of Bolivia—he who just ten years earlier had helped to reestablish it with the enactment of a new Political State Constitution (CPE – [Constitución Política del Estado]) which established the original indigenous country people, the workers and poor sectors of the urban zones as the center of the historical cycle that started in 2006. Before ending his speech, he said: “Brothers and sisters, I want to tell you that the struggle does not end here; the modest people, the poor, the social sectors, patriotic professionals—we will continue.”

However, what happened for such a long-running process with a broad popular base like the one in Bolivia to collapse so easily? Why didn’t the social movements and the left-wing parties step up to offer a strong resistance to the coup participants? What strategies and tactics did the local bourgeoisie plan to unite and mobilize the middle classes, the unions, the syndicates, the police and the Armed Forces, to create paramilitary and ancillary police groups while flirting with the electoral option, which so easily delivered a KO to the popular sector?

These are some of the question to which we will look for answers in this article, because for us, direct witnesses and followers of the Process of Change, its precipitated collapse—though not unexpected—still provoked shock in us.

Fortunately, as only very few times we can see in history, the very same street struggles of the modest people during the last few months offered a new opportunity to the Movement towards Socialism (MAS – [Movimiento Al Socialismo]) and to all those who, from their localities and territories, daily build a better Bolivia.

Snippets of the coup d’etat

The coup in Bolivia of October-November 2019 [1] was unique. And its roots can be found years before, in the articulation by the right-wing on the subject of the campaign for “No to Reelection” in the Referendum of February 21st, 2016, in which they pursued the objective of damaging the image of Evo Morales by accusing him—falsely—of having a son that he had not recognized, and favoring one of his ex-romantic partners (who had supposedly been a minor at the time of the relationship)[2], and who was incidentally accused of being a lobbyist for the transnational Chinese company CAMC, which was the beneficiary of a string of public works without bidding on the projects, as the reactionaries manipulated in their the communication media at the opportune moment. But in Morales’ eyes, the brain behind the whole set-up was North-American imperialism, which planned, organized and financed the campaign that was able to deploy in unity and successfully the local opposition.

The triumph of the “No to the Reelection” was obtained by a small margin of 51.3% vs 48.7%, though this was sufficiently convincing to bring the more conservative sectors of the country together and broaden their support bases in the urban middle classes. On the part of MAS, in spite of having formally accepted the results, it immediately began the task of finding a “legal” way out of this setback, concentrating on the interpretation of the Constitution that would allow the “human right of any citizen to elect and be elected” to prevail—a loophole that was approved as valid by the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal towards the end of 2017[3]. All this facilitated the right wing’s discursive position of the “rejection of indefinite reelection” and to brand MASism as “totalitarian”, belonging to a “dictatorial regime”—the whole thing clumped together under the wing of a theoretical citizens’ movement that adopted the name of “Bolivia said NO.”[4]

The flag of the “recuperation of democracy against the MASist dictatorship”, which in addition was classified as “corrupt”, grew brighter as a wide-ranging media campaign in social networks and mass communications media—newspapers, TV, radio stations—provided space and resonance to broad sectors that were uniting against Evo and MAS. They came together among themselves and pushed for direct action to take over the streets [5]—first with adult women generally proffering racist, alarmist and conservative speeches. They then added their families to the blocking of the streets, with unusual objects like toy dolls, chairs, barbecues and other things like ropes and “pititas” [sic][strings]. They were the middle-income sectors, urban and aristocratic, that is, “non-Indian” sectors, which always had access to the state bureaucracy and strengthened their capacity to accumulate riches by the exploitation of “Indian” things.

For the elections of October 20th, 2019, MAS participated with the duo of Evo Morales and Alvaro García Linera, legitimized as candidates in early 2018 by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), which gave rise to the further discourse of rejection of this state organism because of its supposed “subordination” to the Executive[6].

The MAS campaign in these elections was characterized by a dominant discourse of “inclusion” of a so-called “middle class,” which they also incorporated for important nominations like senators and deputies, in privileged vacancies. This sector, which had a growing impact in governmental decisions, got to personify a liberal interpretation of reality—if we can call it that—which was shaping and laying down the idea that this “middle class” should assume a managing role in the Process of Change [Proceso de Cambio], since it assured the reelection of the duo. However, this political trend displaced the popular sectors little by little, especially those who, through a long process decades ago, had been defined as the historical subjects of the Bolivian Revolution: the indigenous people, the farmers, workers and commoners, which ended up taking a toll in electoral and material support in 2019.

