coup threat in bolivia

A week ago we carried a report from La Paz on the deepening crisis in Bolivia, where the oligarchy are using fascist shock troops to seize control of public buildings and attack trade unionists and indigenous people in their efforts to take back control of the country. The oligarchy already control half of Bolivia, including most of the east and south, and now they are even more openly mobilising for a coup: yet the Morales government continues to sit on its hands and offer ‘negotiations’ with the oligarchs. The article below is translated from the Spanish from www.econoticiasbolivia.com


The fascists are attacking policemen and soldiers, taking over airports, looting and burning state institutions, cutting off communications and denigrating indigenous people and people from the Altiplano. Evo Morales – in the Altiplano – expresses his regret, says that a right-wing coup against him is taking place, but does nothing and leaves his terrorised supporters in the country below powerless.

La Paz, September 10, 2008 – In an extreme case of parliamentary cretinism – which holds that popular votes and laws suffice to stop the plans of the oligarchy – on Tuesday the indigenous president Evo Morales, who in last month’s election won the support of seven out of every ten Bolivians,  virtually handed over half the country to the violence of fascism and the oligarchs.

On Tuesday, faced with the capitulation and impotence of the government, which does nothing but sit in the Altiplano mountains regretting what is going on in the country below, fascist groups seized control of the public offices, roads, airports and streets of the cities of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija and Sucre, breaking Police and Army resistance and consolidating the far right’s power in the east and in the valleys of Bolivia.

For there, in five of the nine provinces of South America’s poorest country, fascists are setting up shop with total impunity, having managed to raise the flag of ‘regional autonomy’ and thus to arraign behind themselves thousands of young people and large sections of the middle class and civil society organisations, terrorising trade unionists, the Altiplano immigrant population and activists loyal to Morales, many of whom have gone into hiding.

On Tuesday, the fascist brigades of the Unión Juvenil Cruceñista attacked policemen and soldiers defending public offices in Santa Cruz, seized control over the east’s airports, looted and burned several state institutions, cut off communications and made it quite clear that neither Evo Morales nor the indigenous left control the east and the valleys of Bolivia.

Faced with this situation, described by Morales himself and his ministers as a “right-wing coup by opposition governors against the unity of the country and democracy”, the indigenous government has refused to use its state power to restore constitutional order and put the brakes on the oligarchy’s plot.

“The government will resist the coming right-wing governors’ coup without using a state of siege”, stated the government news agency ABI, thus confirming the position expressed the night before by the ministers of government and defense. A state of siege would allow the Morales government to arrest the plotters and bring them to justice, stop the traitors’ political activities and allow the force of the Army and Police to be used to defend state property and citizens’ rights. But, as Evo Morales’ ministers have said, they will not do any of this against the fascists, who are using handguns, molotov bombs, dinamite, whips and sticks to attack unarmed  women, indigenous people and trade unionists.

Two governments in Bolivia

In reality, given the systematic terror unleashed by the fascist hordes and the inaction of the forces backing Morales, the existence of two governments in Bolivia has crystallised: one of them is the indigenous-peasant government led by Evo Morales which governs in the Altiplano region of La Paz, Oruro and Potosí, and partially in the valleys of Cochabamba and Chuquisaca.

The other government, the fascist-oligarchic one led by right-wing governors and the 100 powerful clans who own the land and big business, has political and administrative control of the cities of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija and Sucre, and a large area in the rural east and the valleys. There, President Morales only holds authority within police and military precincts. The rest of the political and administrative apparatus is in the hands of right-wing governors and fascist bands.

This dual-power situation has been taking shape for more than a year, and consolidated by four regional autonomy referendums which, although illegal and unconstitutional, brought gains for the right in the face of Morales’ weak resistance. The last national referendum on 10th August helped entrench this dual power situation, keeping not only Morales in office (with 67% support) but also his main oligarchic opponents, who achieved similar levels of support in their own provinces.

Two perspectives

In the last two weeks, right-wing governors, the oligarchy and the 100 clans have fought to consolidate their positions and their dominion using mass direct action, with mobilisations, strikes, road blockades and seizures of public institutions. 

In response, Morales and the indigenous left government have gambled on opening dialogue and negotiations with the fascists, using an official announcement to push for a national referendum to ratify the new State Political Constitution and ensure the re-election of the president. This official announcement was at once annulled by the National Electoral Court, citing alleged legal and practical problems. Morales and the social movements which back him therefore decided to call large popular mobilisations in the Altiplano to oblige Congress to ratify the call for a referendum in early 2009. However, it remains clear that this fresh referendum is unworkable and will not be able to take place in the east and in the valleys, unless Morales either makes a deal with the oligarchy or defeats their resistance.

Political cowardice

“We are not going to declare a state of siege. We are not going to give in to provocations”, declared the vice-minister of social movements Sacha Llorenti, illustrating the extreme political cowardice of the Morales administration, which will use neither legal measures nor force against the traitors. They are ignoring the growing cries of the popular organisations and the more radical of the trade unions, organised in the Central Obrera Boliviana, who believe that the only way to stop fascism is to wipe out the economic power of the oligarchy, which means expropriating the immense estates of the east and distributing the land amongst the poor peasants, nationalising all agricultural enterprises and taking all gas, oil and mineral production and distribution under state control.

