Media Coverage Of Bolivia’s Elections: Who Got It Right, Who Didn’t

By Steve Lalla – Oct 21, 2020

In their election of Sunday, October 18, Bolivians made it abundantly clear that they choose socialism and the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party, overwhelmingly electing MAS candidate Luis Arce to replace Evo Morales as Bolivia’s next democratically elected president.

Meanwhile activists, politicians and analysts are now demanding the Washington, DC-based Organization of American States (OAS)—whose unfounded allegations of fraud prompted last November’s military coup in Bolivia—be held accountable. Compliant media who parroted OAS’s false claims, and refused to refer to the events of last November as a “coup,” are now been outed for their complicity in the crimes of the coup government over the past eleven months.

RELATED CONTENT: Media Responds With Apathy, Disappointment as US-Backed Coup Gov’t Concedes Defeat in Bolivia

Firstly, which English-language media outlets deserve praise for correctly labelling the events as a “coup,” or for questioning the OAS fraud allegations?

The Winners

Truly prescient articles include:

· “Bolivia Elections: ‘We’ll Launch a Coup if Evo Wins,’” Cindy Forster, Telesur English, October 20, 2019

· Bolivia’s opposition refuses to concede defeat, protests erupt,” Press TV, October 22, 2019

· “Evo Morales Denounces ‘A Coup D’etat and Calls the People to Organize and Defend Democracy,” Orinoco Tribune, October 23, 2019

· “Bolivia on alert: Coup plot underway!”, Elson Concepción Pérez, Granma, October 24, 2019

Telesur, Orinoco Tribune and Granma were unwavering though October and November 2019:

· “Bolivia: Morales to Present Evidence of Coup Plans,” Telesur English, October 15, 2019

· “Bolivia Elections: Morales Wins 1st Round, Still Awaiting Final Results,” Telesur English, October 20, 2019

· “Evo Morales wins; the OAS and U.S. lose,” Elson Concepción Pérez, Granma, October 28, 2019.

· “Bolivia: Defeated Candidate Carlos Mesa Rejects International Audit of Votes,” Orinoco Tribune, October 31, 2019

· “Bolivia: President Evo Morales Resigns Amid Right-Wing Coup,” Telesur English November 10, 2020

But many other international English-language media outlets should be praised for their publishing decisions. In the interest of brevity let’s limit ourselves to one sample from each:

· “Via Evo — Morales wins! The Trump administration increasingly has ‘regime change’ in mind when it comes to Bolivia,” Morning Star, October 27, 2019

· “In Defense of Bolivia’s Evo Morales | Decolonizing Media,” ANTICONQUISTA, November 7, 2019

· Bolivia coup led by Christian fascist paramilitary leader and millionaire — with foreign support,” Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton, The Grayzone, November 11, 2019

· “Canada Backs Coup Against Bolivia’s President,” Yves Engler, Canada Files, November 11, 2019

· 5 Fast Facts About the Military Coup in Bolivia and What You Can Do,” Emma Fiala, Mint Press, November 11, 2019

· Global Condemnation of ‘Appalling’ Coup in Bolivia as Military Forces Socialist President Evo Morales to Resign,” Jake Johnson, Common Dreams, November 11, 2019

· “This Is a Military Coup”: Bolivian President Evo Morales Resigns After Army Calls for His Ouster,” Democracy Now, November 11, 2019

· “The NDP is complicit in imperialist violence in Bolivia,” James Witt, Canadian Dimension, November 14, 2019

· “The Coup That Ousted Bolivia’s Evo Morales Is Another Setback For Latin American Socialism,” Elise Swain, The Intercept, November 15, 2019

· “What has Canada done for Bolivia? Andray Domise: The response from Canada has been empty platitudes about ‘fair and transparent’ elections and ‘standing with the democratic will,’” Maclean’s, November 21, 2019

· The coup in Bolivia has U.S. fingerprints all over it,” W.T. Whitney, People’s World, November 22, 2019

· “Resistance continues as coup regime murders 30 in Bolivia,” Workers World, November 23, 2019

· Bolivia: Anatomy of a Coup,” Counterpunch, November 29, 2019

· The Military Coup that Overthrew Our Government Was Revenge Against Indigenous Bolivians,” Alvaro García Linera, Jacobin, November 2019

The Losers

Let’s take a look back to October and November 2019 and expose the media sources most implicated in spreading the false claims. Some of the offenders have altered their past headlines since then, but we can usually find remnants online.

Reuters was among the worst offenders. They ran a spate of skewed and inaccurate articles that were reprinted by unscrupulous media outlets worldwide.

