Interview with the deposed vice president of Bolivia
“In about three weeks at the latest we will have a candidate,” he says, referring to the electoral process in his country, where his library and two dogs are in the care of his mother-in-law.
In the last month and a half. Álvaro García Linera, his partner, Claudia Fernández, and their daughter, Alba, were living in houses offered by friends and acquaintances. The deposed vice president of Bolivia is concerned that Alba, only 2 years old, has traveled through nine houses in recent weeks between Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and Argentina.
The coup threatened to burn the large library of García Linera, a renowned intellectual. In La Paz, his mother-in-law has the care of the books and his two dogs, Athena and Cana, which in Aymara means “light”.
A dramatic and disastrous outcome put an end – or a pause – to 13 years of government on November 10, when the Armed Forces requested the resignation of President Evo Morales, within the framework of allegations of fraud, protests, a police revolt and a dubious maneuver of the Organization of American States (OAS).
That day, at eight in the morning, Cristina Kirchner called him, recalls García Linera in an interview with Página / 12. “We were making the decision that we were going to resign and Cristina was the first to know. The military had revolted. We had colleagues with houses being burned, a fellow minister was desperate because they threatened to burn his daughter; it was all chaos the information all around. Cristina told me: `Know that we are going to support the decision you make”.
García Linera has been a temporary refugee in Argentina since December 12, on the way to becoming a permanent refugee. For now it is not in his plans to return to Bolivia. “It would be like suicide,” he synthesizes in relation to the threats made by the Jeanine Añez regime. Three or four universities offered him a teaching possition. “We are people who live from our work.”
The dismissed vice president is not surprised by the pressures of the United States government on Alberto Fernández so that neither Evo Morales nor he develops political activities. “We are respectful of the asylum of Argentina. However, the attitude of the US government does not seem strange to me, from the first day we were in the government they meddled in Bolivia’s political affairs.” And he emphasizes: “They are upset because Evo is free and alive. They will prevent us from doing any kind of activities.”
García Linera anticipates that the meeting held on Sunday by Evo Morales and himself with leaders of the Movement for Socialism (MAS) at the Bauen Hotel will be a first debate on the presidential candidacy, ahead of the 2020 elections in Bolivia. There are four pre-candidates: former Foreign Ministers David Choquehuanca and Diego Pary, former Economy Minister Luis Arce and coca grower leader Andrónico Rodríguez.
“In about three weeks at the latest we will have a candidate,” says the deposed vice president, who at that time aims to finish reading the 1100-page book by Thomas Piketty “Capital and ideology.”
–It is a challenge campaigning from Argentina, don’t you think?
- Yes, and to know well what you are going to say, because Evo is no longer the candidate, and it is necessary that what is said from here does not affect the campaign of the compas. This Sunday there will be a small meeting between President Evo and the leaders of social, peasant and popular organizations. Names of candidates for the next election will be discussed. We are thinking already of a bigger meeting, in fifteen days or a week, which would have to be somewhere near the border, for the number of people that would come, one hundred or 150 people. In this way, the transportation price of the compas is reduced. It would be a more defining meeting where the leaders of all social organizations should necessarily come. MAS is a confederation of social organizations, loose, a big coalition.
– How should the MAS Presidential Candidate be?
- We had an internal debate about whether I should be a candidate of the resistance, to guarantee you a good bench, and to gather the entire hard core. But given the circumstances, we are currently looking for a candidate to opt for victory. That is, to radiate to other sectors. Because the opposition is now divided and opens the possibilities for a candidate of ours to win. Not with the forcefulness of Evo, but he can win. Then you have to be a candidate that reaffirms the hard core – indigenous, peasant – but also bridges towards popular and upper middle sectors, with the possibilities of fighting for victory in the elections held in the first half of 2020 There are names four companions: David Choquehuanca, former foreign minister, with a strong presence in the rural and Andean world; Diego Pary, the last chancellor, Quechua, also present in the rural world; Luis Arce, former Minister of Economy 12 of the 13 years of government, one of the builders of Bolivia’s economic success; and Andrónico Rodríguez, a young peasant leader, very typical of the new middle class: of popular origin, graduated in political studies. He is 30 years old, he is charismatic with the youth and was there in the difficult times: in (the massacres of) Chapare, Sacaba and Senkata. His figure quickly unfolded in the debate.
