A post-election roundup of media takes on the 2019 Bolivia coup

When the Bolivian regime of Evo Morales was subjected to a right-wing coup in 2019, a lot of people in American and British media celebrated it as a “victory for democracy”, despite ample evidence that the claims of election-rigging were entirely unfounded. These same people seemed unwilling to grapple with the brutality of the new interim president, or her open racism towards the indigenous people of Bolivia. In the last few years, I’ve heard a lot of people saying that things like colonial abuses, or anti-democratic coups against left-wing governments in South and Central America are things of the past – that that was stuff we did during the Cold War, not NOW.

This is very clearly false. The aggressive, destructive nature of neoliberal capitalism has continued unabated since the dissolution of the USSR, as capitalist countries work to ensure that no competing system – especially a more democratic one – is allowed to succeed. I’ve said before that we need to stand in solidarity as a species if we’re going to survive the warming of our planet, and that goes beyond simply speaking out against coups or abuses happening at smaller scales. We also need to be on guard against the efforts to provide moral justification for these assaults on democracy. We should know, by now, to be suspicious of claims of election meddling, particularly when leveled against left-wing governments. We should remember the long and bloody history of the United States overthrowing democratically elected leaders, or aiding in their overthrow, with inevitably disastrous results.

If we’re going to build a better world, we must not only do the work of building, but also call out those who try to tear down efforts to do so, regardless of what’s happening. The Michael Brooks Show has done a good job of calling out people who either fail at critical thinking, or who willingly participate in the spreading of propaganda, and I agree with them that, in the wake of the recent victory for democracy in Bolivia, it’s worth taking a victory lap, not just for the sake of celebrating, but also to keep in mind what was said and done to justify and support a military coup that put a right-wing extremist in power. Those who oppose democracy try to claim its legitimacy for themselves, and we cannot allow them to do so.


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  1. xohjoh2n says

    I’m sure you’re right, but Morales having already evaded the presidential term limit once on a technicality, then used a legal end-run around the constitution to evade it again, is highly questionable. The vote count suspension was not a good look either, whether or not any tampering actually occurred. Then the whole party boycotting the legislative session that decided the interim president – you have to ask what the hell they *expected* to happen.

    And we’ve had a new election within a year resulting in a landslide for Morales’ party, under a different candidate which, why couldn’t they have done that in the first place, and the result appears to be being accepted by Áñez. As far as right-wing/military coups go, there have been *much* worse.

  2. says

    Assuming things go forward peacefully from here, I’d say that acceptance has a lot to do with the degree of opposition from the ground.

    And yeah, Morales isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t justify the military stomping in and forcing him to leave the country, nor does it seem suspicious to me that Morales’ party would be a bit spooked about the situation, and unwilling to legitimize the army just deciding, based on an unfounded accusation of tampering, to just force out the elected president.

    There might be legitimate grievances against Morales, but a foreign-backed far-right coup isn’t an acceptable way to deal with it, and it’s obscene to claim that that was done “for democracy”.

    Particularly – again – when you consider the history both of Bolivia, and of South and Central America in general.

  3. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    it’s obscene to claim that that was done “for democracy”.

    He violated term limits on a farce. Twice. What do you think should happen? Is it a coup if he’s not actually the president because of term limits?

  4. says

    Start with a movement calling for him to step down in favor of someone else in his party?

    Don’t have the military order him to leave, and then kill people who protest, and announce that no police or troops will be punished for killing protesters.

    But I don’t honestly believe that that’s why they did it, given that there was evidence at the time that their accusation of rigging was unfounded.

    I think it was about his work on nationalizing and building up Bolivia’s lithium industry.

    The complaint about him declaring a “redo” on his term limits because of an unrelated change in the law was just a pretext.

  5. says

    As much as I dislike Trump, I don’t want a military coup to replace him, nor do I want foreign-backed militias committing sabotage. Plus once the military decides they can remove elected leaders, they become another branch of government, and that’s pretty much the end of democracy in a country.

  6. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    The complaint about him declaring a “redo” on his term limits because of an unrelated change in the law was just a pretext.

    Him being clearly legally ineligible from being president – twice – is a really good pretext.

    Don’t have the military order him to leave, and then kill people who protest, and announce that no police or troops will be punished for killing protesters.

    What? Should the military just stand by during a coup? That’s what it was – a coup. The guy was clearly illegal to be president. The military should swear loyalty to the constitution and the rule of law. The military removing him is the opposite of a coup. It’s ending a coup. — But yea, the other parts are really bad.

    You seem very much like an “ends justify the means” kind of person right now, and your lack of regard for rule of law as long as you get what you want is extremely worrying.

  7. says

    Arguing that a military coup is the way to respond to the what Morales did IS “ends justify the means”.

    You’re literally saying that you think, in order to achieve the means of getting rid of a leader you view as illegitimate, it’s OK to have the military come in and force him to leave at gunpoint, and replace him with a right-wing lunatic who tells police and soldiers they won’t be punished for killing protesters.

    Legitimacy comes from the consent of the governed, and it seems pretty clear that Morales and his party had popular support.

    The accusations of irregularity in the election turned out to be entirely unfounded.

    And again, there is a long history of foreign involvement in coups like this in South and Central America, almost always against left-wing leaders, and almost always associated with left-wing economic policies, like nationalizing Bolivia’s lithium industry. Leaving out that context means ignoring history, and ignoring the reasoning behind which governments are subjected to coups and which are not.

    Setting the precedent of the military kicking out political leader is worse, in my view, than a leader overstaying term limits with popular support, particularly when the people claiming to care so much about democracy and following the rules have such a clear history of overthrowing or helping to overthrow democratically elected leaders, while ignoring or openly supporting brutal authoritarian regimes.

  8. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Legitimacy comes from the consent of the governed, and it seems pretty clear that Morales and his party had popular support.

    You’re advocating for literal mobocracy and destruction of the rule of law. You’re the one arguing for the ends justifying the means. The military replacing Morales would be just as morally and legally justifiable as our own US military removing Trump from the White House on January 20th and allowing Biden to take charge.

  9. says

    I’m advocating democracy, and a “rule of law” that serves the interests of the people.

    Your comparison doesn’t work. It would be closer to Trump winning a third term in a landslide with no evidence of wrongdoing, other than a sketchy legal justification for a third term.

    Or maybe the military forcing Bush out in favor of Gore in 2000.

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