The political and social upheaval in Bolivia continues to increase mainly in La Paz, where, according to the Public Defender’s Office, eight people died and over 500 were detained.
In the midst of generalized chaos and vandalism, the new interim government accused Cuba and Venezuela of being destabilizing agents and announced the rupture of diplomatic relations with Caracas, withdrawal from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR, in Spanish) and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA, in Spanish), as well as the removal of the Cuban medical brigade from the country.
The U.S. Department of State maintains a do not travel warning to the Andean country.
In interviews with Voice of America, a group of experts stressed that former President Evo Morales, from his exile in Mexico, is the main driver of the violence that has overtaken Bolivia.
According to Dr. Eduardo Gamarra, professor of political science at Florida International University, “the violence taking place in Bolivia is due in large part to the actions, claims, and calls of former President Morales. Even from Mexico, although he speaks of pacification, what his followers are doing in some parts of Bolivia is the complete opposite,” he said. Gamarra added that “peace in Bolivia at this time depends on what former President Morales says from Mexico; he doesn’t need to be in Bolivia to pacify his followers.”
Coup d’état or adherence to the Constitution?
Morales’ followers, including international and U.S. political leaders, have described his exit from power as a coup d’état led by the Armed Forces and question the legitimacy of Interim President Jeanine Áñez. Morales said he was pressured to abandon power by then military chief, Army General Williams Kaliman. However, for Javier El-Hage, legal director of the Human Rights Foundation, Bolivia’s Constitution contradicts Morales’ claim of a coup.
“According to Bolivia’s Constitution, in cases of abandonment by the president, constitutional succession must be activated,” said El-Hage.
Former Bolivian President Carlos Mesa, of the Citizen Community Alliance (ACC, in Spanish) opposition party, and who ran against Morales in the October 20 elections, recognized Áñez as the interim leader and requested holding new elections.
Straight to the heart of democracy
Dr. Williams Bastopé, a Bolivian constitutional lawyer and defender of indigenous peoples, stressed that there was no coup in Bolivia.
“It was a self-coup. It was precisely President Evo Morales who committed fraud. We all knew Evo Morales couldn’t win a second round. However, after the vote count mysteriously stopped for 22 hours, Morales showed up with a 10 percent lead. So, we were all suspicious. I had warned that if that were to happen it would be [a case of] fraud nailed straight through the heart of democracy,” he said.
It’s not about class struggle
From Mexico, Morales told daily El País, that the chaos agitating Bolivia is a class struggle and that “they struck the coup to defend wealthy people.”
Gamarra denies that claim. “The pretext that the president used that there was a coup because he’s indigenous is absolutely false, and I think he’s causing great harm to Bolivia’s indigenous groups. The president first violated the law, that’s why he resigned. I think that simply arriving in Mexico and saying that Bolivia is racist because white people took him out is not only false, but it also introduces a narrative that gravely hurts the great progress achieved in Bolivia over the last 13 years, precisely because of what President Morales had done.”
Reconciliation and indigenous peoples
Experts agree that social peace in the country will only be achieved once there is a national consensus. According to former President Morales, civic movements will lose representation in decision-making now that he is out of power.
Bascopé refutes this point of view.
“First, I took part in the Constitutional Assembly on the drafting team, representing the indigenous peoples. I am also an Aymara mestizo. Evo Morales has lost a lot of support from indigenous peoples, from peasant villages, and he is no longer the Evo Morales of some 10 years ago,” he said.
“Yesterday three Cuban nationals were caught in El Alto with more than 700,000 bolivianos, precisely to finance the protests. And in Cochabamba, a member of the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] was caught in the midst of the confrontations. You can imagine the level to which Evo Morales has stooped to by betraying all the indigenous peoples and the Bolivian people,” Bascopé concluded.