Every night there are vigils, fires, an unwavering decision: they activated the historical, Aymara, ancient, and recent memory of the 2003 uprising when sixty people were killed.
By Marco Teruggi – November 15th
“You’re leaving, I’m staying in this hell,” was the phrase the taxi driver said when he left me at the El Alto airport in the early morning of freezing rain, after wandering around the labyrinths of an up rising city. It is not a metaphor: the first day, Monday, was apocalyptic.
They were dozens of blocks cut off by barbed wire, groups with sticks on each corner, columns that came from different districts, crowds with sticks, stones, slings, hats, burning police stations, rage, as much anger as I’ve rarely heard in my life. And blood, a lot of blood on the floor, in the videos, in the words.
Since that Monday there are Whipala flags in all the streets of El Alto and they have come down day after day. Every night there are vigils, fires, an unwavering decision: they activated the historical, Aymara, ancient, and recent memory of the 2003 uprising when sixty people were killed. “Mesa, you bastard, October is not forgotten,” is that memory of El Alto against the bullets and the resignation of a government.
Those who lead the coup d’etat made a mistake so profound that there is no longer a conciliatory staging that manages to stop the escalation pushing from different corners of the country to the city of La Paz, the center of political power. Several demands have been crossed that converge towards a common enemy synthesized in four parts: Fernando Camacho, Carlos Mesa, Jeanine Añez and the Bolivian National Police.
The main requirement is the resignation of the self-proclaimed Añez, and the radicality comes from the exclusionary, anti-indigenous character of the coup d’etat that is condensed in disrespect for the Whipalas and the aggressions against women for using pollera skirts, that is, being indigenous.
Those are the three slogans that return in each mobilization that enters La Paz from El Alto, from the inhabitants of that city, from the highlands, “tropicos”, mines, yungas. Enter El Prado Avenue to Plaza Murillo, the place where the coup d’etat materialized in facts and symbols.
Those who carried out the coup were wrong and unleashed a reaction that was not part of their variables in this magnitude. The first response to the escalation was from the Bolivian Armed Forces (FAB) that took to the streets in a de facto state of siege. Military airplanes, helicopters, tanks now with whipala began to circulate, in La Paz, El Alto, the country’s roads.
What is the plan of those who led the coup? That is the central question. The steps would be three. The first, achieved, was to overthrow the government headed by Evo Morales and Álvaro García Linera. The second, partly consummated, build an institutional fiction that materialized in Añez’s self-proclamation, the appointment of ministers and senior military and police officers.
This second step has an unresolved element: the legislative power, bicameral, in the hands of the Movement To Socialism (MAS) that holds the majority of two thirds and elected new presidencies. The coupist architecture must solve how to move in front of that scenario: undo the legislative power in an act of coup consummation, or look for a space for agreement with the MAS.
That agreement has to do with the third step, the call to elections. The coup strategy seems to have contemplated this exit since its genesis: it is not a coup that proclaims a general commander or a meeting for an indefinite period, but seeks to present itself as constitutional and promising of elections in a short time.
That means then opening the electoral channel having generated the necessary conditions for that date. These conditions are those that began before achieving the overthrow of Morales, that is, persecutions, murders, massacres, to which detentions are now added in the framework of a breakdown of the rule of law and absolute impunity. The government minister appointed by the self-proclaimed has said it, the “hunt” has begun.
Several aspects are not yet resolved and the evolution will depend, among other factors, on the pressure on the streets, as well as on the political / parliamentary strategy of the MAS. One of the points is if the coup plan – heterogeneous and in internal dispute – will seek to outlaw the MAS or allow it to present itself in a situation of persecution of its cadres and leaders.
The other central question is: what is the strategy of resistance to the coup? Some answers are contained in how the coup d’etat was confronted: without clarity of command that managed to order an articulated scheme, particularly in recent days. The massive mobilizations, in the phase of the escalation, postponed the outcome without being able to stop it, while inside pillars of the support were detached until arriving at the FAB.
Evo Morales’ calls for mobilization were met without immediate, coordinated effects, with a loss of street in the final assault. Answering why it happened implies asking, in addition to the internal time of the movements, how was the process of change doing at the time of the coup d’etat.
An example of this situation can be seen in El Alto, where the main organization, the Federation of Neighborhood Boards (Fejuve), had split into two: one related to the government, the other to the opposition, and the mayor’s office was in the hands of the opposition. On Wednesday, a council was held to try to form a new unified directive – the previous ones being strongly questioned – an objective that has not yet been achieved.
This means three central aspects. First, that the figure of Evo Morales, his defense and return, is not a unifying demand, at least for now. Secondly, that the leaderships in the movements go through, in many cases, scenarios of ruptures and divisions. The translation in El Alto is of great power and radicalism without, even, line or leadership with the ability to steer.
Thirdly, building a strategy that articulates movements – such as those that are part of the National Coordinator for Change – to the Bolivian Workers Central, to the parliamentary space, within a joint plan, is a task as essential as it is complex.
Many questions can only remain, at this time, as questions. The scenario is the offensive of a coup that needs to settle in, that measures the responses to repression and militarization of the country, has central support from the vast majority of the country’s media.
The informational blackout within Bolivia is large, each person interviewed thanks the international press for being here. Bolivian journalists who do not align with the coup narrative are threatened in their homes, telephones, jobs. The de facto communication minister said she will persecute “journalists and pseudo-journalists” for “sedition.” Every dictatorship needs the means that reproduce the narrative and a cone of silence.
Friday afternoon: images of the massacre arrive in Cochabamba, there are four dead so far.
We are in the offensive phase of the coup, where repression, persecutions and murders are accelerated and massified. There are many comrades, compas under threat, in embassies, in a state of exception with no more law than what the coup d’etat needs at this central moment.
Its objective is to decapitate, decimate, and divide the forces of the process of change and prevent a joint resistance from unifying as well as an upcoming electoral alternative.
“You’re leaving, I’m staying in this hell,” I repeat, as I check dates and wonder what will happen on Saturday in Venezuela, from where I write these lines. The right has announced mobilizations, and, it is known, the issue is not Juan Guaidó but those who order strategies and finance, both in Venezuela and Bolivia, and on a continental scale and are in the offensive phase.
What happens in the land from which Evo Morales had to leave in search of asylum is not an isolated event, it is a plan in development for several countries. Hell is a letter that they have reserved for us.
Featured image: Those who lead the coup d’etat made a mistake so deep that there is no staging that can stop the escalation that pushes towards the city of La Paz. | Photo: Reuters
Translated by JRE/EF