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A coup by civilians, the police and the army IN BOLIVIA

Since the first months of 2019, a destabilization operation of Evo Morales’ government has been underway in Bolivia. The electoral projections commissioned by the right wing gave a very tight result, with the ruling party’s candidate, MAS-IPS (Movement for Socialism – Instrument for Peoples’ Sovereignty), winning the first round with less than 10% in the October 20 elections, which would force a second round. An alliance of the entire center-right, the right and the ultra-right, could even dislodge Morales and his party from power after 13 years and 9 months of government. It seems that the U.S. embassy was considering the possibility that Evo would get more than 10%, so he would win the first round and be elected for a fourth term. And it started operating.

Twelve opposition legislators and three activists from the so-called “citizen groups,” representatives of lobbyists from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, signed a letter asking Donald Trump to intervene in the elections to prevent Evo Morales from running. They asked Trump to intervene before the OAS to make a public statement to avoid the “totalitarian dictatorship of Evo Morales Ayma in Bolivia”.

Most probably through the initiative and with the collaboration of the US Embassy and the CIA, secret negotiations were established with the police and the Armed Forces in order to break the chain of command, the obedience to President Morales, and to remain alert to force his exit. Without the support of the generals, the coup would have been impossible.

“Fake news”, evangelical churches and racism

Then rumors began to spread of possible electoral fraud if Evo were to make up that 10% difference. This was combined with renewed accusations of corruption against the president and important members of the government. Fake news began to spread on social networks, of which a large part of the press would echo and which would reach an impressive amplitude and truculence, attacking the president’s morale by accusing him of being corrupt and a drug trafficker. A month before the elections, the opposition and the big press, especially Página 7, El Deber and La Razón, predicted a fraud. This was repeated tirelessly on social networks.

The “white” elite, representing agribusiness and financial capital (which largely launders the dirty money of drug trafficking), especially in the East, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, using the big press, the social networks and, very especially, the structure and communication apparatus of the evangelical churches, increasingly violently attacked Evo, accusing him of being indigenous, mestizo, “pagan”, satanic. Several of the candidates campaigned “in the name of God”, and claimed that “to vote for Evo was to vote for the devil”.

All this predisposed public opinion to think that “something very bad” was going to happen in the elections. The churches fed scepticism and mistrust, depoliticized the process.

On the other hand, the inadequacies of the government, the stagnation in social advancement and in democratic and ecological causes, had also caused great wear in the eyes of the population.

All these elements would form an explosive mixture.

The election results

Before the vote was counted, the neoliberal opposition candidate, Carlos Mesa, was the first not to recognize the results, accusing the government of fraud. Then, sectors of the masses, still not having the definitive results, took to the streets, led, among others, by Walter Albarracín, rector of UMSA (Universidad Mayor de San Andrés).

Soon other characters appeared on the scene: the Civic Committees of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, with the objective of generating clashes against the police, other civil sectors and, especially, against the supporters of the MAS. Events are precipitating and cuts and roadblocks are being produced, leaving the city of La Paz practically immobilized. These figures from the right, especially from Juventud Cruceña, from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, which is an autonomist, separatist and racist movement, carry out very violent attacks against the indigenous population.

In the meantime, the businessman (the great tax debtor) Luis Fernando Camacho, ultra-rightwing, raises the Bible as a flag, as an instrument of exorcism against the evil of the indigenous, pagan and diabolical people, saying that it was necessary to respect the vote that, according to them, they had stolen from them.

Until this moment, the OAS had not yet issued the final result of its study of the elections.

Camacho said that his only intention was to take this Bible to the Quemado Palace, the seat of government, and that he hopes never to return to Pachamama to that palace.

However, leaders, high government officials and MAS militants, including their families, were already being attacked with the burning of their houses.

In Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, direct attacks on people and institutions were reported. In La Paz, right-wing bands kidnapped a journalist from an official body, imprisoned him in a tree and published a video on social networks, showing his humiliation and warning other journalists from the state media that if they did not leave their posts they would be treated in the same way.

