Bolivia: No to the coup!

Fight the right-wing and imperialism throughout Latin America

By Liberdade, Socialismo e Revolução – LSR (our sister organisation in Brazil)

On Sunday afternoon (10 November,) Bolivian President, Evo Morales, and Vice President, Alvaro Garcia Linera, announced their resignation from their positions in a process that can only be characterized as an ultra-right wing coup d’état backed by landowners, the military and imperialism.

Morales announced his resignation moments after the commander in chief of the Bolivian Armed Forces, General Williams Kaliman, had publicly demanded that the President take this attitude. This was the culmination of a coup attempt that began in the process of counting the votes in elections held on 20 October.

The electoral results, which indicated the victory of Evo Morales in the first round (47% of the votes) was contested by the right-wing opposition, which began to promote a series of reactionary and racist actions against the government and prepared the conditions for the coup.

The right-wing candidate defeated on 20 October, Carlos Mesa, demanded a second round of elections. Evo Morales agreed to retreat and gave legitimacy to an audit investigation by the OAS (Organization of American States), an organization clearly linked to the interests of US imperialism.

But the most reactionary and ultra-right sector of the Bolivian bourgeoisie, linked to agribusiness in the “media luna” region (in the East of Bolivia) and led by Luis Fernando Camacho of the Santa Cruz Civic Committee, demanded the fall of Evo Morales and a veto on his candidacy in new elections. This more extreme position of the right-wing soon became the dominant position of the reaction.

The picture worsened qualitatively after 8 November, when Cochabamba’s police started a mutiny that spread across almost the entire country. In addition to the blockades promoted by the generally ultra-right Civic Committees, the police mutiny paved the way for the coup. Ministers, members of the government and local authorities linked to the MAS (Evo Morales’ party) were physically attacked and threatened.

Instead of making an open call to the workers, farmers and indigenous people to stop the coup, Evo Morales reacted to the coup attempts in a timid and vacillating manner. His recognition of the OAS as a mediating body led him, in a desperate attempt to contain the coup, to agree to hold new general elections and to change the composition of the Supreme Electoral Court. But it was too late. His loss of support among the high command of the Armed Forces eventually led to his resignation.

The workers and peasants demonstrated their willingness to resist the coup, but their resistance was weakened from the outset by two factors. In the first place, the government had promoted over years the bureaucratization and co-optation into the state apparatus of union and popular leaders, limiting their capacity for independent and forceful action despite the combative revolutionary history of the working class and the Bolivian people. There were countless examples of conflict between the government of Evo Morales and the social base that brought him to power, including workers and indigenous people.

Secondly, Evo Morales feared a path of resistance and radicalisation, preferring to opt, as he has done in general, for a negotiated solution with the right. He also hoped to have the support of the Armed Forces, which proved illusory.

In an attempt to maintain the loyalty of the Armed Forces, Morales has in recent years invested in granting concessions to the sector, such as salaries and special pensions and a privileged role in the administration of state-owned companies. This contrasted with the situation of the police, whose mutiny aggravated the crisis. The lack of a clear willingness to resist on the part of the government and its social base eventually led the military to refuse to stand on the side of the government.

Social advances were obtained in the last period as a result of the strength of workers’ and popular struggle, such as during the “water war” in Cochabamba (2001) and the “gas war” (2003). Reactionary coup attempts originating among the landowners of the Bolivian ‘media luna’ were blocked by the mass movement in 2007 and 2008. All this despite the conciliatory and moderate attitude of Evo Morales and Garcia Linera in the government.

Today these conquests are directly threatened by the coup, but they had already been suffering setbacks before, which generated dissatisfaction among many popular sectors. The end of the commodity boom affected Bolivia’s economically and undermined the basis for Evo Morales’ class conciliationist policy. He seemed to believe too much in his own rhetoric that pointed to the stability and solidity of the economic, social and political situation in Bolivia. The social contradictions were much greater than he could admit.

The result of all this, until now, has been a popular defeat in the form of a reactionary coup d’état. Despite the repressive measures that are already beginning to be taken by the reactionary right-wing forces, the resistance must continue and this needs all possible support. If this coup is consolidated, it may represent a very bad example for the other Latin American countries, in particular for Venezuela, and will further polarize the political situation in the entire region.

Latin America is currently going through a time of profound political, economic and social crisis. The main characteristic of the moment in the region is the crisis of right-wing governments and their neoliberal policies. In countries such as Chile and Ecuador, mass struggle has acquired revolutionary dimensions. In other countries, these struggles have led to electoral defeats of the neoliberal right-wing, as in the case of Argentina and Colombia.

The coup underway in Bolivia is also a response of imperialism and the ruling classes in the region to the strenthening of resistance to neoliberalism. It also makes clear that the policy based on a permanent attempt to reconcile opposing class interests, as in the case of the model of ‘Andean-Amazon capitalism’ advocated by Morales, cannot be definitively victorious, particularly in the dependent and peripheral capitalism of Latin America. The example of Bolivia makes it clear that only an anti-capitalist and socialist alternative can guarantee the interests of workers, peasants, indigenous peoples and all Latin American peoples.

It is necessary to repudiate the coup d’état in Bolivia with all the power possible and to support all forms of resistance against the right-wing, neoliberal and pro-imperialist coup. This is the central task of workers’ organizations throughout the world. Along with this, it is necessary to build the consequent and revolutionary socialist alternative throughout Latin America and the world.