Washington embraces Bolivia’s rightists

January 28, 2020

The Jan. 23 announcement that the U.S. would resume diplomatic relations with Bolivia’s government — after breaking them with Evo Morales’s progressive government 11 years ago — should come as no surprise. The current regime in the Andean country was established by a right-wing coup, carried out by racist, anti-Indigenous forces and backed by the military and police. All this makes it a good friend of U.S. imperialism.

Breaking relations with popular governments and supporting fascist and/or military coups are the standard Washington ploy when U.S. corporate and financial interests are threatened, even if the threat is only lower profits. And this strategy is shared by U.S. imperialism’s two major political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats.

That shared strategy was shown when the Obama administration quickly recognized and supplied aid to the reactionary coup regime in Honduras after the 2009 overthrow of democratically elected President Mel Zelaya. In 2019, the Trump gang backed ultra-rightist Jair Bolsonaro’s “lawfare” in Brazil. It has repeatedly tried to overthrow the Bolivarian government in Venezuela.

It was also no surprise that within days of the U.S. Embassy announcement on Bolivia, the coup government broke relations with Cuba. The new Bolivian regime had already expelled hundreds of Cuban doctors who had been providing health care to Bolivia’s poor and Indigenous communities. The new right-wing regime has no plans to replace them.

Now the coup government, whose military and police fired live ammunition at protesters and killed dozens, is attempting to give a face lift to its brutal rule by holding elections. However, Evo Morales and some other very popular leaders of his Movement for Socialism (MAS) are banned from running — and de facto threatened with assassination if they return to Bolivia from exile. The MAS is running other candidates.

Yet despite the repression and the loss of MAS’s most popular leaders, the ultra-rightists have no guarantee that the MAS will lose — unless the elections are rigged. The struggle continues.

Meanwhile, Morales made a public comment in mid-January that gives insight into the problems facing Bolivian workers and farmers and MAS supporters in general.

Morales called in from exile in Argentina on Jan. 13 to a radio station located in Chapare, a MAS stronghold in Bolivia. He said that if “I or anyone [from the MAS leadership] were to return to Bolivia, someone would have to organize armed popular militias” such as those in Venezuela. (Lahaine.org, Jan. 13)

Apparently under pressure from his Argentine hosts, Morales walked back those remarks — but not, according to reports, before they were heard with enthusiasm by many MAS activists.

Not only in Bolivia, but also in other Latin American and Caribbean countries, popular movements are supporting progressive governments like those in Venezuela and Cuba. They are also trying to eliminate repressive neoliberal governments, like in Colombia, Haiti and Chile.

In both cases, the question of which class controls the armed forces and the police has been central. Morales hit that central question right in the bulls-eye with his original remark.

U.S. imperialism and its representatives, in both major parties and in the bureaucracy and state apparatus, understand this perfectly. That’s why, alongside the occasional fig leaf praising democracy, they rely on the police club at home and the U.S. Armed Forces abroad to keep the imperialist class on top — while reinforcing brutal regimes like the one currently running Bolivia.