In Santa Cruz, during the week before Evo’s resignation, the articulation of the evangelical churches spread the rumor that Fernando Camacho, the civic leader, had a video that would destroy Evo Morales’ reputation. It would be a video where Evo would be receiving money from drug trafficking. This “evidence” would force Morales to resign. The moment when Camacho, along with a series of blessings, appeared live, was expected with enormous expectation to show this video. Large television sets were installed in Santa Cruz… but this video was never shown. It was simply a scene game where Camacho stated that he would go with his Bible to ask for the resignation of Evo Morales and for that he needed the loyalty and faith of the Bolivian people for the Bible to enter the government palace.

According to a foreign journalist who was working in Bolivia at the time of the coup and managed to leave the country, this is the innovative element of the coup in Bolivia: the level of manipulation of these mystical and religious elements that “led us to live this horror that bequeathed us two great killings like those of Cochabamba and El Alto”.

Morales’ resignation: the coup by civilians, the police and the army

On November 10, although Evo Morales had called for a new Supreme Electoral Court and new elections, the government received the “suggestion” to resign from the commander of the Armed Forces, Williams Kaliman.

He echoed the demand of Fernando Camacho, the main leader of the coup plot, who wanted the resignation of the president, his vice-president, senators and deputies, the members of the Electoral Court of Justice to create a junta of notables that would constitute a “provisional government” and call elections in 60 days. Together with him, the leader of the Potosí Civic Committee, Antonio Pumari, demanded that the army take to the streets and “if they did not have the capacity to do so, that they give us the weapons”.

The OAS detected irregularities in the electoral process of October 20 and said that it could not be said that Morales had won the first round, so it would be necessary to call new elections.

The plan led by Camacho, Pumari and opposition candidate Carlos Mesa, with the backing of Yankee imperialism, was not to secure a second round of elections, but to impose the resignation of the president and the line of succession linked to the MAS in order to achieve a “transitional government,” which would pave the way for a new electoral plea that would guarantee a victory for the most radical right.

The police rioted in various parts of the country and opposition groups were able to act in an escalation of violence against the state media and leaders. The houses of the governors of Chuquisaca and Oruro were burned down, as was the residence of Evo’s sister, Ester Morales Ayma.

The leader of the COB (Central Obrera Boliviana), Juan Carlos Huarachi, also asked for the president’s resignation in order to “pacify the Bolivian people”.

The armed forces began to carry out air and ground military actions to neutralize unspecified “armed groups” that would be acting outside the law.

Camacho publicly thanked the National Police and the Armed Forces in the person of Commander General Kaliman.

In view of this situation, not counting the police and armed forces, Evo and his deputy Alvaro García Linera resigned. The same would be done by the president of the Senate, Adriana Salvatierra (MAS-IPS). Evo Morales took refuge first in Mexico and then in Argentina, under the newly elected President Alberto Fernández.

The “transitional government” and repression

Jeanine Áñez, the second vice-president of the Senate, a position reserved by law for a member of the opposition parliament, then took on as self-proclaimed “transitional president”. Army Chief William Kaliman put the presidential sash on him. The whipala, an indigenous flag, which had been burned and flouted in the demonstrations against Evo, was hypocritically raised by Camacho, to placate the uprising of indigenous nations who spoke out strongly against the presidential resignation and respect for his flag.

A few days after the coup, the confrontation and the siege of the cities by the blockades were very intense. The police desperately asked the military to join the repression and in many cases abandoned their barracks, which were burned in the city of El Alto. The disappearance of weapons from these barracks was used by the de facto government, which installed itself two days later, to say that the weapons with which the massacres were committed were neither of the army nor of the police.

From the surrounding lands to the Plaza San Francisco de La Paz, tear gas bombs were fired at the demonstrators.

