“Bolivar prophesied shrewdly that the United States seemed fated by Providence to plague America with woes in the name of liberty.”
Eduardo Galeano — Open Veins of Latin America
There exists a striking parallel between the forced resignation of Bolivia’s erstwhile President Evo Morales upon the instruction of country’s military leadership, and the manner in which a section of the Venezulean military briefly overthrew Hugo Chavez in 2000, prior to the poor and the working class of Caracas laying siege to the president’s official residence, the Miraflores Palace, in their tens of thousands to successfully demand his return.
In the second instance it soon came to light that the move to topple Chavez had received the prior sanction of Washington, while at time of writing the role of Washington in the removal of Morales from power in Bolivia is yet to be revealed.
I say ‘yet to be revealed’ because it’s simply impossible to believe that no such green light was sought or given to the Bolivian military leadership prior to it issuing its diktat demanding Morales’ resignation. It comes after three weeks of protests and violent unrest throughout the country. This after the Organization of American States (OAS) reported ‘serious irregularities’ with respect to the result of the country’s election on October 20, calling for the election to be annulled and a new one held.
Evo Morales, it should be noted, accepted the verdict of the OAS and had agreed to a second election, according to its demand. History will now record that he made a mistake in doing so. Because the OAS, let no one be in doubt, is not an impartial actor in this crisis or in regard to these developments.
Instead, the OAS is a cat’s paw of Washington, initially founded with the primary aim of resisting Soviet influence across Latin America as the Cold War kicked into gear. It has never sought to conceal its anti-socialist or leftist proclivities either. As recently as last year the organisation’s current Secretary General Luis Almagro, a Uruguayan lawyer, played an active role in the campaign, engineered in Washington, to topple Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, up to and including advocating Maduro’s removal by any means necessary, including force.
In announcing his resignation, Morales asserted that what had taken place was a “civic coup” and that “My sin was being indigenous, leftist and anti-imperialist.”
He certainly wasn’t forced to resign by the Bolivian military due to misrule or the parlous state of the country’s economy under his stewardship. On the contrary, Bolivia under Morales flourished and developed as no other country in Latin America has.
Indeed so successful was Morales’ time in office that even the Guardian (no friend to left wing governments) had to grudgingly acknowledge it. This it did in a March 2019 piece by Oliver Balch under the customary dismissive title when it comes to left wing Latin American leaders: ‘How a populist president helped Bolivia’s poor — but built himself a palace’.
Ludicrous title aside, the article confirms the extent of Bolivia’s transformation under Evo Morales. For example: “The percentage of people living in poverty in this landlocked South American state fell from 59.9% in 2006, when Morales first came to power, to 34.6% in 2017, with extreme poverty more than halving (from 38.28% to 15.2%) over the same period, according to government figures.”
Moreover, we learn that “since Morales came to power in 2006, the country’s economy has grown at a steady 4.9% per year. For a country that had to be bailed out by its foreign lenders just one year before Morales became president, such macroeconomic success marks an incredible turnaround. But more remarkable still is that fact that this success is feeding through to the poorest segments of society.”
What the article fails to point out is that Bolivia’s economic and developmental achievements were the result of Morales following a counter neoliberal economic policy, defying the IMF and nationalising Bolivia’s oil and gas reserves. Morales, as he himself mentioned in his resignation speech, was also a staunch and vocal anti-imperialist, which means to say anti-US hegemony. And to be such in a region which Washington has also viewed as a wholly owned subsidiary is to be placed in the crosshairs of regime change.
Thus in many respects, it’s remarkable that he lasted 14 years in office.
That he did was in large part due to the constellation of states that were once governed on the same basis as he governed Bolivia. On this point it was said that no socialist could ever be elected as a head of state in Latin America before Chavez was elected President of Venezuela in 1999. Afterwards it was said that you had to be a socialist get elected as a head of state in Latin America. Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, all of the above were part of the pink tide that swept the region and which reached its peak in 2011.
Eight years on and the pink tide has gone out, as one after the other of the region’s leftist governments have fallen to the return to prominence of pro-market Washington Consensus nostrums, helped along by local oligarchies in control of the media and who with their economic power have sought to undermine and sabotage any tincture of socialism in their respective countries.
Lessons must be learned. Where the likes of Chavez came under consistent and constant attack for being ‘autocratic’, he was in fact arguably too democratic, allowing those plotting his downfall to continue to function without molestation, using their newspapers and TV channels to churn out a constant diatribe of anti-government regime change propaganda.
Evo Morales and his comrades and supporters now find themselves being hunted and hounded as enemies of the people in their own country. It’s a tale of woe worthy of a Greek tragedy. Meanwhile as to the wider region, at this rate the sage words of Eduardo Galeano will come to pass sooner rather than later:
We will all see the same images and hear the same sounds and wear the same clothes and eat the same hamburgers and enjoy the same solitude in our houses all alike in neighborhoods all alike in cities all alike where we will all breathe the same garbage and serve our cars with the same devotion and carry out the orders of the same machines in a world that will be marvelous for all who have no legs or wings or roots.