Views on the News: Bolivian Uprising
On Sunday, Evo Morales resigned as Bolivia’s president, following an increasingly violent uprising, coupled with the country’s military pulling its support for his government. The conflict arose due to an alleged manipulation of votes in the most recent election, in which Morales declared victory. Morales has since been granted asylum by Mexico, while officials in Bolivia have a warrant out for his arrest. What do you think the consequences of Morales’ resignation will be for the country, as well as the international community?
Prof. Fernando Rosenberg (HISP)
The coup against Bolivian president Evo Morales, the first indigenous president in a country with a historically excluded indigenous majority, constitutes the latest episode in a sad record of coup-d’état against progressive, socially reformist, democratically elected presidents in Latin America. With tacit or manifested strategic backing from Washington, a trend of civilian coups that started in 2009 to end Manuel Zalaya's presidency in Honduras and was followed in 2012 in Paraguay to depose social-democrat Fernando Lugo, represents a continuation for the 21st century of the military coups that crippled the region throughout the Cold War. In the cases of Honduras and Paraguay, the force behind the coups was the white elite that have always monopolized most of the countries' resources, which have historically perpetuated themselves in power by resorting to military violence against the rest of the population. What followed in both cases was brutal repression of dissidence and popular organizations. The recipe was repeated in 2016 against president Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, who was subsequently replaced by a series of presidents deeply entrenched in corruption schemes, but in alliance with the elite's economic interests. New articulation of state-power include landowning and other economic elites, now infused in some cases with narco-money (particularly in Central America) and blessed by the popular appeal of evangelists (in Brazil) and Catholic fundamentalism (in Bolivia).
In Bolivia, the right wing elite whose power grip had been contested by now deposed president Evo Morales, allied with the military, mobilized whatever discontent had been accumulating in order to legitimize the overthrow of a democratic leader. They voiced the values of white colonial privilege against indigenous usurpers, and the values of patriarchal family against the rights gained by women and minorities. It should be noted that as soon as the results of the election giving Morales another term were put into question, Morales called for a second election, but to no avail. The gains that the historically dispossessed indigenous and mestizo majority achieved under Morales' leadership are significant. They include the recognition of Bolivia as a pluri-national, multilingual state, and the constitutional protection of natural resources as a fundamental right and a public good. What might be seen as environmental protection is key to understanding what is at stake in Bolivia, as policies promoted as "market-friendly" that Morales' party opposed and that are increasingly implemented through dispossession and disenfranchisement, entail unsustainable exploitation of natural resources for the benefit of the old elite and transnational corporations. At stake is one of the largest lithium reserves on the planet, a material that has proved fundamental in powering digital devices, and by extension the technological revolution central to the global economy. Whether this economy continues expanding the breach between the rich and the poor, and whether it continues its path of planetary devastation, is something that is being decided also in Bolivia.
Prof. Fernando Rosenberg is the chair of the Romance Studies department.
Judah Weinerman ’20
A CIA-supported military coup ousts a leftist politician attempting to nationalize a key resource, replacing them with a far-right government with a license to oppress. Gee, where have I heard this one before? Evo Morales’ work in Bolivia, taking the once dirt-poor and mismanaged country into good hands and lifting thousands out of poverty. Bolivia’s right wing, particularly its evangelical Christian and anti-indigenous elements, will waste no time returning the country to its former squalid state. I commend those few international politicians like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn who are brave enough to call the current situation in Bolivia what it is: a military coup. Squabble about Morales’ term limits all you want, but attempting to arrest the man and making his party illegal are clear abuses of power led by the most extreme right-wing element of the country. If this really was some democratic sentiment come to life, then why has interim president Jeanine Áñez given the military express permission to kill protesters and arrest any political opponents at will? This is a coup, plain and simple, and the military must give up power and hold new elections — with Morales and his MAS party included — or face the wrath of the Bolivian people.
Judah Weinerman ‘20 is an Associate editor for the Justice majoring in History and Sociology.