U.S Peace Council Statement
In early January 2020, the Trump Administration's assassination of a top Iranian general in Baghdad, Iraq brought the US and Iran to the brink of a major war. Understandably, that crisis shoved many other crises to the sidelines.
Accordingly, Bolivia is not now in the headlines. But even at the start of events on November 10, 2019 there was confusion in the headlines about what was happening in Bolivia. Compounding the confusion, some "progressive" and "alternative" media outlets were slow to acknowledge that a coup had begun. The coup regime's racist violence towards Evo Morales" protesting Indigenous supporters was hardly given adequate coverage anywhere. In the US corporate media support for the coup took the form of denying it was happening at all, thereby disorienting the peace movement response.
Evo Morales, in office 2006-2019, was the first Indigenous president of Bolivia, a country with an Indigenous majority. Under the 14 years of rule by his Movement for Socialism party (MAS), Bolivia had the one of the highest economic growth rates in the hemisphere. The country slashed poverty dramatically. Bolivia became a trailblazer for the rights of the Indigenous and poor, aligning itself with the progressive governments of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua.*
Morales was re-elected president on October 20, 2019. Because the US-backed candidate lost, the US government called Morales' election "fraudulent." A US-dominated Organization of American States (OAS) disseminated misleading information on the validity of the election. Thus, the stage was set for the November 10 coup, when Morales was forced to resign under duress by the military.
Key figures behind the coup had allies in Washington. The OAS Secretary General embraced coup leader Luis Fernando Camacho. The coup was endorsed by the right-wing neighboring countries (Chile, Brazil). President Trump "applauded" the Bolivian military despite its well documented systematic violations of human rights. Evo Morales is now in exile in Mexico, and the Indigenous continue to protest in the face of lethal, racist repression. An example of the racism: the self-proclaimed President Jeanine Áñez has smeared Indigenous communities' religious beliefs as "satanic." At this writing, Morales, the MAS, and most of the popular parties and movements have agreed to new elections but efforts are underway by backers of the de facto government to disqualify the MAS from participating in an eventual election.
Several prominent US peace organizations were first out of the gate in condemning the coup. CODEPINK on Nov 19, 2019, challenging the mainstream media narrative, emphasized the coup was indeed a coup. CODEPINK highlighted the need for international monitoring. It demanded that that the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet join CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin in Bolivia.
Veterans for Peace on Nov. 21 stressed US complicity in the coup, and the coup's racist nature.
There has been a limited response from the UN. As early as Nov. 16, 2019 "the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet "urged the authorities to ensure that security forces comply with international norms and standards on the use of force and guarantee the right to life and physical integrity of protesters."
Since then the toll of repression has risen. Recent and reliable accounts state that more than 30 have been killed and 600 injured in protests against the coup government.
What are the demands that the US solidarity and peace movements should raise now?
The best chance of peacefully restoring lawful government and majority rule in Bolivia is the projected May 3, 2020 elections, but at the rate things are going the elections will be rigged. USAID, which financed anti-Morales opposition groups in Bolivia for years, is returning to Bolivia at the invitation of Jeanine Añez's coup government allegedly to "monitor" - in reality to manipulate and corrupt - the forthcoming elections.
The coup is not consolidated, witness the strenuous efforts of the coup government to fix the forthcoming elections.
We call upon all peace and solidarity organizations in the US to:
- Put Bolivia back on the front burner as a campaigning issue between now and the May 3, 2020 elections.
- Sign the CODEPINK Petition on Bolivia demanding that the chief of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, visit Bolivia in person. There should be a powerful, institutional UN Office of Human Rights presence on the ground in Bolivia. It will serve as a restraint on the coup government.
- Demand a Congressional investigation to find out exactly to what extent the US was involved in the coup.
- Organize full international monitoring of the May 2020 elections by independent experts and groups.
- Oppose USAID and kindred NGO funding of election manipulation, including purges of Indigenous voter rolls. Voter suppression is already under way and it must be exposed, condemned, and stopped
Demand that police and army violence against Indigenous protestors and the medical professionals who care for them come to a halt. After September 11, 1973, when the Allende government in Chile was overthrown in a US-supported coup, our peace and solidarity movement and its allies launched years of campaigning to restore democracy in Chile and end the bloody rule of Pinochet. We must do no less for Bolivian democracy today.
* Roger D. Harris, 2019 Latin America in Review, Council on Hemispheric Relations.