In this explosive and contradictory scenario, and with Carlos Mesa as a clear opposing candidate, supported by Washington, an unfortunate action which was the abrupt decision of the TSE to stop the transmission of the rapid [ballot] counting in a computerized system that was being used for the first time, although it legally did not offer an official report on the counts, created a sufficient and necessary ambiguity to spread doubt on the whole electoral process[7]. It gave the opportunity for planting the idea that when TSE would publish the official data—which gave the victory to MAS—these would be rejected immediately, spreading the “fraud” thesis like gunpowder, mobilizing a large number of urban sectors and groups as a start to what would be 21 days of conflict, until the resignation of Evo Morales, the repercussions of which we will now present.

Facing the coup offensive, the social organizations and movements reacted in a disorganized manner and with difficulties, because from their perspective and that of the Government, they were not able to come up with a plan of action that would control the situation, which was erroneously interpreted as capable of resolving itself. But the reality showed that the strategies and tactics used by the right wing channeled the former ridiculous and small blockade experiences toward the creation now of ancillary police and paramilitary groups, combined with the organization and regional management in the cities of the central axis[8], the financing and infrastructure and, in addition, the rebellion of the Police at a national level on November 8th.. On November 10th, the Chief of the Armed Forces of Bolivia, Williams Kaliman, demanded the resignation of President Morales [9], which gave the final blow to progressivism, and boosted the effective mobilization and action against any type of resistance. President Evo Morales resigned immediately, and in a chaotic scenario and a fallacious and illegal scheme, Senator Jeanine Añez proclaimed herself President of Bolivia[10].

During the following days, the popular forces that had surpassed its leaders—in clear retreat—began to resist and mobilize, both in regional cities in the Department of Santa Cruz and in the capitals of the Departments of Cochabamba and La Paz. It was there whre, as we shall see, the Armed Forces came out to “pacify”—with a bloody suppression—in order to consolidate the coup. At the same time, the meeting of a commission at the main campus of the Universidad Católica in La Paz, in which political parties, the Catholic Church and labor union and employer  syndicates participated, negotiated and reached an agreement on a pact to “pacify Bolivia”, basically 1) accepting the presidency of Añez; 2) giving a green light to military and police repression, and 3) agreeing to hold elections in 90 days, as the Constitution required.

The right wing in power

As soon as the powers of the State were assaulted[11], and with the paramilitary bands controlling key sectors in the principal cities of the country, the right wing initiated an openly repressive strategy—without precedent in recent history—deploying Army and Police troops, who took charge of carrying out the massacres of November 15th in Sacaba, in the Department of Cochabamba, and on November 19th in Senkata, in the Department of La Paz, causing more than thirty deaths and injuring hundreds of people—aiming to terrorize, traumatize and reprimand a popular group that was already in retreat[12].

Perhaps the most symbolic action, related to the ideological projection of the reactionary block in power, can be identified days before these crimes, when the Colonel of the Santa Cruz Police, Miguel Mercado, on TV live and direct, pulled the wiphala[sic][13] off his uniform and exhorted his brothers in arms to do the same, to the call of “There are no two Bolivia(s)”, literally throwing one of the most significant victories of the Process of Change into the garbage: the recognition of the multinational character of the State of Bolivia[14]. The response to this produced the first large concentration of indigenous-native-farmers in the Altiplano [Andean high plateau] after the coup, as tens of thousands of indigenous people marched through the streets of the center of La Paz demanding respect be shown to the wiphala and its traditions. Thus a conflict that polarized society into two large groups was laid bare: white, urban middle-class and bourgeois people vs indigenous-rural and semi-rural popular classes.

The keynote of the ‘de facto’ government in its almost one year existence was none other than its systematic violation of human rights of the poor farmers and of the city people, the judicial persecution of its political adversaries—even sometimes going as far as accusing them before International Rights groups [15] of staging supposed “terrorist activities”, among others.