In the South Zone of La Paz, rumors spread that the vandals from El Alto were coming to attack the middle class, blaming them for Evo’s resignation. Soon trucks began to appear distributing helmets, shields and batons to the neighbors, especially the youth, to defend themselves against these invaders who never arrived. Later, when the police started to come up, many of these young people followed the police “to help. This was a strategy of the right to coerce their more affiliated class sectors, regardless of whether or not they were in agreement with the coup. They awakened the fear of the other, the poorest, the indigenous. There were neighborhood meetings where two or three guidelines organized “self-defense” against the eventual attacks of the Indians, the popular sectors that threatened their homes, their cars, their family.

In Cochabamba, the Cochala Youth, young bikers who claim a kind of supremacy, gained strength as a paramilitary group when they began to be “advised” for self-defense by specialized instructors who gave very specific guidelines in a situation of power vacuum, when the police do not circulate normally. Many of the municipal buses, the Pumakatari, were set on fire while they were parked in the municipal courtyard during the night.

Victims were killed in the streets by snipers, which was demonstrated by the precision in reaching vital organs, although later the de facto government claimed that the dead were victims of Evo Morales’s band of party hordes, who attacked the population.

The Sacaba and Senkata massacres

On November 15, the self-proclaimed president, Jeanine Áñez signed a decree authorizing the military to use “all its available means” to neutralize the massive demonstrations against the coup.

This decree, 4,078, granted a real license to kill the Armed Forces and the police, since it previously exempted them from any criminal sanction for their repressive action.

That same day nine people were murdered by the armed forces and the police, cocaleros of the original peoples marching in Sacaba (Cochabamba) towards La Paz for the degradation of the whipala, the flag representing the plurinational state, and against the coup and repression. According to the Ombudsman’s Office, 122 people were injured. On November 16, another demonstrator was killed in Sacaba.

On Nov. 19, in Senkata, El Alto, in front of the Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos fuel plant, seven people were murdered and another 60 were injured, all by bullet impact. On November 20 and 22, two more murders were reported.

The autopsies show that the deaths of both massacres were caused by bullet impacts to the head and torso. They shot to kill.

So far, the People’s Ombudsman reports that there have been 34 dead, 932 wounded and 54 arrested.

The last victim of the repression in El Alto was killed on November 27. Ten were murdered in the Senkata massacre.

On November 28, Áñez withdrew Decree No. 4,078, the license to kill, claiming that “pacification” had been obtained.

According to the rapporteur of the IACHR in Bolivia: “Although official information speaks of deaths in confrontations between civilians, we believe that an international investigation is required because we have not found internal guarantees for an impartial and firm investigation.

The Parlasur Commission

On November 27 and 28, the Commission for Citizenship and Human Rights of Parlasur was present in the city of La Paz and described the situation as a civil-military coup that violated fundamental rights. And it expressed its concern in the following terms:

“1) The participation of the Armed Forces in operations to control public order and, in particular, to promote citizen security in the context of social protests that have so far produced 32 fatal victims, 832 people injured and 1513 arrested;

2) Statements, speeches and racial hatred attacks directed at the indigenous peoples of the country, especially their women and their symbols;

3) Serious threats, physical attacks on housing directed at leaders, assailants and social leaders, employees and leaders of independent state institutions, such as national bodies for the promotion and protection of human rights;

4) Failure to grant safe conduct to leaders who find themselves in asylum in embassies;

5) The persecution of national and foreign journalists;”

The delegation was composed of its president, Cecilia Merchán (Argentina) and Parliamentarians Ricardo Canese (Paraguay), Carlos Reutor (Uruguay) and Fernanda Melchionna (Brazil), as well as the Secretary of International Relations, Luis Seara.

The Commission collected testimonies from family members of the victims of the massacres and subsequently sent a copy of its report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The social and economic causes of the coup

The Bolivian national right never accepted that an indigenous person should take over the presidency of Bolivia, a country with an overwhelming indigenous majority. Much less by raising the whipala, the flag symbolizing the integration of the Plurinational State of Bolivia enshrined in the 2008 Constitution.

The measures to combat poverty, promote development with social inclusion and control natural resources such as gas and lithium have also affected the businesses of the “half moon” elite in the east, the secessionist and oligarchical region from which Camacho and Áñez come.

