BOLIVIA 2020 – ELECTIONS UNDER THE COUP

Statement of Liaison Committee For the Fourth International

Coupists unite around the right wing against the MAS

In 2019 Bolivia suffered the most violent coup d’état in Latin America in the new era of coups initiated by the Obama-Hillary Clinton administration (2009-2017), with the coups in Honduras (2009), Paraguay (2012) and Brazil (2016).

The Morales government nationalized the country’s oil, gas, and mineral resources, enabling unprecedented economic growth and the reduction of extreme poverty by nearly 20 percentage points.

In Bolivia, Evo Morales emerged victorious in his campaign for re-election, but was pressured to resign by a civic-police-military coup on a broad political front.

Fascist militiamen and police coupists, backed by the Bolivian Armed Forces (FFAA) threatened to go north, stoned houses and made political arrests against the Morales-led Movement for Socialism (MAS) and its allies. The city hall of Vinto was burned and its MAS mayor, Patricia Arce, was beaten and dragged through the streets, forced to walk barefoot, having her hair cut. Another fascist gang broke into and robbed Evo Morales’ own home. The fascists burned several flags of Whipala, of Andean origin, one of the symbols of the Plurinational State of Bolivia which represents recognition of the diversity of the indigenous peoples that inhabit that territory. 24 people were killed in the clashes, 715 were injured and 50 were arrested. In Cochabamba, police murdered nine Morales supporters during a protest organized by cocaleiros’ (coca-growers) leaders on the president’s return. The new coup government of Jeanine Añez issued a decree to exempt the FFAA and the Bolivian National Police from criminal responsibility in the repression against demonstrations and allow the use of firearms.

Leading the coup against Morales were right-wing anti-communist lackeys, military, police militias, evangelical sects, driven by their own interests and those of billionaires such as Elon Musk, the South African-Canadian-American owner of the multinational corporation Tesla, interested in appropriating the country’s lithium reserves. Lithium is an alkaline metal used in the manufacture of batteries, including for electric cars. Most of the world’s lithium reserves are in Bolivia, which concentrates about a third of the entire world’s supply.

In September 2019, Evo Morales drove the first electric car manufactured 100% in Bolivia, by the Quantum plant in Llajta, Cochabamba, which launched its first cars. The government and the Chinese Embassy in Bolivia have signed a nearly RMB13 billion ($2.3 billion) deal for industrialization of Bolivian lithium and announced that the country would become the world’s largest producer of electric vehicles. Negotiations between TBEA Group and China Machinery Engineering were cursed by industry competitors in the United States, including Tesla, who were left out of that partnership.

Bringing up the rear, justifying the coup as being part of a supposed popular mobilization and not of the right and imperialism was the Bolivian Revolutionary Workers’ Party (Partido Obrero Revolucionario or POR – Bolivia’s original mass ‘Trotskyist’ party that capitulated to radical-talking bourgeois nationalism in the 1950s). As defender of the doctrine of an Anti-Imperialist United Front, the POR became a make-up artist of a Pro-Imperialist United Front.

Threatened, Evo Morales and his deputy, Álvaro Garcia Linera, were forced to resign and went into exile in the Argentina of Fernandez. Evo was prevented by the coupist judiciary from standing in the elections and even running for Senator, with his candidacy challenged on grounds of not residing in Bolivia.

The coup regime faces the contradictions of needing to restrict representative democracy in the country, prevent the return of popular former rulers and at the same time legitimize itself through new elections so as not to seem what it is, a dictatorship of capital and imperialism that seeks to monopolise/steal water, gas, lithium and the labour of the Bolivian proletariat. It does not even tolerate coexistence with sectors that seek to reform the extreme inequality created by the semicolonial condition of the Bolivian proletariat, and the country itself.