However, there are two cases that are most indicative of the ruthlessness of the local oligarchy before and during the dictatorship of Añez, whose most common patterns are: 1) Women victims, 2) The exercise of torture, 3) The marking of the bodies. The first one went around the world when on November 6th a mob siezed Patricia Arce, the woman mayor of the town of Vinto, in the Department of Cochabamba[16], and in addition to beating her, they cut her hair, painted her face red and made her walk barefoot, spitting on her and harassing her for hours. The second case had as its protagonist the head of Evo Morales’ Cabinet, the young lawyer Patricia Hermosa, held at the end of January and who, in spite of being in the late stages of her pregnancy, was deliberately refused medical assistance in prison, causing her to have a miscarriage.

The administrative management of the State did not hide its scorn either for the needs of the entire the population in a particularly difficult year because of the economic depression and especially because of the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Added to the authorities’ incapacity to implement a firm policy, adjusted to the national context, to confront the propagation of the virus, was the scandalous purchase of 170 respirators from the Spanish company GPA Innova—whose unitary cost was declared to be $27,683 US dollars, in spite of the fact that the company itself admitted to having sold them at $10,000 dollars—a criminal act that cost the Treasury a loss of $4.2 million[17]—and never mind the fact that the equipment was not used by the health personnel because it was unworkable. Was of the writing of this article[18], three ministers have come and gone through the Department of Health. The total of coronavirus fatalities, according to data published on the website of Johns Hopkins University, reached 8,758, while the infections totalled 142,062[19], for a mortality rate of 6.1%, that is, three times higher than the world average.

Along the same lines of carelessness, Víctor Hugo Cárdenas, the Minister of Education, announced on August 2nd the early closing of the school year—which usually ends in December—leaving the public school system and the rural areas without access to education of any kind—in-person, semi-, or virtual[20]—and, what is more significant, closing the physical spaces of the educational centers, which is where the great majority of children receive daily their free breakfast and lunch.

This political strategy of back-hoeing and rapid reversal of the political and social rights acquired in a fifteen year period was expressed by the submission of Bolivia to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), by means of an illegal loan acquired by the Executive for the sum of $327 million; the empowerment of the Eastern agro-export bourgeoisie with the approval of the Supreme Decree 4232 on May 7th, 2020, authorizing the use of transgenic seeds of corn, cotton, sugar cane, wheat and soy, in addition to benefits to increase these types of exports; and in the diplomatic field, with the rupture of the relations with Venezuela and the departure of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA - [Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América]) on November 15, 2019; and the ending of relations with Cuba on January 24th of this year[22].

The popular movements and MAS before and during the coup d’etat

There is agreement between analysts, writers, historians, political scientists and social and left-wing leaders on the absence—and urgency—of a detailed study on the 14 years that MAS was in power, a study which, for example, would identify and characterize phases, with their corresponding implementations, power relations, tactical and strategic alliances, progress, doubts and setbacks. A kind of comprehensive history of the Evo Morales’ government.

Without a doubt, the outcome of the constituency process created a watershed in this area. There was a before and after the proclamation of the new Magna Carta in 2009[23], especially as related to a slow but growing demobilization of the most dynamic social sectors (indigenous people, workers, farmers, among others), and the reconciliation on the part of the Government with the oldest established groups of the agro-export bourgeoisie and their associates[24]. These, in exchange for benefits to the growth and increase in their capital—which include broadening of the agricultural limits; building infrastructures for their export; subsidies of raw materials like fuel; financial and tax privileges, among others—were invited to participate in a State that agreed to let part of the economic surplus[25] be reinvested  in public redistribution policies, with a commitment not to interfere in politics.

This narrow and blatant economism, pragmatic and depoliticizing, and credited with the highest GDP figures in the region during the last ten years[26], had its theoretical correlative in the arguments outlined by Vice-president Alvaro García Linera in the electoral campaign of 2014, when, in an ideological doubletalk he requested that the MAS adherents to “not forget that you always have to join Lenin with Gramsci; you always have to defeat  the adversary, that is Lenin; for Gramsci, the adversary has to be included. But you don’t incorporate the adversary, not as an organized adversary, but rather as a defeated adversary.” From then on, the adversary was brought in and “incorporated”—and it should be noted that this was done very reluctantly by many—although history showed that the adversary had not been defeated, thus leading to a precipitated process of confusion, disenchantment and de-ideologization among the popular movements, and the re-articulation and strengthening of the reaction, which ended up installing the political initiative until the coup of the 10th of November.