The strong elements of racism of the Bolivian ruling classes have always been present, the current crisis has opened Pandora’s box that would turn these losses into violence and cruelty and, finally, into usurpation of power.

With moderate economic growth and low inflation, the government’s social aid, granting bonuses to the lower income classes, did not constitute a lasting redistributive policy.

The extractive industry continued to play a key role in the economy, and the development policy implemented by Morales relied on the extraction of raw materials; zinc, gold and gas accounted for more than 60% of exports.

Morales nationalized hydrocarbons, although the large transnational companies remained operators in the sector. The taxes and benefits that the government can renegotiate with these companies have allowed him to feed their social programs and certain investment projects. But this strategy based on exports of raw materials would be affected by variations in international prices.

With the global economic crisis of 2009, the commodity super-cycle was completed and the negative effects were soon to appear.

Much of the mining industry followed in the hands of transnational companies, while another segment was exploited by cooperatives. Part of the sector opposed the unionization of workers, which led to violent confrontations. Many communities opposed the big mining projects, denouncing the effects of contamination and environmental destruction and questioning the government for its extractive policy.

In 2008, the Bolivian government started a strategic project to exploit lithium and founded the state-owned company YLB (Yacimientos de Litio Bolivia). One plant producing potassium chloride and another lithium carbonate were in an advanced state of construction. An agreement had been sealed with a German firm, but with a national majority shareholder, to manufacture lithium batteries with technology transfer and a Bolivian patent. But the project was severely fought by the Potosí Civic Committee, which described the agreement as “deliverable” and accused the national government of wanting to appropriate the benefits that would correspond to Potosí. The project was eventually cancelled. Marco Pumari, the leader of the Civic Committee of Potosí, articulated the complaint of Evo’s resignation and accused him of handing over the national wealth through the agreement with Germany for the construction of the battery plant. Pumari has become Camacho’s main ally.

Probably in the coming months, some US company will propose to invest in the manufacture of batteries and other lithium-based products.

The confusion with the election results and the discontent with the government, which at first had declared itself the winner of the plea, caused many leaders of social organizations to ask for the resignation of the president. The Central Obrera Boliviana (COB), the Mining Federation and indigenous organizations expressed their discontent. On November 10, the army suggested Evo’s resignation.

On Saturday, December 7, the MAS began its expanded congress in Cochabamba, with the aim of analyzing the situation and defining the electoral formula.

Several sectors participated: miners, peasants, intercultural, indigenous organizations…

Apparently there was a lot of dissatisfaction at the base. Representatives of the city of El Alto, among others, proposed it, exhorting “broader unity” stating that the MAS would win “with any candidate” and continue the process of change.

Evo Morales has been appointed Head of Campaign and the possible presidential names are Luis Arce (former Minister of Economy), Andrónico Rodríguez (young coca farmer leader), David Choquehuanca (former Chancellor and Secretary of ALBA), Adriana Salvatierra (former Senate President, the former representative before the OAS José Alberto Gonzales and former Chancellor Diego Pary.

However, nothing was resolved in the expanded congress, the final decision will be taken after “base consultations,” through expanded meetings and assemblies of the sectors that are part of the MAS.

“Evo Morales continues to be president of the MAS and in this line we always have to see our coordination with him (…). If somehow the government allows his suit, he will be our national campaign leader”, said Sergio Choque, president of the Chamber of Deputies.

On the previous day, December 6, the Chamber of Deputies approved a Law of Guarantees for the full exercise of constitutional rights. The illegitimate government has already announced that it will be vetoed by President Jeanine Áñez, on the grounds that it would give Morales and the members of the ousted government impunity.

The law proposes an end to persecution of civil and political organizations, assemblies and political leaders of the MAS and opponents of the current government, the handing over of laissez-passer to refugees at embassies, and a ban on arrests and harassment for the crisis generated in Bolivia after the elections. It also proposes compensation for the relatives of the deceased, the provision of free services for the wounded, and the freedom of detainees who participated peacefully in the mobilizations after October 21, and freedom of expression in all media. The bill was modified after an agreement between all parties in the Senate and returned to the House of Representatives. The main modification concerns the withdrawal of immunity for members of the Executive and parliamentarians. It also withdraws the request to hand over laissez-passer to refugee officials at embassies.

