By Marco Teruggi
These are days and hours of coup offensive in Bolivia. The attempt to overthrow President Evo Morales is gaining strength, territory and its capacity for action. Like an announced bullet that arrives from the front and has a date: before next Tuesday.
That day the country will know the result of the audit in which the Organization of American States (OAS) is participating to see if there has been fraud in the October 20 elections that gave Morales victory in the first round. Those who are in the leadership want an outcome before that day and they believe they can achieve it.
They have several elements in their favor. In the first place, a mobilized social base with a perception of triumph, heterogeneous, that gathers accumulated discontents within the emergence of exclusive racist discourses and acts of the conservative/colonial country. That base has strength in Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Potosí, and in La Paz; the final objective of the assault.
Secondly, these groups of confrontation have accumulated strength from the east to La Paz. Their displacement followed the direction of the coup’s strength in Santa Cruz that is acting as a strategic rearguard in the center of the country. It is the area where they carried out the most violent attacks, and La Paz is a point of definition of power.
These groups are in the process of mobilizing towards La Paz, where some have already carried out exercises of siege on the government palace in previous nights. One of the objectives of the offensive is to have managed to gather all the formations of opposition and to reinforce the mobilization with sectors coming from different points of the country to La Paz.
Thirdly, the leadership of Fernando Camacho, who went from heading the Santa Cruz Civic Committee to setting up his base of operations in La Paz and projecting an image of national leadership. His discourse seeks to distance himself from all acts of racism, separatism and coup d’état, in an attempt to shift the accusations and to bring in other sectors of society.
The expansion of these three factors seeks to unleash, through an escalating offensive, the rupture of three others. The first point to be achieved, and which has been achieved in part, is the Bolivian National Police. The images of riots on Friday night and Saturday morning showed how a sector of the police have been influenced and added to the coup process.
Secondly, the Bolivian Armed Force, a central element for a coup d’état to be successful, until noon Saturday has shown no public sign of a possible internal breakdown.
Thirdly, popular sectors, for the moment, are not playing a part in the mobilization in favor of the dismissal of Evo Morales, but some groups like the Association of Coca Producers of the Yungas, or mining sectors have been present.
The calculation of this set of factors, articulated among themselves brought together with the greatest force, has constructed a scenario in which the coup leader are demanding that the departure of Evo Morales is the only possible solution and that this will take place in a matter of hours or days.
Within this leadership, Carlos Mesa, who came in second on October 20, has been able to align himself with the narrative of those who are giving the ultimatum, but in a lesser capacity, but while leaving room for maneuvers in case of the defeat of the coup attempt.
The objective of the government, both of the presidency and of the social movements, seems to be to contain the escalation of the coup until the result of the audit. Within this framework, mobilizations have taken place almost daily, led by different organizations, such as the Bolivian Union of Workers, and the Bartolina Sisa Women’s Confederation.
The president’s call has been to defend the results of the election, the process of change, democracy, without opening the doors to the scenario of confrontation that seeks to generate the right, which means, as Evo has rejected, that they want to generate wounded, dead, through increasing acute violence.
This is a complex and increasingly unstable scenario. The outcome of the audit could lead to different conclusions. One of them could be the recognition that there has been no fraud, but that a second round would be necessary, something that the OAS has already announced would be the case after the first round.
The United States, which made clear from the outset that the result of October 20 had not been valid, has claimed that the path of the audit arbitrated by the OAS should be followed, that is, to a large extent, determining the outcome by themselves.
The government has stated that the outcome of the audit will be binding and that it would be willing to call for a second round if that emerges as a result. In that case there could be a division within the opposition between those who would be willing to go to that to that election contest and those who would not. Would Carlos Mesa accept and retreat from the coup discourse?
There are still many hours and days until Tuesday within this offensive framework that is accumulating strength and capacity for destabilization. The government, the process of change, still has cards to play in order to contain and de-escalate the situation.
Featured image: Police dismantling a burning barricade