But far from doing this, the Morales government continues to seek a pact with the traitorous oligarchy, although they want nothing to do with Morales and compare him to a ‘llama’.

In the government’s eyes, the enormous electoral support Morales obtained on 10th August (two million votes out of three million cast) meant the virtual death of the rotten Bolivian oligarchy, and so now we are witnessing the death throes of the fascist beast, which Evo Morales thinks he can bury by ignoring it.

“This is a government of dialogue (…) only small groups are using violence, breaking laws and violating human rights. We call on these violent groups to return to the negotiating table”, said chancellor David Choquehuanca, after two days in which fascist bands, with some citizens’ support, shut off roads, seized government offices, stopped all traffic from Bolivia to Brazil and Argentina, and brought terror to the poorest neighbourhoods of the east of Bolivia, where some people are hurriedly trying to organise to defend their livelihoods and their lives.

The traitors’ plan

The plan of the oligarchy, which can count on the backing and the support of the United States Embassy is: i) to consolidate its political and economic power in the east and in the valleys to defend its multi-million dollar businesses based on the exploitation of natural resources and the land, ii) to block the referendum on the new Constitution taking place, iii) to definitively shelve the new State Political Constitution bill, ratified by the Constituent Assembly, in order to avoid Morales’ possible re-election in 2010 and iv) to even further fence in the Morales government over the next two years.

In the immediate, the offensive unleashed by the opposition governors is working to ‘devolve’ 200 million dollars from the Direct Hydrocarbons Tax (IDH) back to the provinces, and is seeking the recognition of their illegal autonomous governments, including their provincial parliaments and their right to arm their own Police, control the land and dictate laws besides the national law. These are the conditions they demand before any dialogue looking to a grand national agreement: in reality this would mean complete surrender by Evo Morales.

For the governors, the oligarchy and the 100 clans, an agreement with Morales will only be workable if it validates the existence of two parallel governments in the country until the 2010 national elections, in which they hope to defeat indigenous-peasant forces and thus take back total power across the whole country. If there is no change in the current Constitution, Evo Morales will not be able to run.

For this reason the right-wing governors, the oligarchy and the 100 clans want to block the ratification of the new State Political Constitution, which would make it possible for Evo Morales to stand again.

Government capitulation

The national pact which Evo Morales wants looks to achieve the ratification of his new Constitution, which, at least formally speaking, declares equal rights for indigenous people and peasants, opens up the possibility that he could be re-elected for the next ten years, and which pushes for the development of an Andean capitalism with the perspective of “humanising” capitalist exploitation, so that the bosses and the multinationals make lots of money but without looting the country.

Ever since the start of his presidency, Morales’ central political objective has been to share power between the indigenous-peasant élites, the oligarchy and the 100 clans. Vice-president García Linera admitted as much a year and a half ago: they do not want to take power from the oligarchy or displace them, but rather share power, managing Bolivia in concord with those who up until now owned the lives, the haciendas and the great wealth of the country:

“When we got into government we elaborated a strategy to organise a negotiated re-distribution of power. What Bolivia is experiencing today is, in essence, a widespread and generalised process of struggle and re-distribution of power. It will take more than one government to get there”.

“History teaches us that the struggle for power can take any of three typical courses: i) That the social group on the offensive (indigenous-peasant) directly displaces, by whatever means necessary, the previous rulers; ii) that the former ruling bloc (the oligarchy) manages to defeat, contain, co-opt or crush the group on the offensive; iii) That they manage to redistribute power among themselves”.

“As a government we have opted for the third course. We have bet on a process of negotiated re-distribution of power with a new centre of authority: the indigenous movement”, commented the ideologue of the indigenous government, an ex-guerrilla who now calls for class conciliation and the implementation of “Andean capitalism”.

Today, every indication is that Bolivia is in transition towards the third course, although not in a negotiated fashion as Morales and García Linera dreamed. Today, the Altiplano of Bolivia is governed by Evo Morales while the country’s mineral wealth, banks, industry and commerce continue to be managed by multinationals and big private firms. In the other Bolivia, in the east and in the valleys, government and political, economic and administrative power are in the hands of the oligarchy, the agricultural and financial bourgeoisie and the 100 powerful clans.

Bush’s triumph

Everything that is taking place in Bolivia, with the unstoppable advance of the oligarchy and separatism, is a victory for George Bush’s administration, which is pulling the strings of the actions of the oligarchy and the 100 clans, according to the sociologist James Petras:

“Thanks to the complete incompetence and lack of national political leadership by President Evo Morales and his Vice-president Álvaro García Linera, the Bolivian state is breaking up into a set of autonomous provinces, and now regional governments are planning to usurp political power and take charge of their economic assets. From the start, the Morales-García Linera administration sealed a series of political deals, adopted policies and made concessions to the oligarchic élites of Santa Cruz, allowing them to reconstruct their traditional political base, sabotage the elected constituent assembly and effectively undermine the authority of the central government.

“The right has found success in less than two and a half years, which is particularly surprising when we consider that in 2005 the country witness a significant popular uprising to get rid of a right-wing president, when millions of workers, miners, peasants and indigenous people took charge of the streets. It is a tribute to the absolute mis-leadership of Morales and García Linera that the country has moved so quickly and so decisively from a state of popular insurrectional power to a state of fragmentation and division in which a separatist agricultural-exporter elite has taken control of 80% of the productive resources of the country, while the elected central government just weakly protests”.

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