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US Oligarchic Consensus on the Bolivian Coup

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Amid the impeachment inquiry and ongoing battle between the two factions of the US power elite, the anti-Trump "liberal" faction and the pro-Trump "conservative" faction, their mutual support for the recent coup in Bolivia has demonstrated a convergence in defense of shared oligarchic interests. Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard, whose presidential campaigns have become a bane of the power elite, are the only Democratic candidates to voice objections to the coup.

During Evo Morales' tenure as Bolivian president, the county's social and economic indicators improved dramatically though strong economic growth and a focus on the provision of social services. Poverty declined by 42 percent and extreme poverty by 60 percent. Real GDP per capita increased by 50 percent, double the rate for Latin America as a whole. The government inaugurated a universal health care system earlier this year, ensuring access to health services for millions of uninsured Bolivians. Although the Morales government employed a variety of economic policies, it was the rejection of IMF policies and the replacement of foreign corporate ownership with a nationalized hydrocarbon sector that provided the economic foundation for this substantial progress. [1] Equally noteworthy, social movements participated in government and indigenous rights were given precedence by an indigenous president for the first time in Bolivia, a country with a majority indigenous population. The Morales government certainly was not perfect, but its accomplishments far outweighed its failures.

Morales won his fourth term in office in October elections, with a sufficient margin of victory over neoliberal Carlos Mesa to avoid a runoff election. In response to fraud accusations from Mesa and violent opposition protesters, Morales invited the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) to perform an audit of the election. Following the audit, an OAS report alleged irregularities in the election, but an analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found "no evidence that irregularities or fraud affected the official result that gave President Evo Morales a first-round victory." [2] Nevertheless, Morales agreed to new elections. When the US-trained commander of the armed forces then "suggested" Morales resign before the end of his current term, Morales submitted his resignation and fled to Mexico. There can be little doubt that such a "suggestion" from a military general in a country with a long history of military rule amounts to a coup.

Both power factions in the United States were quick to endorse the coup. The liberal establishment's major media portrayed Morales as an illegitimate leader responsible for the chaos. The Washington Post's editorial board pointedly declared, "Bolivia is in danger of slipping into anarchy. It's Evo Morales's fault." [3] According to the editorial board at The New York Times, Morales fell due to his own "arrogance" and "what remains is to hope that Mr. Morales goes peacefully into exile in Mexico and to help Bolivia restore its wounded democracy." [4]

Illustrating the oligarchic consensus on this issue, right-wing Senator Marco Rubio, a Trump ally and favorite of leading conservative organizations like The Heritage Foundation, approvingly retweeted the Times article with the comment "@NYTOpinion gets it right on #Bolivia." [5] Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered "congratulations" to right-wing Bolivian Senator Jeanine Áñez for declaring herself interim president. [6] Áñez, a member of a political party with few seats in a legislative assembly where Morales' MAS party holds a majority, has a history of tweeting racist comments about Bolivia's indigenous peoples. Trump believes the anti-democratic coup "preserves democracy" in Bolivia. [7]

This US power elite consensus, however, may end in the post-coup period. Beginning in the 1980s, the liberal establishment-aligned State Department launched a policy of "democracy promotion" in Latin America. Since then, US governments have shifted from previous support for military dictatorships to an insistence on regular elections and civilian rule in the region coupled with a neoliberal economic model and the continued protection of US corporate interests. For the liberal faction, new elections resulting in a Mesa presidency and the return of IMF policies would represent an ideal outcome of the coup. While backing the "interim" government headed by Áñez, who is consolidating her power without any democratic mandate, a prolonged unelected regime would fail the liberal faction's own legitimacy test for Latin American governments. In recent days, after security forces have killed pro-Morales demonstrators, The Washington Post and The New York Times have given space to articles critical of Áñez. [8]

Trump and the conservative faction have more in common with Áñez and her ally, Luis Fernando Camacho, a businessman and far-right Christian activist who has emerged as a leading anti-Morales figure. Prior to Morales' presidency, his family owned a monopoly on natural gas distribution in Bolivia's largest city. Camacho has been nicknamed "the Bolivian Bolsonaro" in reference to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Similarly, to Trump's delight, Bolsonaro has been dubbed "the Trump of the Tropics." The two presidents are building a close relationship. At a White House press conference during Bolsonaro's visit earlier this year, Trump remarked, "I think Brazil's relationship with the United States, because of our friendship, is probably better than it's ever been by far." [9] Bolsonaro has defended and even praised the military dictatorships that ruled many Latin American countries from the 1960s to 1980s, only criticizing Brazil's military regime for the "mistake" of torturing rather than killing on a larger scale. [10]

*

Joseph Raso is the author of A Tale of Two Factions: The US Power Structure Since World War II (2018). He has written on Bolivian politics for publications in the US and Bolivia.

Notes

[1] CEPR. "New Report Reviews Changes in Bolivia's Economy under Evo Morales's Presidency" (17 October 2019): http://cepr.net/press-center/press-releases/new-report-reviews-changes-in-bolivia-s-economy-under-evo-morales-s-presidency

[2] CEPR. "No Evidence That Bolivian Election Results Were Affected by Irregularities or Fraud, Statistical Analysis Shows" (8 November 2019): http://cepr.net/press-center/press-releases/no-evidence-that-bolivian-election-results-were-affected-by-irregularities-or-fraud-statistical-analysis-shows

[3] The Post's View, "Bolivia is in danger of slipping into anarchy. It's Evo Morales's fault.," The Washington Post 11 November 2019: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/bolivia-is-in-danger-of-slipping-into-anarchy-its-evo-moraless-fault/2019/11/11/53f1889a-04ac-11ea-ac12-3325d49eacaa_story.html

[4] The Editorial Board, "Evo Morales Is Gone. Bolivia's Problems Aren't," The New York Times 11 November 2019: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/11/opinion/evo-morales-bolivia.html

[5] Marco Rubio on Twitter (12 November 2019): https://twitter.com/marcorubio/status/1194255556032249856

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Joseph Raso is the author of A Tale of Two Factions: The US Power Structure Since World War II (published 2018). He taught political science at McMaster University in Canada and has worked at think tanks in Washington, DC.

