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How OAS Deception Helped the Coup in Bolivia

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Republished from The Real News Network

This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.

Greg Wilpert: Welcome to the Real News Network. I'm Greg Wilpert in Arlington, Virginia. Protests against the coup government in Bolivia and the violent repression of these protests have continued almost every day since President Evo Morales was forced to resign last week.

Last Thursday, the de facto interim president, Jeanine Anez, issued a decree that exempts Bolivia's military from criminal prosecution when maintaining public order. In other words, she gave the military a free pass to use lethal force against Morales supporters, which immediately they took advantage of. As a result, the death toll has climbed to 23 with nine protesters being killed just over the past weekend. The Anez government is a far right Christian fundamentalist one that has promised to bring the Bible back to prominence in Bolivia. Also, she has broken off relations with Venezuela, expelled Cuban doctors and withdrew Bolivia from the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas.

As the consequences of the coup have become clearer, it makes sense to look back at how the Organization of American States, the OAS, enabled this coup. Bolivia's opposition justified the coup on the basis of OAS election observer claims that the October 20th presidential election was highly suspicious. Even though Morales had committed to holding new elections as a result of an OAS audit, this was not good enough for the opposition and the military, which proceeded to force his ouster. He is now an exile in Mexico.

Joining me now to discuss the OAS role in the coup in Bolivia is Mark Weisbrot. He is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and is author of the book Failed: What the "Experts" Got Wrong about the Global Economy. Thanks for joining us again, Mark.

Mark Weisbrot: Thanks for inviting me, Gregory.

Greg Wilpert: The main controversy about the election, which the OAS generated, had to do with the margin of victory. The very first election result report from the so-called quick count showed Morales ahead with about 8% of the vote, which was below the 10% point margin that was required to avoid a runoff election. And later official results show that Morales had 10.4% ahead of his main opponent, Carlos Mesa, but the OAS expressed "deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard to explain change in the trend of the preliminary results." Now, however, an analysis that your colleagues at CEPR conducted last week shows us that Morales' vote count was actually part of an existing trend and quite easy to explain. Tell us about what you found.

Mark Weisbrot: Yes, this is very, very, very important because I think this allegation that they promoted three separate, on three separate occasions in their publications, starting with the first press release that the OAS Observer Mission, Electoral Observer Mission issued right after the election. This idea that something happened, that the election was somehow stolen is the foundation of this coup, and it's completely false. And furthermore, I think what you can see if you look at the data is that the OAS was really dishonest about this. They had to know that the story they were telling was false, and I'll try to explain that.

What happened was, as you mentioned, there was an interruption in the vote count at 84% of votes tallied and Evo was ahead by 7.9%, and then vote, the tally resumed" And by the way, this is not even the official tally, so we shouldn't even really be arguing that much about it because it doesn't count for anything. It's just a quick count that's done to let people know what's going on as the votes are coming in. And they don't tell you that either in most of these" In almost none of these articles do they even tell you that this isn't even the official count, and the official count was never even interrupted. But leaving that aside, this count, this quick count was interrupted at 84%, and then when Evo came back, as you mentioned, his vote was over when the" I'm sorry, when the reporting resumed, Evo's margin was over 10%, which was the amount that he needed in order to avoid a runoff election. And the OES reports this as though something that they were surprised and concerned and this kind of stuff.

Well, if you have ever watched an election return, or maybe can do eighth grade arithmetic or anything like that, the first thing you would ask when this happens is, are those later reporting districts, any precincts, are they different from the ones that reported earlier? And they never mentioned or asked that question in any of their three press releases or two reports so far. Now that shows you right there that there's something dishonest because they're not innumerate, okay. The data is all on the web, so anybody can go and look at it and figure out whether those districts were different. It turns out they were very different, and in fact they were much more pro Evo. And that graph you put up is a very revealing one.

That's another thing that was very, very dishonest about the OAS reports because the OAS never mentioned that it wasn't a jump from the first 84% that had a 7.9% margin to a over 10% margin. It was a gradual trend that was going on the whole time for a very simple reason, and the simple reason was that the pro-Evo districts reported later" or precincts, I should say. The pro-Evo precincts reported later than the earlier ones. And that's the whole story and they know it, and they never told it. They misled the media, and the media, almost all of them swallowed it and reported it over and over until it became a kind of truth in our post-truth Trumpian world.

Greg Wilpert: We've got a clip here of what Evo Morales had to say about the OAS the other day in an interview that was conducted with him in Mexico.

Evo Morales: [foreign language 00:06:34]

Interpreter: The OAS took a political decision, not a technical or legal one.

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