In the meantime, Evo Morales and his team locked themselves into a continuous electioneering which denied space for analysis and self-criticism during the last five years inside the Proceso de Cambio, preventing thorough programming discussions, and always basing themselves on the argument that “now is not the time.” After the economic solidification and their occupation of the relinquished positions, as we already saw, the right wing took on the strategy of winning the streets little by little with very narrowly focused but intensifying conflicts, waving the flags of the struggle against “corruption”, against “drug trafficking”, and fundamentally as “the defense of democracy”—the latter after the Referendum of February 21, 2016.

Still to be studied are the motivations behind the specific currents and people of the Morales Government, which had a decisive influence on the bureaucratization and co-opting of the higher and middle leadership of the social movements; the servility of a parliamentary assembly without any ideas of its own; the empowerment of labor unions trapped by trade-unionism and without a national vision; the absence of political education and the mobilization of the masses; the twist toward enchanting the urban and whitish middle classes that came to occupy vital positions in the State apparatus; the imposition of top-down leadership styles founded in the personality cult[27]; and a more than noticeable gesture to the eastern part of the continent with the handing over—at the request of Jair Bolsonaro—of the militant Cesare Battisti[28] to the Italian authorities in January of 2019; the presence at the foundation of the Forum for the Progress of South America (Prosur - Foro para el Progreso de América del Sur) in Santiago de Chile in March of that same year, and the invitation to Luis Almagro to visit Bolivia in the middle of 2019, in addition to joining the events around the blockade by the United States against Venezuela to partially lock their assets in Bolivia.

Only by organizing and systematizing the components mentioned, as well as many others, will it be possible to understand the disorientation and inactivity of the social movements in Bolivia during the days of October and November of last year—their improvised and intuitive defensive actions, with clear signs of impotence by not knowing what project to defend or how, in a vertiginous set of circumstances in which the final blow was delivered in less than 72 hours between the 10th and the 12th of November: first, a rebellion of the Police forces at a national level; second, the Central Bolivian Labor Union  (COB – Central Obrera Boliviana), which demanded the resignation of Evo Morales; third, the Chief Commander of the Armed Forces, who opportunistically joined that demand, forcing a check-mate; fourth, the surrender of the city of La Paz to the rebel and pro-fascist bands without any resistance whatsoever, and the immediate resignations from their posts by Evo Morales and other authorities; and fifth, the departure to Mexico of Evo Morales and his closest circle[29]. In this way, beyond any comprehension, one of the strongest popular nationalist, antiimperialist and progressive processes in Latin America and the Caribbean of this century collapsed like a deck of cards.

On the way to victory and the challenges to come

On November 25th, 2019, representatives of the COB [Central Obrera Boliviana – Bolivian Workers Union], of the Unity Pact [Pacto de Unidad][30], and of the de facto government met to sign an agreement comprised of 13 items, with the aim of pacifying Bolivia. This document was signed to guarantee: 1) that there would be no more assassinations nor persecutions against those who headed the popular resistance to the coup d’état; 2) an investigation to find those responsible for the massacres, and compensation for the families of the victims; 3) a commitment to hold elections in 90 days; 4) the demobilization of the sectors that had been mobilized.

The regime of Áñez had prevailed, and a national social leadership assumed a demobilizing role in confusing circumstances, since it had been the founding groups of coca growers in the Trópico de Cochabamba that had taken the decision to demand acceptance of the vote, and the populous Southern Zone of Cochabamba that launched a neighborhood mobilization, especially with the young people, comprising a new political agent in which the “Popular Coordinator for the Defense of Democracy and Life in Cochabamba” [“Coordinadora Popular por la Defensa de la Democracia y la Vida de Cochabamba”] stood out, and organized the first popular town council in Bolivia on December 5th of 2019. In the meantime, mobilized sectors in the areas of Montero and Yapacani resisted, as well as in the populous sections of the capital in the Department of Santa Cruz, in the East.

The confrontation was unequal: those who challenged the coup did so without organization, logistics or financing, while the para-police and paramilitary groups could count on a high level of organization, logistical resources and financing[31], in addition to the direct and indirect support of the Police and the Armed Forces.