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US Oligarchic Consensus on the Bolivian Coup

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Lois Gagnon

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Unfortunately, Bernie Sanders called Venezuela's legitimately elected president Nicholas Maduro a vicious tyrant. His socialist label has no legitimacy.

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 23, 2019 at 4:43:36 PM

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John Lawrence Ré

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Completely agree. One way to view Sanders, who by now must know he cannot win as he is viewed by independents as a "socialist," is that he is in this race to mute Gabbard's anti-imperialist voice by shanghaiing just enough of those potential Gabbard backers to eliminate her from the debate stage. No one needs to fully back Gabbard to appreciate that she is undressing the war party right before our eyes and for the first time in the history of the TV era.

Submitted on Saturday, Nov 23, 2019 at 6:29:44 PM

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Lois Gagnon

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All true although I remain skeptical of Gabbard's antiwar stance. She says she's a hawk on the War on Terror which has a vague definition. I also wish she would be more forthcoming on economic issues which is where Bernie concentrates his policy proposals.

If people weren't so heavily propagandized they would be aware that Howie Hawkins has the whole package. Being third party and accepting no corporate funding, he doesn't have to tailor his message to fat cat donors or compromised party insiders.

We won't get the change we need with the two corporate war parties in control. Maybe after 2020, that message will finally sink in.

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 24, 2019 at 6:46:53 PM

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John Lawrence Ré

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Two things, Lois: 1) Hawkins is for a volunteer army. Bad choice, and I say that as a person who was drafted myself. I was not happy about it it when it happened to me but have realized since that the draft was ended by Nixon for a reason - MIC recognized it as a potential threat to empire. Army conscripts played a significant role supporting rogue officers in ending the Portugese empire, for example. And 2) Hawkins is not for leaving NATO...which is a trap that keeps us embroiled in a Cold War.

Gabbard's domestic positions almost perfectly parallel those of Snaders with the exception that she stresses taking the money to pay for them from MIC and not by raising taxes. But let's be clear, a president's primary and major role is as Comander-in-Chief. I've heard Hawkins speak on foreign policy issues and my gut feeling was that he is nowhere nearly as logical and sincere as Gabbard, nor dies he put the correct emphasis that foreign policy is the issue underlying all other issues as Gabbard has been correctly stressing from day one. Also, when Gabbard says she's a hawk on terror that is not the same thing as saying she backs that gateway to the slipperiest of all slopes: The War on Terror.

Finally, as I've pointed out a hundred times, a successful campaign against ending empire MUST have a leader in the white house, and for that leader to get there, he or she MUST have the support of non-demoncrats. Gababrd has a slim but real chance at this and it might be our best and last opprtunity. Hawkins could not garner that support if he had a hundred years and a billion dollars to try. So then what is he? I'll tell you - a spoiler. We need to be practical here, Lois.

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 24, 2019 at 8:07:17 PM

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nelswight

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Sorry, Lois, it make good sense to my rattling noggin. I must agree with J,L,

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 24, 2019 at 9:23:51 PM

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Lois Gagnon

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We'll see how people feel about who the real "spoilers" are a year from now when the Dems prove they would rather keep Trump in office than allow anyone slightly left of center (Bernie or Tulsi) from being the nominee. And I highly doubt Tulsi will run independent.


I also don't believe in vote shaming people into voting against their principles. I see the Green Party as our last hope of changing things for the better electorally before all hell breaks loose. If the American people can't manage to take that leap then there's not much hope for us surviving the fall of this empire anyway without considerable suffering.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 25, 2019 at 7:25:54 PM

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John Lawrence Ré

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Was not intending to mean it that way, Lois, as I also voted for Stein in the last several elections and had to hear that kind of nonsensical backlash. The difference - and it's a major difference - is that there was no anti-war candidate running in the last elections, so voting Green was a statement. 2020 is different a) because now there is such a candidate with a better chance than Hawkins, and b) because Hawkins is no Jill Stein. Check out Hawkins' take on Russia for example. But I will join you in voting for him, IF,Tulsi does not run as an independent. However I think she will and should...especially if Trump is gone before then.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 25, 2019 at 9:21:54 PM

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molly cruz

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I've been waiting for just a word about this turnover, but the stupid news hasn't said a word. Impeachment reigns.

While we impeach Trump on this trivial old codger's caper in Ukraine, ( the equivalent of arresting Jimmy Hoffa on tax evasion), instead of on his miserable performance in every possible political arena; what I have felt all along is that we are seeing a shift in foreign policy that leaves Hong Kong to China, Ukraine to Russia, in return for them letting us cut South American into 'regions of interest' and squash any independence of politics that spells fewer profits for American business.

That was the significance of both Russia and China, in anticipation of future power grabs in their neighbor's dominions,when they showed up in Venezuela with prohibitive forces, as we tried to undo that government.


Evo Morales is a hero, an icon, and we should be protecting him.


Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 at 9:00:59 PM

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