After months trying to ‘wait out’ the call for new elections, relying on the pandemic, the coup government is struggling to censor and manipulate polls that do not favour it. Worse, after the September polls, which indicated a possible victory, already in the first round, of Luis Arce, the presidential candidate of the MAS and former economics minister under Morales, the right urgently tried gathering the coup forces behind the traditional right-wing candidate, Carlos Mesa. Arce appeared to have 40 % of intending voters; Mesa 26 %, the far-right candidate Luis Camacho, 14 % and Jeanine Áñez, fourth, with 10 %. This picture forced Añez, the original coupist president of the country with Evo Morales’ resignation, to resign her candidacy. To avoid a runoff, the winner of the election must obtain at least 40% of the votes in the first, and a lead of at least 10% over the runner-up. Other polls since then indicate a growth of growth of support for Mesa, and a second round.

The coup government of Áñez suspended operations and negotiations initiated by Evo on the exploitation of Lithium. The programmes for presidential government of Mesa, Camacho and Áñez (when she was a candidate) advocated the privatization of lithium, its subordination to prices in the international market as traded on the Stock Exchanges and, as if trying to take the exploitation of the ore out of focus, minimized its importance to Bolivia.

Arce, the MAS candidate declared:

“Companies that want to extract our lithium will be welcome as long as they provide employment and produce in Bolivia. We want to produce our Bolivian batteries so that we can export them, obtaining another source of income for the Bolivian economy.”

He intends to keep the additional 32% tax on hydrocarbons. In Arce’s assessment, foreign interest in Bolivian minerals is so great that any exemption would be unnecessary and would represent an affront to national sovereignty.

Most Latin American left-wing bourgeois governments believed that they would be allowed to govern quietly as long as they did not break international economic dependency agreements with imperialism or threaten private ownership of the means of production. Bad mistake. After the 2008 Financial Crisis and China’s expanding influence in the world market, becoming the main trading partner, buyer and exporter to Latin American countries, the U.S. countered by overthrowing governments on the continent that operated this approach to China.

What is MAS?

The MAS, or MAS-ISPS (Movimiento Al Socialismo – Political Instrument por la Soberanía de los Pueblos) defines itself as a “political instrument”, because it acts simultaneously as a political party and a federation of social movements. THE MAS-ISPS presents itself as different from traditional parties, including the left, such as the Workers’ Party of Brazil. Article 42 of its Statutes provided that candidates in national and local elections should be chosen by direct vote in assemblies. From 1999 to 2002 most MAS-IPSP candidates were chosen by this method. From the 2002 elections some candidates were nominated by Evo Morales. As a party of social movements and trade union confederations, THE MAS-IPSP aggregates CSUTCB (United Confederation of Unions of Worker Peasants of Bolivia), CSCB (Syndicalist Confederation of Bolivian Colonisers) and the Bartolina Sisa Federation, the National Confederation of Rural Teachers, the National Confederation of Rivers and Pensioners, the National Confederation of Micro and Small Enterprise (Conamype), the National Federation of Mining Cooperatives (Fencomin, which claims to have about 40,000 members) and the combative Regional Workers Center (COR) of El Alto. The Bolivian Center of The Work Unit (COB) and the National Council of Ayllus and Markas de Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ) are not part of the MAS-IPSP but have critically supported the government.

MAS-ISPS has its origins in the organization of coca-growing workers in the Chapare region, under the leadership of Evo Morales in 1987 as Movimiento al Socialismo-Unzaguista. Evo’s election victory and nearly 14 years in office were based on the struggle of poor workers and Bolivian indigenous populations. THE MAS claims to be heir to the Bolivian Socialist Phalanx (FSB) a party founded in 1937 by Oscar Unzaga, who proposed a Bolivian nationalism in opposition to foreign currents such as capitalism, Marxism, and fascism. By this trend, the MAS government promoted several nationalizations of hydrocarbons, especially gas, the country’s main source of foreign exchange.

