Brutal repression as Bolivian coup regime tries to defeat mass protests

Hundreds of anti-coup protesters march in Bolivia
Ed Sykes

For almost 14 years, Bolivia’s government has been an example of how democratic socialism can be successful. For that reason, the US and its local allies have conspired to overthrow it. And with the help of fascists, they recently managed to do so. Now, the unelected coup government is using brutal repression to try and defeat mass protests calling for a return to democracy.

When socialists do well, right-wing coups aren’t far away

The government of democratically elected president Evo Morales had a massive amount of popular support. And while no government is perfect, many people considered Morales’s administration to be perhaps the “most successful” left-of-centre government in Latin America – and perhaps even the world. As The Canary previously reported, his government lifted “millions of people out of poverty” and oversaw very impressive economic growth. For these reasons, Bolivians recently re-elected his government (though with a reduced majority).

The situation in Bolivia is complex, but US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders recently summed up the situation well:

As did journalist Dan Cohen:

Violent repression from an unelected government

Jeanine Áñez, who declared herself president after the coup “in a near-empty legislative chamber”, claims she will oversee new elections within three months. As Counterpunch reported, Áñez is a “conservative-religious opposition leader” and she “represents a party that received just 4,24% of the vote”.

At least 23 people have died since Bolivia’s current crisis broke out, according to Bolivia’s Ombudsman’s office. On Friday, for example, authorities killed nine pro-Morales coca growers. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) criticised what it said was “disproportionate” force from the police and military. There have also been hundreds of injuries since the coup took place.

The coup regime has also echoed US-led hostility to the left-wing governments of Cuba and Venezuela. For example, it has expelled around 700 Cuban doctors from Bolivia. And it has recognised Juan Guaidó, the leader of the failed Venezuelan coup, as Venezuela’s ‘legitimate president’.

Counterpunch also highlighted that:

In an extraordinary break with human rights protocol, the [coup] government has granted the military immunity from prosecution if they use force in ‘legitimate defense’, in a decree leaked on social media by the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (CIDH).

And the regime has clamped down on independent and anti-coup journalism, too. In particular, Counterpunch says, it has spoken of the “role of foreigners spreading ‘sedition’, in rhetoric reminiscent of the excesses of the Cold War”.

Ongoing calls for a return to democracy

Mass protests against the coup, however, are ongoing:

As Counterpunch reported:

This week has seen massive daily protests against the coup and in support of Morales in La Paz by regional groups of campesinos (land workers), indigenous groups and local associations from El Alto. These invariably end with the police teargassing protestors, including children, in Plaza San Francisco. In the anti-Morales protests which were led by the urban middle classes following the [recent] election, teargas was not routinely deployed. A sign at a rally on Thursday in La Paz poignantly captures this double standard: “When the rich march, the policy mutiny. When the poor march, they shoot bullets.”

Pro-Morales MPs, meanwhile, still control almost two thirds of the legislature, so the coup government doesn’t only face resistance in the streets. A UN envoy has also urged Bolivia’s coup government to begin talks with people opposing the coup, with UN and church mediation.

Featured image via screenshot, with additional reporting via Press Association

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