Just these conditions can explain how the whole social force that began to respond to the coup ended up accepting—against their will—the agreement signed by leaders in which they no longer had full confidence.

In this scenario, during the first two weeks of December, the right-wing began a campaign for the dismissal of the representatives of the People’s Ombudsman [Defensoría del Pueblo], such as the national representative Nadia Cruz, the representative for La Paz, Teresa Zubieta, and the representative for Cochabamba, Nelson Cox. They also concentrated on choosing the chairpersons of the Departmental Electoral Tribunals [Tribunales Electorales Departamentales (TED)] facing the scheduled elections. In Cochabamba, the popular urban reaction came quickly and soon groups like the already-mentioned Coordinadora Popular marched to accompany Cox, making their presence felt against paramilitary groups that had occupied the entries to the offices of the People’s Ombudsman.

Witness to all these events was the mission of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, which arrived in Bolivia at the end of November of 2019, and which, despite the well-founded lack confidence of MAS in the OAS, was able to meet with victims, with those affected, and with authorities who denounced the crimes against humanity that were committed. Its final report condemned the deaths and spoke of “massacres”, thus contributing to reducing the intensity of the repression against the popular sectors.

Already in 2020, the commemoration of the anniversary of the creation of the Multinational State on January 22nd united hundreds of thousands of people in Cochabamba, publicly making visible the rejection of Áñez and her clique, and their support of MAS. It was a rainy day which saw the outcry and the popular anger with a desire for revenge, while those present were emotionally affected upon hearing the voice of Evo Morales, who spoke from Argentina.

The tensions inside the wide spectrum that MAS represents began to fade away before the unity slogans against the coup participants and the urgency to designate the two presidential candidates, since the new TSE [Tribunal Supremo Electoral] had set May the 3rd as the date of the elections, exceeding the 90 days that had been agreed on. The candidates designated were Luis Arce and David Choquehuanca, both ex-ministers, with the portfolios of Economy and External Relations, respectively.

The right wing mobilized its forces in its search to annul the acronym of MAS and to prevent the registration of Arce and Choquehuanca as candidates, based on the presumption of guilt in supposed judicial cases filed against them. But the popular mobilization was making its presence known, warning of the rejection and getting ready to take radical measures in case the censure became official.

At that moment of the beginning of the conflicts, between January and March of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic erupted in Bolivia, resulting in a decree of very strict quarantine in the entire national territory on March 22nd, which led to the extension of the Áñez regime and the postponement of the elections, twice, the date finally being set for September 6th.

There is no doubt that the health crisis was used in a macabre way by the right wing—with military and police in the streets—to advance a process of social discipline as well as the systematic repression of social, union and political leaders, even when, because of the socioeconomic conditions of the country[32], it had to cope with a weak popular economy that forced large sectors of the citizenry to demand the lifting of the quarantine in order to be able to go out to work and provide their families with food and other necessary resources, like paying for services and debts. The response of the government was brutal, with repressions and political persecutions, while the popular reaction was concentrated in a protest at a regional level, in local areas. These confrontations increased the number of arrested people for political reasons, among them Lucy Escobar, the reserve candidate for the first senatorship for Cochabamba.

The repression did not silence the popular protests, and so in August, facing the determination of the TSE to again postpone the election date to October 18th, and the real possibility that MAS would be banished, the people moved out into the streets and the highways, thus generating a large national mobilization demanding democracy. It is worth noting that this mobilization started at ground level—because the MAS network had not called for a protest—and that the COB formally assumed this role, although it did not have the capacity at a national level, nor control of it. In effect, the mobilization did not have a clear leadership, nor was it able to organize a joint demand, but it did achieve the essentials: to define a fixed date for the general elections, October 18, and that MAS and its candidates would not be excluded.

The elections resulted in the victory of MAS, with 55.1% of the votes, with massive participation and a prominent presence of international observers, who agreed that the electoral process had been transparent. The difference between MAS and Carlos Mesa’s party was so conclusive that this time they could not object to the results[33].

The right wing has tried to cast doubt on this victory, but the Bolivian people have won back their democracy, and finds itself in the historical task of defining a new path in order to overcome the errors that made a coup d’état possible.



