LA PAZ – President of Bolivia Evo Morales resigned on Sunday after Bolivia’s military warned him to step down accusing him that the country’s election held on October 20th had been manipulated, while a growing number of world states and leaders are calling the situation a coup or pseudo-coup against the socialist ruler.
The contested October election has led to protests and riots. On Saturday, protesters burned the house of Oruro city governor and Morales ally Víctor Hugo Vásquez. Other acts of violence – including the Venezuelan Embassy being targeted with dynamite – were reported in the capital, La Paz.
The Bolivian leader called for a snap election earlier on Sunday, after an Organization of American States (OAS) mission said it could not confirm his victory last month. Morales expressed hope that a new election would help avoid further unrest, but his decision galvanized the opposition, who took to the streets to call for his immediate resignation.
Although he agreed to a re-run, the indigenous socialist leader found himself under pressure from the military and other elites within the state. With his own political allies under attack, Morales said he was standing down in order to protect them.
Supporters of Morales say democracy has been subverted, and that his removal is a coup. In addition to a growing number of Latino nations, figures like UK Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn have stepped forward to state that the Bolivian President has been forced out of office by a coup by the country’s military.
Although the United States has made little public comment on the situation in La Paz, it nevertheless gave key support for new elections which reflect “the will of the people of Bolivia”- supporting a finding by the D.C. based and funded OAS which has taken a line against the Morales government. A thing worth keeping in mind is that Evo Morales was a harsh critic of the United States and its foreign policy in Latin America.
The Trump administration has, since taking office, pursued a “Neo-Monroe Doctrine” based on the longstanding premise that the US must indisputably dominate the Western hemisphere, and has aggressively pursued the removal of regimes critical of American hegemony. This has included hostile policies towards Cuba and Venezuela. With Morales being an ally of those governments, there is a likelihood that the opposition which replaced him will be stridently more pro-Washington.
The OAS as a legitimate monitor of elections in Bolivia shouldn’t be taken seriously. There are good reasons why. Based and funded in Washington D.C. the organization is little more than a partial vehicle for US foreign policy interests in the region which has, despite claiming to represent all countries in the Americas, repeatedly isolated and ostracized countries hostile to the United States. Cuba, for example, was suspended from membership from 1962 to 2009.
However, the atmosphere in Washington has changed for the worse. Since his election, the Trump administration has taken a more hard-line approach against countries in the Latin America under the mantra of what has been described as a “Neo-Monroe doctrine”, that is, the foreign policy objective that no government who is hostile to, critical of the United States, or too close to other powers should be tolerated.
Historically, Washington has repeatedly courted right wing elites in these countries and supported them in quashing popular socialist movements that contravene the US hegemonic rule and interests. On this background, and with the accusations against Morales stemming largely from the OAS, there is a substantial likelihood that Washington has also sought to, albeit indirectly, usher the Evo leadership out of office.
With his administration of course not being authoritarian, but a viable democracy, and secondly not economically disastrous with his policies having made great gains for standard of living in the country, this has made it harder to attack and advocate for change publicly- thus resulting in a “soft” approach by courting a series of state elites, in this case the military and wealthy oligarchs.
This outcome largely resembles that of Brazil in the past few years, whereby the hugely popular socialist President Lula was removed from office by elements of the state apparatus, imprisoned under trumped-up charges and then with an ultra-pro-US leader, Jair Bolosonaro ascending to power.
Given this, Morales’ eventual replacement is likely to be of a similar caliber, which will quickly move to assert the pro-capitalist, pro-US business elite with the view of undoing his socialist economic legacy, and likely moving to offer Washington support on issues such as Venezuela.
As a whole, the Evo Morales saga comes to its climax with one wondering if the Monroe Doctrine has struck yet again? Washington’s support has been subtle and low key, but evident. Bolivia loses its first indigenous leader, a man who never had any record of misrule or heavy-handed governance. The MAN stepped down to keep his nation from violence.