– In the Casa Rosada there was an off-schedule meeting between officials of the US embassy and President Alberto Fernández and part of his cabinet. The US presented a formal protest for the political activities carried out by Evo Morales in Argentina. What is your opinion?
- I’ve heard from the newspapers. With President Evo, we comply with the worldwide protocol established for refugees. We do not get involved in the political activities of the country that has welcomed us. We have always respected that. We are not forbidden to speak, comment on our country, or hold meetings. We will not generate any kind of problem or infraction to the Argentine norms. We are respectful of the asylum of Argentina. However, it doesn’t seem weird. From the first day we were in government, the US meddled in Bolivia’s political affairs. We have no animosity towards the Americans: we value their culture, their technology, their economy, but we do not allow them to get into Bolivian affairs, or to tell us what we have to do. We respect them in many areas, but please do not mess with us. They didn’t pay attention , we had to expel the ambassador (Philip Goldberg), with evidence in our hands. From there they have not stopped attacking us, and that continues to this day. The group of audios of US officials who met in early 2019 with opposition leaders to finance a campaign against President Evo is known to all. They were present at the coup d’etat, protecting the military commanders who have committed a massacre in my country. Later, they did the impossible so that the plane from Mexico that was going to take Evo Morales did not land in Bolivia. To Mexico they expressed their unease for the support it gave us. According to Evo, they thought about his death or detention. They are upset because Evo is free and alive. They will prevent us from doing any kind of activities. They are concerned about the influence of Evo, which is a great inspiration for other compatriots on certain issues.We had the most important growth rate on the Latin American continent, 30 percent of the population emerged from poverty. Those, for the US, are subversive credentials . Evo is the living example that you can be progressive, from the left, and do a good economic job.
– They asked for an arrest warrant against Evo Morales. Is there an accusation against him?
- In my case, no. Four days after we left Bolivia, we learned that they opened a case against Evo for terrorism, sedition. I could go back to Bolivia, but if I do that, I’m sure they will fabricate legal cases.
–In the light of what happened, is there room for reflection on why Evo Morales and you thought you were the only ones who could lead the process of change?
- The 2016 referendum call for the new Evo candidacy was a decision that was made with more than 5000 leaders gathered. They understood that a referendum had to be made: we had won and they wanted people to rule on a new Evo candidacy. And I said publicly that it went against common sense. You have just won, you have five years ahead of you, wait for four to pass and then you ask: have I done it well? But the compas, whom we respect, took it [the decision] that way. And the meeting on what we should do, if we insist on constitutional channels so that Evo was a candidate, was also taken by those who form the musculature of MAS: unions, guilds, including the Bolivian Workers’ Central. It is not a personal decision in these cases, it is collective.
– But it generated controversy since they had lost the plebiscite.
- We knew that there was a constitutional collision between article 161, endorsed by a referendum, and article 13, which establishes the primacy of international human rights agreements over the Constitution. We knew that the decision was not easy, but that there was a constitutional option to seek Evo’s candidacy. And the comrades opted for that, knowing that it was complicated and involved a political cost. That is why the constitutional court is consulted, so that it can resolve the conflict between the two articles, and did so in favor of article 13, enabling the candidacy.
– The OAS had a preliminary report pointing out irregularities in the elections of October 20. Then in the final report it talked about a hidden server and the interruption for no reason of rapid counting. How do you refute it?