[1] Although the troubles took place between the last days of October and the first days of November, the 10th of November is marked as the culmination of the coup d’etat, when Evo Morales announced his resignation.

[2] This episode is known as the “Zapata Case”, alluding to the name of Morales’ ex-partner, Gabriela Zapata.

[3] Here we can see one of the biggest political errors made by the MAS leaders in the last term, but which at the same time illustrates their idea of politics: far from accepting the results of the referendum and preparing a future mass mobilization or seeking another opinion, they fortified themselves with legal loopholes that they pulled out of the hat of a clique of lawyers who concluded that the “Pact of San Jose de Costa Rica,” because of its character of being an international treaty, would supersede the Bolivian Constitution and would allow the appeal to the “Human rights” of Evo Morales to be reelected indefinitely. That was the model used in the last few years: to obtain through the ministry what could be obtained with the state of awareness and mobilization of the masses.

[4] Unions, professional schools, syndicates, civic committees, neighborhood committees, student centers and many other organizations concurred on this question.

[5] It is interesting to see how in those times, during the last five years and amidst a series of apparently unrelated conflicts, the right wing was: 1) mobilizing its bases; 2) taking over the streets, for example with the occupation of the center of La Paz and the use of dynamite to demand local improvements with the Potosí Civic Committee (Comcipo) in 2015; with the march of the handicapped to obtain vouchers in 2016; with the picket lines of the unions at a national level in favor of “Bolivia said No” in 2016 and even until 2019; with the mobilizations of the medical syndicate against the health policies and the new Criminal Code in 2018; with the university students’ protest against the budget in El Alto in 2018, that ended with a young student being assassinated in the midst of the clashes with the police; with the environmental protest against biodiesel and the burning of Amazonia in 2019—among others.

[6] According to the Constitution, the Multinational Electoral Organ (OEP [Órgano Electoral Plurinacional) is an independent power of the State.

[7] There were three episodes that contributed to the consolidation of the challenge to the electoral process: 1) The fact that the results of the ballot counting were quickly stopped on the Sunday night, with 83% of the recount completed and a narrow difference between Morales and Mesa, and that it took another thirty hours to announce, with the same difference that gave MAS the victory by the first count; 2) That even in these circumstances, the night of that same Sunday, Evo Morales proclaimed himself the winner, and as for Mesa, he said that the results assured him of a second term; and 3) the most serious, that when the TSE made Morales’ victory official and the opposition requested an audit, MAS agreed to that with one condition: that the arbitrator would be the Organization of American States (OAS), whose report should be final. This last issue shows the unforgivable political short-sightedness of Morales and his group, which not only did not resort again to a popular mobilization in moments of crisis, but also called for Luis Almagro and his group to settle the legitimacy or non-legitimacy of the process—with the results that we all know now.

[8] The so-called cities of the Central Axis are La Paz, El Alto, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, and together they comprise more than 60% of the national population.

[9] The Russian news agency Sputnik published a notable article denouncing the fact that the High Command of the Bolivian Armed Forces had met in Argentina in June of 2019, with their American counterparts, receiving a million dollars to support an eventual coup, while the High Command of the Police forces had been offered 250 million dollars to each one.

[10] Up to know it is unknown why, in addition to the President and the Vice-President, the authorities of MAS in the Multinational Legislative Assembly, whose presidency of Deputies and Senators they held, decided to resign, and so concede the “varnish of legitimacy” that the coup participants wanted when facing the international community with the promotion of a woman Senator to the Executive, as happened with Añez, who was unknown until then.

[11] We are speaking in the plural because the coup participants gained access to the Executive through the prior corrupt consent of the Multinational Legislative Assembly by means of sessions without quorum, in order to quickly take over the Judiciary and from there prosecute progressive and left-wing leaders—men and women. They had control over repressive power months before the coup.

[12] The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) published a statement of condemnation on December 10, 2019, and the International Clinic of Human Rights of Harvard University did the same in July 2020, both agreeing on the cruelty and the magnitude of the abuses that were carried out as government policies. About these facts we need to single out at least three things: 1) The resignation and subsequent departure from the country of Evo Morales did not stop the repression; on the contrary, on seeing the popular movement leaderless and disoriented, the coup participants opted for massacring the population; 2) In order to prolong the shock among the witnesses of this tragedy, the military hid some of the bodies of the victims, refusing—up to today—to hand them over to their families; and 3) In the middle of the massacre, Jeanine Añez published the Supreme Decree 4078, disclaiming any responsibility for the military who participated in “the operations to reestablish the internal order,” and thus validating selective and massive assassinations—depending on the case—and, incidentally, gaining the loyalty of the Armed Forces.