Evo Morales, still in exile, is a determining factor in the direction of the political situation, if he postulates and postulates his party, which retains a majority in Congress, as a vector of national pacification and stability in a deeply troubled Bolivia.

The announcement that he would establish in the Argentinean city of Orán, 20 minutes from the border with Bolivia, sowed concern on the right and his government. Illegitimate President Jeanine Áñez announced that “in the next few days an order of apprehension will be issued because we have made the relevant denunciations. The accusation against Evo Morales is of “sedition, terrorism and terrorist financing. Áñez seemed very sure that justice would issue an arrest order against the former president.

Finally, on December 18, the La Paz Prosecutor’s Office issued an arrest warrant against Evo Morales for the alleged crimes of sedition, terrorism and terrorist financing, as the de facto president had announced.

Popular resistance and mobilization

The first assemblies and extended meetings reaffirmed in Cochabamba a young coca farmer leader (Andrónico Rodríguez) as a possible MAS candidate. In La Paz David Choquehuanca (former chancellor) is being nominated. A possible presidential formula consisting of the binomial Rodríguez – Choquehuanca, in Santa Cruz have already given support to the formula Choquehuanca (candidate for president) and Rodríguez (candidate for vice president). Rodríguez speaks of “renewal and self-criticism” needed in MAS.

In an interview, Choquehuanca stated that the MAS has left the doors open for all people and “as inclusives, through them entered what we know as opportunism the public management. Accompanied by bureaucracy”.

Probably in the composition of the electoral lists there will be a certain renewal, the party leadership does not seem to have too much strength to impose candidates from above. One of the factors of renewal would be the attitude taken during the coup by the postulants. There seems to be a certain movement that reflects resistance, youth and grassroots movements, where women have an important role.

The electoral campaign, with its mobilizations and ruptures, can become an important channel of resistance to the coup and its illegitimate government, most of them do not want a retreat. For the immense May of the Bolivian people, there seems to be no other way out than for the government to recover, using its political and organizational instruments.

It is no coincidence that the coup government, the complicit justice and the right wing try to demoralize, imprison and leave out of the elections Evo and the most important cadres of the MAS-IPSP. The way out for the ruling classes is a regime of “democracy tutored” by the armed forces, guarded by right-wing paramilitary extremists, ideologically justified by the evangelical churches and subordinated to the interests of Yankee imperialism.

Popular resistance continues, organizes itself, and at any moment can go on the offensive.

The Cooks of History

There is evidence of a new kind of social and political formation, and the construction of the Women’s Parliament, which began immediately after the coup and which aims to bring together the women of the people: indigenous people, nannies, peasants, lesbians, intellectuals, prostitutes, teachers, etc. deserves special attention. A broad movement, an organizing and propositional Parliament, independent of the parties, but which does not require anyone to leave their political organization to take part, to build a political platform to be a factor in the transformation that Bolivia needs. They have already met in La Paz and Sucre and are still organizing, on Thursday (26) they will meet in Cochabamba. Many women from MAS are part of it.

In an interview with María Galindo, the main leader of the initiative, she stated that Parliament can be an example of debate and organization for all popular sectors, and added: “to make good food, you need to cook the ingredients in the right order. And women know how to do it: we are the cooks of history”.


This report was prepared thanks to the companions from Bolivia and other Latin American countries who welcomed me during the nine days of December in La Paz and El Alto. They agreed to tell me what they had experienced during those days. Unfortunately I cannot mention them, the time has not yet come. But they and they are, each in their own place, resisting, with all the dignity from which they do not accept the brutality and obscurantism from which they overlap pain and build the future.

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Writing office

  • Pedro Fuentes
  • Bernardo Corrêa
  • Charles Rosa
  • Clara Baeder