- There has been naivety from our side on how the OAS has used the information and at what time. Why did we convene the OAS? Because we had nothing to hide. If you have not modified a single vote, you have nothing to hide. And you appear before any court. The OAS presents a preview of the final report on November 10. According to the agreement signed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he had to deliver the report on Wednesday 13. They advanced it curiously to generate a headline because they already knew that the military was going to revolt. And the Americans knew it, and therefore (Luis) Almagro. It turns out that on the 13th it doesn’t deliver its report and does it a month later. It had acted according to political need, not technical. What does the report say? There was an external server. They already knew it. The company Neotec who was in charge of rapid counting, reported that it had incorporated a server as a backup. It was not an official count of the electoral trend. It had to inform about 80 percent of the tallies and then went to the manual count, which is recorded by tallies, in front of parties and the press. The official one is the manual count. From the manual count these gentlemen say that 273 tallies of 34,500 are objectionable, because there is an excessive vote for Evo, above 70 percent. Here in Argentina, when one goes to the popular neighborhoods or upper class neighborhoods there are those who vote that high percentage for different options. Even canceling the 273 minutes, even repeating the vote at 273 tables, and that one hundred percent gave their vote to Carlos Mesa, Evo Morales still won. In any country the vote would have been repeated, there could not be a coup d’etat, or people being killed or elections being canceled. The OAS opted to foster a coup d’etat.
– The date for the elections is not yet defined …
- There is still a debate about what will happen on January 22, the day when Evo, myself and all the deputies and senators’ term ended. To those who propose extending the mandates until August. The coup plotters are advocating that the mandate of the Executive be extended only, but not of the Legislative. The self-proclaimed president ( Jeanine Añez ) took office as vice president of the Senate, but on the 22nd her term ends. So, does the coup’s mandate expire? Is the Senate not going to exist? Can she be president? Part of this Sunday’s debate has to do with all this.
– Will you trust the new electoral process?
- We are worried that now there will be fraud. We will be appealing to the international community and not to US-funded agencies, but to decent agencies: we are calling on the Carter Foundation, a technical delegation from the European Union, the attendance of the largest number of observers in the world. There is an institution that brings together presidents of electoral courts in Latin America. The coup plotters will do everything to prevent what the polls show today, that MAS is favored. If one reviews the polls done by the right in January, March, April, Evo won.
—- Will the same right-wing candidates plus the ultra-right Fernando Camacho be running?
- Mesa is the candidate of the US embassy, that is clear. He will receive support from the Americans. Camacho did the dirty work, but they don’t see him as governable.
– South America experienced deep crises in 2019: Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia. What is your reflection?
- It is a continent that is looking for its destiny and that is a scenario, a laboratory of marches and counter-marches, revolutions and counter-revolutions. There are forces that are waking up towards something positive, towards brotherhood, and there are forces that are resisting rabidly. There is no homogeneous line. It is a whirlwind, a scene of dispute. You win in one territory, you lose another. The counter-revolution or the counter-reform has not just been installed because it has no source, it is based on hatred, vengeance, revenge. But neither have the trends of social transformation just radiated. It is a complicated scenario. The continent dramatically explores the paths of its well-being, there is no pre-established route or a role model. The people must be trusted to trace and look for the place where the answers are found.
– Do Argentina and Mexico generate hope for you?
- Of course, Argentina and Mexico are examples of dignity. Without them we would have a regressive, almost obscurantist continent. You have the rebellion in Chile and Colombia. In Bolivia you have the return of a nineteenth-century obscurantism, but you also have an awakening of new sectors of society, popular, that oppose exacerbated racisms. And today Mexico and Argentina are like an oasis in the midst of that chaos. What do you have outside of both countries? Countries that do acts of genuflection before the United States. We lived a decade where the United States was a very distant name, where the things we did right or wrong were done among Latin Americans.
Featured image: “We were going to quit and Cristina was the first to know.”
Image: Guadalupe Lombardo
Translated by JRE/EF