[13] This is a flag of pre-Columbian origin, widely used in Tahuantinsuyu and in the Central Andes up until today. In the specific case of Bolivia it was adopted as the official flag after the proclamation in 2009 of the new Political Constitution of the State.

[14] With the new Political Constitution of the State the country changed its name from the Republic of Bolivia to the Multinational State of Bolivia, in a clear break with the colonial and neocolonial past, and whose “multi-nationality” included the recognition of the 36 native nations that exist in the region.

[15] During the month of November of 2019 some ten ex-ministers and government authorities of Evo Morales entered the residence of the Ambassador of Mexico in Bolivia, asking for political asylum, which was granted to them. However, the Bolivian Chancellery refused to issue a letter of safe-conduct for the refugees to be able to go to the Airport and take a flight to leave the country.

[16] Patricia Arce has recently been elected Senator for the Department of Cochabamba.

[17] The negotiations were led by the Bolivian Ambassador of Science and Technology, Mohammed Mostajo, Añez’s son-in-law, and who in the middle of the investigations by the Attorney General, fled the country, arriving in Miami on June 16th, 2020.

[18] On Friday, November 6, 2020.

[19] On this point it is worth noting that the numbers are relative since it is necessary to purchase the test to detect the infection, at an average cost of $45—because of which a large part of the population does not have access to it and can contract the virus without being diagnosed. This led to the publication by journalists of the New York Times, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Maria Silvia Trigo and Allison McCann of their article “As Politicians Clashed, Bolivia’s Pandemic Death-rate Soared” in which they denounce the existence of an undercount in terms of at least 20,000 people.

[20] The private schools, to which the upper classes have access and whose enrolment does not reach 15% of the student population, continue, with virtual classes via the internet.

[21] As per the Constitution, loans of this type must be approved by the Legislature.

[22] The hostilities towards Cuba were immediate, accusing members of the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade of being “terrorist instructors”, expelling parts of the diplomatic corps and even confiscating properties legitimately acquired by the Caribbean nation, like the Collaborator Clinic, which was assaulted by right-wing bands and taken over by the Government, and whose building is still under litigation, waiting for a judicial decision, because the courts of the city of La Paz recognize the Cuban property.

[23] The constituent process in Bolivia started in August of 2006 and closed in February of 2009, so it lasted almost three years. Although it did have a high rate of popular participation and representation, the text issued by the constituents was modified, behind closed doors, by sectors of the bourgeoisie. Authors like Jorge Viaña emphasize this in order to single out how a way was imposed of doing politics behind the backs of the popular movements, of hallway negotiations—a style which was reinforced during the next years.

[24] There are many precedents and documents that prove that one of the sources of financing of the 2008 Santa Cruz separatist movement, as well as of the paramilitary bands of 2019, came from institutions like the Agricultural and Livestock Association of the East (CAO) and the Association of Industry, Commerce, Services and Tourism of Santa Cruz.

[25] We emphasize the “part” because the economic structure and the property regulations in Bolivia were only changed for the hydrocarbons sector with their nationalization. Its contribution to the economy, although important, is not decisive. And what is more, with the reduction of the price of raw materials such as natural gas, hydrocarbons ended up representing no more than 12% of the national GDP, which thus puts it below the agro-industry.

[26] The GDP went up from $9,674 million in 2005 to $43,080 million in July of 2016, for a growth rate average of 5% during those years.

[27] In the beginning the Bolivian experience opened up spaces for the empowerment of warlords which led to a personality cult, as revealed, for example, in a museum dedicated to Evo Morales, and statues, busts, avenues, schools, food products, public transit systems and even school sport games with his name or photo. A controversial case occurred in the middle of the electoral campaign of 2019, when Alvaro García Linero attended the inauguration of the Alvaro García Linero School in the town of Punata, Department of Cochabamba, unveiling a bust of himself of almost two meters high. In all, more than 140 public works carried their names. We note this to propose a future political discussion on this type of behavior, because we see a real political-ideological problem there.