· “Bolivia’s Morales defies calls to resign as opposition plans new march,” November 5, 2019.

· “Bolivian Senate head assumes interim presidency; Morales’ loyalists object,” November 12, 2019

· “How Evo Morales lost control of Bolivia,” November 14, 2019

Associated Press was equally guilty:

· “Bolivia’s Morales knocks foes amid protests over vote count,” Carlos Valdez, Associated Press, October 23, 2019

· “Bolivia’s president resigns amid election-fraud allegations,” Paola Flores and Carlos Valdez, Associated Press, November 10, 2019

The following international “news” outlets also merit castigation for parroting claims that supported the coup regime.

· “Bolivia’s socialist President Evo Morales resigns amid election fraud allegations,” Frank Miles, Fox News, November 10, 2019

· “Bolivian president announces resignation amid accusations of election fraud,” NBC News, November 10, 2019.

· “Evo Morales: Bolivia president resigns amid fraud allegations, deadly protests,” Paola Flores, USA Today, November 10, 2019

· “Bolivia Leader Morales Quits, Blaming Coup as Army Pulls Support,” Bloomberg, November 10, 2019.

· “Bolivian President Evo Morales Resigns Amid Widespread Protests Over Election Fraud,” Meg Anderson, NPR, November 10, 2019

· “Bolivian President Evo Morales steps down following accusations of election fraud,” Kay Guerrero and Dakin Andone, CNN, November 10, 2019

· “Bolivia’s beleaguered President Morales announces resignation,” Al Jazeera, November 10, 2019.

· “Bolivian President Evo Morales resigns following mass protests: Morales faced protests and a report that found meddling in the 2019 presidential election,” Vox, November 10, 2019

· “Evo Morales Is Gone. Bolivia’s Problems Aren’t,” New York Times Editorial Board, New York Times, November 11, 2019

· “Evo Morales’ legacy: a polarised Bolivia,” Financial Times, November 11, 2019… Particularly humorous when we compare -as an indicator of polarization -the results of Bolivian elections with those of recent US presidential elections.

· “Bolivia’s president resigns after re-election triggered deadly protests,” Peter Martinez, CBS News, November 11, 2019

· “AP Explains: Did a coup force Bolivia’s Evo Morales out?,” Christine Armario, Associated Press, for ABC News, November 11, 2019

· “Bolivia is in danger of slipping into anarchy. And it’s Evo Morales’ fault,” opinion piece, Washington Post, November 11, 2019

· “Why Protests Forced Bolivian President Evo Morales to Resign,” Time Magazine, November 11, 2019… Our prize-winning headline.

· “Bolivians celebrate after leader Evo Morales heeds military’s call to resign, leaving presidency in limbo,” South China Morning Post, November 11, 2019

· “Corbyn’s response to Bolivia shows how the left continues to fetishise socialism in Latin America,” Harriet Marsden, Independent, November 11, 2019… In this laudable piece of journalism Marsden claims that it was the Amazon forest fires, and Morales’ refusal of international aid, that provided the “spark for a revolt.”

· “Head of Bolivian Senate assumes leadership in Morales’ absence,” CBC News, November 12, 2019

· “Evo Morales: indigenous leader who changed Bolivia but stayed too long,” The Guardian, November 15, 2019

· “Bolivia crisis: Morales ‘should be prosecuted’ upon return,” BBC News, November 15, 2019

· “Bolivia’s Evo Morales Wants to Stay In The Game,” Jon Lee Anderson, New Yorker, November 20, 2019

Conclusion

All of this should lead readers to be alert to the weaponization of protest by regime-change operators. The story of Bolivia over the last year is riveting precisely because it so clearly illustrates how US-led misinformation campaigns are waged in the service of neoliberal, right-wing, or outright fascist regimes willing to cater to transnational capital. This particular regime-change strategy has a long history of use by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), dating back at least to its success in the overthrow of democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mosaddegh, and the installation of the Shah dictatorship in August 1953, by now a matter of public record. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found that journalists and outlets from Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela—all past targets of regime change operations orchestrated by the CIA—were among the first to report the facts from Bolivia.

Featured image: still from the film Persona, Dir: Ingmar Bergman, 1966.

(Steve Lalla)

Steve Lalla
Steve Lalla is a Canadian-based journalist, researcher and analyst. His areas of interest include geopolitics, history, philosophy, and cultural studies. He is a contributor to Orinoco Tribune.

Steve Lalla

Steve Lalla is a Canadian-based journalist, researcher and analyst. His areas of interest include geopolitics, history, philosophy, and cultural studies. He is a contributor to Orinoco Tribune.