In the exit polls of Bolivia’s presidential election on Sunday, candidate Luis Arece of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party has won over fifty percent of the popular vote. Carlos Mesa of the liberal Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario party, Arece’s next closest competitor in the race, won only 30% of the vote and peacefully conceded defeat yesterday at noon.
This is an extremely important election for Bolivia. President-elect Luis Arece is the former finance minister of ex-president Evo Morales, the first indegenous president of Bolivia and also a member of MAS. Elected for a third term by landslide victory in 2014, Morales served until last October when, despite being declared the victor of a scheduled presidential election, he was forced to flee the country by what international observers describe as a right-wing coup, applauded by the United States government.
The unelected government has been led for the past year by self-declared interim president Jeanine Anez of the center-right Movimiento Demócrata Social party. Anez has a history of anti-indegenous comments and upon taking office created a cabinet without any indegenous members, despite indigenous people comprising forty percent of Bolivia’s population. Anez managed to postpone the election of a new Bolivian president for the past year, but over the summer the regime was greatly pressured by indegenous and labor organizations who carried out multiple general strikes for an election and Anez’s resignation.
This week’s election is crucial not only as a victory for the indegenous population of Bolivia but for the country’s entire democracy. The right-wing coup contested Morales’s victory last October, referencing an election audit produced by the Organization of American States (OAS), a cold-war organization founded with explicitly anticommunist goals in the Americas. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, the modern-day function of the OAS is to “promote U.S. political and economic interests in the Western Hemisphere.” In spite of the fact that U.S. media, which supported this coup, has since found the OAS election audit completely faulty, there has been no significant support for Morales’ presidency from these outlets since. Until Sunday, the opposition government remained empowered.
While the exact role the U.S. government played in the Bolivian coup last year is still unclear, the United States government has intervened directly and indirectly with money, weapons, bombs, troops and simple intimidation to interrupt the democratic government of almost every single Latin American country since the 1950s, so we have no reason to clear them of suspicion within Bolivia. Besides, it is usually not until decades after the fact that our intervention is revealed through document declassification from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency.
Evo Morales enjoyed popular support as president of Bolivia since his first term began in 2005. His political track record includes land redistribution, nationalization of key industries, strengthening the rights of ingegenous populations, expropriation of internationally held lands and resources, increased taxes on the wealthy and more robust social services. Along with Morales’ identity as the first indegenous president of Bolivia, this anti-imperialist, anti-colonial track record is equally important to understanding his opposition by the U.S. government and media — the MAS party platform is unequivocally against U.S. interests within Bolivia.
The United States has every reason for supporting puppet governments overseas — they can serve as military allies, provide cheap imports and labor, facilitate predatory trade agreements and crucially, they can provide natural resources which may be unavailable or highly expensive at home. In the case of Bolivia, this natural resource is lithium, key to producing many electronics and beloved by U.S. tech giants including Tesla founder Elon Musk, who has literally voiced support of the U.S.’s ability to “coup whoever we want” in reference to Morales’ ousting.
The American empire may or may not be on its last legs, struggling under the weight of many problems that smaller, poorer countries are eliminating. But in the foreseeable future, the U.S. government will continue attempting to disrupt democracy within Bolivia, Latin America and anywhere else that could potentially be made to submit to U.S. economic and military hegemony. Donald Trump has made clear his support for the Bolivian coup multiple times and Joe Biden has said nothing on the subject, so we should anticipate four more years of imperialism from either U.S. president come January.
It is our obligation as workers in the U.S. to stand with the people and democracy of Bolivia and anywhere else in the world whose rights to sovereignty and self-determination are threatened by U.S. imperialism. We can protest, organize and strike when our government participates in clearly unjust wars or supports right-wing coups against democracy. Ultimately, we need to dismantle the U.S. empire and empower indegenous, colonized and imperialized populations within U.S. borders and all around the world who have been marginalized for so long.