[28] Battisti is an Italian ex-communist and writer accused of terrorism and condemned to a life imprisonment in his own country. After fleeing prison in 1981 he remained a fugitive from justice and obtained refuge in Mexico, France (accepted by Mitterrand) and Brazil (accepted by Lula da Silva and Rousseff). After the coup in Brazil, its leader Michel Temer signed Battisti’s extradition to Italy, which led him to cross illegally into Bolivia and ask for refugee status in 2018. Contrary to all expectations, he was detained by the Bolivian authorities and handed over to Italy, without being offered the desired asylum.

[29] In numerous interviews, Evo Morales has declared that he took the decision to leave the country because in those days there were threats on his life. However, this caused anguish in the popular movements, not only because of his departure, but also that of ex ministers and other party leaders, all of which increased the feeling of abandonment.

[30] The Unity Pact is an alliance established in 2002 between social, labor union and rural organizations, with a left-wing aboriginal perspective.

[31] Those days in October-November revealed three things that were unprecedented in Bolivia: 1) Paramilitary gangs that were equipped, had training and deployed aggression, medical assistance, regional leadership, among others; 2) The prominence of foreigners, Venezuelans and Colombians, in the “battle field” and in the streets; 3) The use of high-powered firearms like hand-made bazookas, among others.

[32] The informal employment level exceeds 60% of the labor force; therefore the strict quarantine was impossible to maintain when the population en masse began to bang pots and pans at night, to the cry of: “We are hungry.”

[33] The conclusive victory has made it possible for MAS to have an absolute majority in the two Chambers of Parliament, being assured of 21 of the 36 Senate seats, and 78 of the 130 Deputies.



Alcócer Hurtado, Mauro. “El debate sobre Bolivia y el rol de García Linera en el estancamiento del Proceso de Cambio”, La Época, 20 de mayo de 2020. [“The Debate on Bolivia and the role of Garcia Linero in the stagnation of the Process of Change”]

Brignole, Alejo. “Triunfo del MAS en Bolivia… ¿Y ahora qué?”, Correo del Alba, Bolivia, 22 de noviembre de 2020. [“The Triumph of MAS in Bolivia…. And now, what?”]

Larraín, Javier. “En exclusiva. Luis Arce sin censura”, Correo del Alba, Bolivia, 23 de marzo de 2020. [“An exclusive: Luis Arce without censure”]

Moldiz, Hugo. Golpe de Estado en Bolivia. La soledad de Evo Morales, Ocean Sur, Australia, 2020. [The Coup in Bolivia. The solitude of Evo Morales]

Movimiento Guevarista de Bolivia. Colección de revista Maya, No. 47 (Nov.-2019); No. 48 (Dic.-2019); No. 49 (May.-2020); No. 50 (Jun.-2020); No. 51 (Jul.-2020); No. 53 (Sept.-2020); No. 54 (Oct.-2020).  [The Guevara Movement in Bolivia]

Ríos, Boris. “Odio de clase y horizonte en Bolivia”, Correo del Alba, Bolivia, 24 de abril de 2020. [“Class Hate and its Extent in Bolivia”]

--------------. “Golpe de Estado en Bolivia: ideas para un debate crítico”, Correo del Alba, Bolivia, 2 de julio de 2020. [“The Coup in Bolivia: Ideas for a Critical Debate”]

--------------. “El medio, un lugar para la derrota de la izquierda”, La Época, Bolivia, 24 de agosto de 2020. [“The Middle, a Space for the Defeat of the Left-Wing”]

--------------. “‘Coincidir con la derecha’: reflexiones luego de un golpe de Estado en Bolivia”, Correo del Alba, Bolivia, 24 de septiembre de 2020. [“’Agreeing with the Right Wing’: Reflections after a coup d’etat in Bolivia”]

Viaña, Jorge. “El ciclo estatal de las luchas en Bolivia (2006-2019): crónicas de una muerte anunciada y la política actual”, artículo inédito, Bolivia, febrero de 2020. [“The state cycle of the struggles in Bolivia (2006-2019): “Chronicles of a Death foretold and current politics.” Unpublished Article]


Traductora: Catharina Vallejo

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