Yes, There Was a Coup in Bolivia: Here’s Why (OPINION)

Nov 12, 2019
8:29 PM

Americans who rely on mainstream media wouldn’t know there was a coup ousting Evo Morales from office in Bolivia.

The coup, backed by violent right-wing antagonists with support from the , hasn’t been reported as such by corporate media. If Americans are seeking an accurate depiction of what is happening in Bolivia, you’ll have to find it elsewhere.

Headlines in the U.S., Europe, and Australia intentionally didn’t mention a coup. While making the argument that this is not what happened in Bolivia, big media inadvertently defined what a coup is with precision. You can see evidence of that here, here, here, here, here, and here. Perhaps the most egregious of these media giants running circles around the phrase is the New York Times Editorial Board stating: “the military sided with the protestors and ultimately stepped in.”

After the Organization of American States (OAS) claimed, without evidence, that they had found a “heap of observed irregularities” in the October 20 election, worldwide corporate media giants ran with the narrative. But despite big media lacking the journalistic integrity to acknowledge the facts (or ignoring the situation altogether), what is happening in Bolivia is undoubtedly just another run-of-the-mill, right-wing coup with the backing of the United States.

The OAS declared that a new vote should be held and Morales subsequently agreed in an attempt to restore peace. Within hours, Gen. Williams Kaliman, stated that a new election would be insufficient, saying: “After analyzing the situation of internal conflict, we ask the president to resign, allowing peace to be restored and stability to be maintained for the good of our Bolivia.”

The situation escalated in the hours leading up Morales’ resignation. The Chamber of Deputies president, two government ministers in charge of mines and hydrocarbons, and three other pro-government legislators announced their resignations with some of them saying opposition supporters had threatened their families.

Additionally, the head of Bolivia’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal, María Eugenia Choque, also stepped down. The attorney general’s office said it would investigate the tribunal’s judges for possible fraud. Police later said Choque had been detained along with 37 other officials on suspicion of electoral crimes.

“I am sending my resignation letter to the Legislative Assembly of Bolivia,” the 60-year-old leader said, rightfully declaring his exit as the culmination of a coup d’etat. Morales, the first member of Bolivia’s indigenous population to become president, had been in power for nearly 14 years, the longest span in the country’s history. Who would succeed Morales is unclear as his vice president and the Senate president —who was next in line— also resigned.

Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, criticized the military involvement in the day’s crisis, saying, “In Bolivia there is an ongoing military operation, we reject it, it is similar to those tragic events that bloodied Latin America in the last century. Mexico will maintain its position of respect for democracy and institutions. Coups, no.”

Jennifer Cyr, an associate professor of political science and Latin American studies at the University of Arizona, also voiced concern about the military commander demanding Morales resign, calling it “extremely troubling” and “sad.” I think we have to keep a close eye on what the military does over the next few hours,” said Cyr. “The power vacuum opens up space for the military to potentially step in,” she said.

Morales’ resignation did not put an end to violence. Interestingly, none of the aforementioned media giants have reported on the history of violence at the hands of the opposition that includes the burning of a governor’s home, the dragging of a mayor through the streets after her hair was cut off and her body painted red, and most recently the destruction and looting of Evo Morales’ home.

How We Got Here

A Bolivian court allowed for Morales to run for a fourth term as president after opponents said doing so would be unconstitutional. On October 20, Morales walked away with 47.1 percent of the vote while his main opponent had 36.5 percent of the vote. Because Morales secured more than 40 percent and had higher than a 10-point margin over the runner-up, a win was declared with no need for a runoff in accordance with the rules.

But before the election was concluded, Mesa declared that he would not accept the results if Morales were declared the winner.

On October 23, after much outrage from the opposition, OAS released a statement expressing “its deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results revealed after the closing of the polls.” Again, the statement failed to include any actual evidence or data.

Prior to that statement, Senator Marco Rubio tweeted the following false information:

The main criticism of the OAS is the increase in votes for Morales that came in near the end of the count. This can sometimes be a red flag, but simply looking at the voting records shows that it is a result of the geography of Bolivia. Morales has always had more support in poor and rural areas. The votes from those areas often come in later.

It should be noted that the OAS was created by U.S. officials and anti-communist leaders from South America in 1948 with the sole purpose of disputing democratic elections in which a communist or socialist candidate wins. In effect, the OAS has been an agent of regime change often driven by U.S. imperialism while opposing leftism as a European influence.

In 2000, the OAS reversed course on Haiti’s national election, first declaring it “a great success” before changing their position, thus paving the way for Washington’s regime change efforts of 2000 through 2004 that resulted in the thousands of people being murdered. The OAS then interfered in Haiti’s 2010 election again by literally reversing the results.

Also of note, Secretary-General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, recognized Juan Guaidó, the U.S.-backed opposition leader and self-declared interim president of Venezuela in January just prior to the failed coup attempt there.

Morales’ main opponent, Mesa, served as president of Bolivia from 2003 through 2005. U.S. hostilities against Bolivia have increased steadily since Mesa left office and he has been the preferred candidate of Washington’s interventionist elite. Government cables released by WikiLeaks reveal communications between Mesa and U.S. officials. The U.S. has been using Mesa to try an undermine Morales for over a decade.

Morales has also been in direct opposition to U.S. imperialism throughout his entire presidency. In 2016, Morales started an anti-imperialist military academy in direct opposition to U.S. policies and military involvement throughout Latin America. Earlier this year, at the United Nations Security Council, Morales slammed the Trump administration:

“Each time that the United States invades nations, launches missiles, or finances regime change, it does so behind a propaganda campaign which incessantly repeats the message that it is acting in the course of justice, freedom, and democracy, in the cause of human rights or for humanitarian reasons.”

Some have referred to Bolivia as the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” The global demand for alkali metal has steadily increased as technology such as cell phones, laptops, and hybrid cars have become woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. And the demand for it isn’t expected to slow anytime soon. Bolivia has invested significantly in lithium mining in the country with Morales having once said: “With the exploitation of lithium in a 400 sq km area, we’ll have enough to maintain ourselves for a century.”

As the world attempts to transition to greener fuels, it is no surprise that eyes are on Bolivia and its massive lithium supply. The resource-hungry U.S. has always had its hands in Latin America on behalf of corporate interests looking to exploit natural resources. This appears to be no different. In the end, it was Morales that invited the OAS to oversee the elections on October 20, and when the opposition claimed fraud, Morales himself called on the OAS to carry out an audit.

A decision that exposed the country to a coup d’etat, and one that cost him and Bolivians dearly.


Arturo Tha Cuban is a front-line anti-racism activist, essayist and upcoming author who advocates for equality, justice and accountability. He tweets from @ExtremeArturo.