By Sean Orr |
Events have not gone well for the coalition of generals and reactionaries that overthrew Evo Morales on November 10. Far from consolidating their control over the government and the country, the right-wing forces now stand on the back foot, facing the full force of an organized and enraged mass movement ready to defend their constitution and their elected government.
The first setback for the coup was their failure to assassinate Evo. On the morning of November 12, Bolivia’s overthrown president, along with his vice president Álvaro García Linera, arrived in Mexico where they had been granted political asylum. “The president of Mexico saved my life,” the overthrown president said upon landing. It was revealed that there had been at least two attempts to assassinate the political leaders, who also head the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party. One of Evo’s security guards had come forward to say that he had been offered $50,000 to shoot the president dead.
All of this clarifies the maneuvers made by MAS on November 10. With many of their cadre being physically attacked and having their homes set on fire, the party pulled of its leadership from public office, including Morales and Linera. The ‘resignations’ were done at the barrel of a gun, but it was clear that the decision had been made by the party in order to avoid a wave of assassinations. In this they were successful – and with Evo and Linera out of the country, all of the energy of the country’s revolutionary forces could now be put to defeating the coup.
This is where the second setback for the coup comes in – MAS ensured that the coup was denied any chance at democratic legitimacy. Gleeful in their seeming defeat of the socialists, the far-right opposition anointed Yeanine Añez, the leader of the right-wing bloc in the Senate, to be president of Bolivia. Añez is a theocrat who once said, “I dream of a Bolivia free of indigenous satanic rites, the city is not for Indians, they better go to the highlands.”
Standing at her side during her inauguration was the civilian leader of the coup, Luis Camacho. A millionaire who comes from a family of mine owners, Camacho is an open fascist, leading a Catholic fascist youth organization that played the leadership role in anti-government protests in the city of Santa Cruz. Fascism is, sadly, not an alien political movement in Bolivia. During the 1970s, explicitly fascist Catholic organizations formed the social backbone for the brutal military dictatorships that ran the country on and off throughout the Cold War. Coming from the largely white oligarchy, they were driven then, and now, by a profound hatred of the indigenous workers who they exploited for their wealth.
Unfortunately for Añez and her fascist friends, those indigenous workers now have political power in Bolivia, and they are not going to give it up. MAS, which as an absolute majority in both chambers of the national legislature, boycotted the Senate vote to recognize Morales’ resignation and confirm Añez as her successor, denying them a quorum and therefore making her ascension to the presidency illegitimate and unconstitutional. In her place, MAS (and the country’s constitution) put forward Adriana Salvatierra, the party’s youth leader and president of the Senate, as the rightful president of the country. On November 13, police officers physically attacked her as she tried to enter the Senate, preventing her and other MAS leaders from calling a session during which they planned to reject Morales’ resignation. Añez has nothing to stand on – unless the coup forces are able to brutally repress the mass movement into submission, her days are numbered.
And this is where the final setback for the coup comes in, and undoubtedly their greatest – their arrogance has sparked a revolution. As soon as Morales was overthrown, the country’s trade unions, peasant unions and indigenous councils that form the membership of MAS and give life to a mass movement of millions began to organize for the coup’s defeat. The immediate base of resistance was El Alto, the twin city of the capital La Paz and the largest majority-indigenous city in the Western Hemisphere. There, the leadership of the Rural Workers Union (CSUTCB) called on all of its affiliates to “encircle La Paz” and gave Camacho and his thugs a 48-hour ultimatum to leave the country. If they do not, “they will be responsible for whatever occurs.”
One by one, columns of rural workers marched into El Alto, waving the indigenous wiphala flag and chanting, “Camacho, Mesa [the opposition’s presidential candidate], we want your head” and “Now, civil war!” They were soon joined by other organizations from the countryside, and now they have done what they said they would. The capital is completely encircled by roadblocks and demonstrators, demanding the racists be cast from office and democracy restored to Bolivia. The country’s largest trade union federation, the revolutionary-led Bolivian Workers Central (COB), has launched an indefinite general strike, shutting down every major economic sector in the country until Morales is returned to power. These are unions that defended themselves with the gun only a few decades prior, during the darkest days of the Cold War in South America. They will not relinquish their hard-won political power. All union and indigenous leaders have made it clear – whatever happens, to the point of civil war, lies at the feet of the white supremacists who would rather destroy democracy than recognize the dignity of indigenous peoples.
Four days on, this coup against the Bolivian government is no settled matter. What is clear is that there will be a fight, and tragically, perhaps a brutal one, over where political power will lie in the nation’s future. The Bolivian masses refuse to accept defeat. They will not allow the better world they have built to be bulldozed in the interests of imperialism and reaction. As they defiantly march in the thousands into La Paz, into the unknown, come what may, they do not do so alone. They carry with them all of us, all of the oppressed and exploited masses of this hemisphere, into a battle to determine the future.
Featured image: Huge mobilizations reject coup in Bolivia.