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Mon Nov 11, 2019, 08:17 PM

Bolivia's Coup Threatens the Struggle for Social Liberation and Economic Justice

by Olivia Arigho-Stiles

The Bolivian president, Evo Morales, has been forced from office in a coup following two weeks of civil unrest and a disputed presidential election.

It is not the US-backed coup many have declared on social media, reading from the script of the recent past in Latin America. But it is a coup nonetheless, steered by the urban middle classes and ultra-right regional elites in Bolivia. It should be understood, in part, as a backlash against the redistributive and pro-indigenous policies promulgated by Morales over the past 14 years.

The decisive moment came when the head of the Bolivian armed forces on Sunday ‘suggested’ that Morales resign following a police mutiny in cities across the country over the weekend.

Morales’s house has since been ransacked (along with his sister’s), the ex-president of the electoral authority has been arrested and paraded on television, and groups of anti-government protesters have taken to the streets to burn the Wiphala, the flag representing indigenous peoples in the Andes.

Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia and a former coca grower, was first elected in 2005 with his social movement backed party, the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS). Under his tenure Bolivia has slashed poverty rates, reduced inequality, overseen economic growth while rejecting IMF debt bondage, and nationalised key industries.

Bolivia also has crucially seen the ‘indigenisation’ of the state – the elevation of Bolivia’s indigenous peoples and the centring of indigenous belief systems in public life. Morales has made powerful statements on the global stage in favour of redistribution of wealth, the recognition of indigenous rights and protection of the environment. In 2010, Morales championed the ‘Rights of Mother Earth’ law which recognises the earth as a political subject enshrined with, among other things, a right to life.

None of this was without opposition from traditional white-mestizo (mixed race) elites and international capital. Bolivia is Latin America’s poorest country, with a long history of economic exploitation by foreign powers and racist discrimination against its majority indigenous population.


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