Some questions concerning the putsch in Bolivia
by Paul Schmutz Schaller on 23 Nov 2019 0 Comment

Preliminary note


Of course, I have read the Saker’s article, “A few short comments about the Fascist coup in Bolivia”, posted on November 12, as well as most of the comments. However, the predominant assessment did not satisfy me. Considering that my knowledge of the situation in South America is quite rudimentary and that my ideas were not clear enough, I was not prepared to write a comment. In the meantime, there were some new developments, notably the fact that Morales continues to directly influence the political situation in Bolivia and that big demonstrations in favor of Morales are taking place or are prepared. These events have encouraged me to write a short text, just from somebody who asks some questions, but does not intend to provide answers.

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On November 10, Cuba’s president has strongly condemned the coup d’état in Bolivia against the legitimate president Morales. Already on November 9, Cuba’s ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a declaration stating, “Disregarding electoral institutions and the people’s mandate expressed at the polls, sectors of the Bolivian opposition, with the support and leadership of the United States and regional oligarchies, have launched a coup with the aim of denying the Bolivian people the electoral result. The opposition coup strategy has led to severe violence across the country, which has cost lives, hundreds of wounded, and expressions of racism toward original peoples.” (Granma, November 14)


“The Mexican government view the resignation of now former Bolivian president Evo Morales as a ‘coup’ under military pressure. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard made the pronouncement at a press conference in Mexico City on Monday.” (cited from Ruptly)


On November 13, Xinhua reported: “In the capital city of La Paz, fear grows among the residents as looting and unrest continue. Government offices are closed, streets blocked, and many businesses remain shuttered. […] In Potosi in south Bolivia, the situation was even more critical. Protestors burned the house of Victor Borda, president of the Chamber of Deputies, and took his brother hostage, which forced him to resign.” In my experience, it is not very usual that Xinhua speaks of such events.


So far, I agree. However, there are a number of questions; I shall discuss the three which are – in my eyes – the most important ones, namely the comparison with the putsch in Chile, the left-right schema, and the real power of the USA.


Chile 1973 – Bolivia 2019


This was the first short formula describing the events in Bolivia, which I read. Of course, there are resemblances. But there are also crucial differences. Remember that Pinochet was general and commander-in-chief of the army. His economical politics are widely seen as the beginning of the era of neoliberalism between, say, 1980 and 2000. The putsch in Chile represents thus the beginning of something which is very important. There were also big (left wing) demonstrations in Europe against the military coup.


(There is the quite tenacious idea that the reforms in China, which started with Deng Xiaoping in 1978, were also part of the era of neoliberalism. I do not at all share this view. Nevertheless, I think that the reforms in China were a very positive correction of exaggerated collectivism in direction of more liberalism. Note however that while the term “neoliberalism” is quite exactly defined, the terms “collectivism” and “liberalism” are much vaguer.)


In my eyes, the putsch in Bolivia is rather the end of something, not the beginning. At least until now, the army has not taken the direct power and, compared with Chile 1973, violence is – until now – much weaker (see however the Saker’s article for description of violences). By the way, I would not be surprised if there was some kind of arrangement between Morales and (parts of) the army. This is not at all a criticism against Morales, but it would explain why the departure of Morales was so quick. It remains to see what the army did promise in return – if at all.


The left-right schema


Traditionally, military coups in South America are seen as reactions of the (extreme) right against left wing governments. The latter are usually more nationalist and more social. This is certainly true for the government of Morales.


On the other hand, the left-right schema is outdated in most parts of the world. With the – possible or supposed – exception of Latin America. But I have big doubts that Latin America is still such an exception. There was enough time in order to build a national bourgeoisie. Saker’s article speaks of a patriotic opposition inside the Brazilian military; this is exactly what I understand by national bourgeoisie (according to wiktionary, this is a Marxist term, but do not make a big deal about). Of course, the comprador elite remains strong, but probably less strong than expected.


The real power of the USA


Many forces who are condemning the coup against Morales, assume that the USA have still the power of ruling South America more or less as they want, except in a country where the army is clearly nationalist – and strong enough. I cannot believe this. In my eyes, the hegemonic forces and the anti-hegemonic forces are – worldwide – in some kind of dynamic equilibrium. Moreover, the hegemonic forces have lost the initiative. If it were true that the coup in Bolivia is such a big success for the USA, then this would change the strategic situation. But the latter is not apparent.


Moreover, the USA are divided. Bolivia was never an aim for Trump. Which, of course, does not mean that he does not welcome a “victory against a hostile government”. Nor does this mean that there were not US-forces planning this coup with determination (Marco Rubio is often mentioned). Nevertheless, Trump has other priorities.

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As a conclusion, I expect that this coup in Bolivia is far from “consumed”. Otherwise, I obviously have to change some of my ideas.


Courtesy The Saker

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