Subsidiaries of Hispana YPF-Repsol, British Ashmore and British Petroleum and the Peruvian-German consortium CLBH were nationalised; the state-owned YPFB Petroleum company transformed into a corporation to direct the nationalization of oil and the Bolivian Hydrocarbon Industrialization Company (EBIH) created. The Bolivian state acquired 100% of Compañía Logística de Hidrocarburos (in Peruvian and German hands) and the telephone company Entel, a subsidiary of Italian Telecom. It recovered the majority stake (50% + 1 stake) in Chaco oil companies, Panamerican Energy (British Petroleum group); It nationalized the Andean company, a subsidiary of Repsol YPF; and Transredes, a hydrocarbon carrier owned by British company Ahsmore and Anglo-Dutch Shell.

Evo Morales nationalized the Huanuni tin mine; the oil company Chaco, owned by British Petroleum (BP) and Argentina’s Bridas, whom it accused of taking $277 million out of the country in 2008. The Bolivian government expropriated 36,000 hectares of land from landowners (15,000 of the American larsen metenbrink family), accusing them of subjecting the Guarani Indians to servitude. It promoted the expropriation of the shares of four subsidiaries of the Spanish energy company Iberdrola; Air BP, a subsidiary of British Petroleum and dedicated to fuel distribution at Bolivian airports. Morales nationalized four electricity companies: Corani, 50% owned by Ecoenergy International, a subsidiary of France’s GDF Suez; Guaracachi, whose main shareholder (with 50%) was the British Rurelec PLC; Valle Hermoso, whose 50% of the capital was in the hands of the Bolivian Generator Group of the Pan American of Bolivia; and the distribution cooperative Empresa de Luis e Ferza Eléctrica de Cochabamba. Evo Morales has privately held the shares of Red Eléctrica Española (REEE) in the company Transportadora de Electricidad (TDE). [1]

Despite all these and other progressive measures, the MAS government is part of those governments that are not prepared to stand up to the reaction and resentment of imperialism, the bourgeoisie, and the local middle classes. The whole process has its particularities and singularities, in the Bolivian case, there is the historical racism of the bourgeoisie against the various indigenous ethnic groups, which turned against Morales and the majority of the population. THE MAS fell easily under pressure from the coup movement, after making concessions to pressure from the pro-imperialist right as in the surrender of the political refugee Cesare Batistte, former activist of the group Proletarians Armed by Communism, to life imprisonment by Italian imperialism.

The rejection of Marxism by MAS, its non-identification of imperialism and capitalism as enemies and its misunderstanding of class struggle took its toll. When the coup appeared, the resistance aimed at crushing coupists that had not been prepared for a decade and a half of government, favored the enemy.

Things happened differently in Maduro’s Venezuela, which prudently nullified the powers of the coup-majority Congress with a Constituent Assembly and armed part of the working population to defend the popular government in a political and military way, even though the conciliatory illusions of chavismo in Venezuela still keep it vulnerable by not advancing the social and economic expropriation of the coupist bourgeoisie.

By the time Morales and MAS recognized their mistake it was too late. In January 2020, a Bolivian radio station released a recording in which Morales reiterated that he had been the victim of a “coup d’état” during a meeting with supporters in Argentina. And ensuring that:

“I want you to know that in a short time, if I come back or anyone comes back, we have to organize the armed militias of the people like in Venezuela.”

However, under pressure from the coup government and bourgeois public opinion, Morales recanted in a letter saying:

A few days ago, my words were made public about the formation of militias. I retract them. My deepest conviction has always been the defense of life and peace. [2]

The workers, who are the biggest losers of the coup process, should have as a tactic an anti-imperialist united front in these elections, with a vote for the candidacy of MAS, but without feeding illusion that this victory will be respected by the coupists, and simultaneously must go beyond the limited program of MAS through strikes and battles in the streets, for the disarmament and expropriation of the coupists.

Notes

1.  https://www.lainformacion.com/economia-negocios-y-finanzas/empresas-nacionalizadas-durante-los-mandatos-de-evo-morales_MZ2g1pEpcncA9nan9xzzM7/

2. https://www.dw.com/pt-br/evo-recua-e-diz-que-n%C3%A3o-pretende-mais-criar-mil%C3%ADcias/a-52035045

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