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  • Writer's pictureFred Guerin

The U.S and Canada's Corporate Coup of Bolivia

Updated: May 31, 2020

To its eternal shame, the liberal government fully supported, and was likely complicit in the coup in Bolivia. Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and US lackey Chrystia Freeland are big supporters of Canadian mining interests in South America--in this case, it was a Vancouver based Canadian mining company called South American Silver Corporation (SASC). There is also corporate Canadian interestin Bolivia's untapped lithium resources (used in electric cars and smartphones). Lithium is the new 'gold', Bolivia is rich in it and Canadian mining companies want it.

Evo Morales is simply in the way of corporate profit.

Morales was the first Indigenous president in Bolivia--a significant accomplishment given the country's long history of indigenous repression. Of course, the Canadian government has no problem riding roughshod over indigenous rights as their abject failure to consult or seek consent from First Nations regarding the Trans-Mountain Pipeline Expansion has abundantly shown. If there is one thing that can be counted on it is that the Liberal government will unfailingly support extractive corporations over the rights of Indigenous people.

One of Morales' first acts after coming to office was to nationalize the country’s hydrocarbon resources. He also wanted to create publicly-owned silver and lithium industries to help diversify the country’s economy and raise more of its people out of poverty--most especially the indigenous population. Bolivia successfully used the money generated from publicly-owned natural resource industries to eliminate poverty and reach a level of unprecedented economic independence. Poverty was dramatically decreased by a combination of resource nationalization, redistributive wages, public investment policies and the abandonment of extortionist demands by the International Monetary Fund.

These are all considered crimes against corporate neoliberal capitalism. Multinational corporations do not like sharing the wealth. Any small resource-rich socialist government that attempts to put in place an economic plan that favors the poor and working-class over the demands of rich corporations must be stopped in their tracks. The last thing they want to hear is a political leader who says things like this:

“The worst enemy of humanity is U.S. capitalism. That is what provokes uprisings like our own, a rebellion against a system, against a neoliberal model, which is the representation of a savage capitalism. If the entire world doesn’t acknowledge this reality, that nation-states are not providing even minimally for health, education, and nourishment, then each day the most fundamental human rights are being violated.” (Evo Morales 2006)

The US, Canada, the IMF, and multinational silver and lithium mining corporations are cheering today: a major obstacle to the wholesale exploitation of yet another small resource-rich South American country has been accomplished.

Evo Morales was Bolivia’s first indigenous leader. His record of helping Bolivians out of poverty is well known. The dominant class of rich landowners always hated Morales but he was loved by the rural poor and Indigenous. Morales won the October 20 general election with a 10-point lead. This result was predictably contested by the opposition, who accused him of tampering with the vote.

Pressured by Trump and far-right senator Marco Rubio, the right-wing Organization of American States (OAS) said there was a problem with the vote count, but provided no evidence whatsoever. This charge was repeated over and over again in the media--until the lie became 'truth'. Morales called for new elections on Sunday with the aim of “seeking peace” in Bolivia. It wasn't enough.

The right-wing opposition led by former president Carlos Mesa and opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho would not accept Morales participation in any new election and urged protesters to continue mobilizing in the streets until he resigned. They did. Violent right-wing protestors burned and ransacked the homes of members of Morales' party, assaulted supporters of the president, and kidnapped a Bolivian mayor. Then the military stepped in.

The mainstream media will not say it but there is no doubt at all that this was an American sponsored military coup: the head of Bolivia's armed forces got his marching orders from the OAS and told Morales to resign. Morales did so to avoid any violence. The US has been funding Morales' political adversaries since 2001.

How did this happen? Unfortunately, in order to keep the peace, Morales made concessions (lifting a ban on GM crops, allowing for further deforestation) to the capitalists, multinationals and wealthy landowners. The moment you do that, the game is up. The reactionary right-wing in Bolivia never accepted the idea of a government led by an Indigenous trade unionist. The problem is that you cannot take half measures with these people--the only way to break the economic power of a capitalist oligarchy is to take back the means of production, take back the land from rich landowners and nationalize all natural resources for the sake of the majority and the public good.

That did not happen in Bolivia, and much of the protest from the left before the election was based on the fact that they believed Morales was handing over the country’s wealth to foreign multinationals.

Morales base of support--workers and peasants--began to erode after he made these concessions. He lost the 2016 referendum on constitutional reform, which was called to remove term limits and allow him to stand again for reelection. However, the Bolivian Supreme Court argued that standing for reelection was a human right and therefore Evo Morales could stand again. The right-wing went crazy. They were determined to stop at nothing to oust Morales. They eventually succeeded.

The sad fact is that this coup will embolden right-wing thugs like Bolsonaro in Brazil, Sebastián Piñera in Chile and Juan Guaido in Venezuela.

Thankfully, the government of Mexico said it would grant Morales asylum upon request.

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