The Bolivian Coup Is Not a Coup—Because US Wanted It to Happen

Morales Resigns

By Alan MacLeod
November 11, 2019 – fair.org

Army generals appearing on television to demand the resignation and arrest of an elected civilian head of state seems like a textbook example of a coup. And yet that is certainly not how corporate media are presenting the weekend’s events in Bolivia.

No establishment outlet framed the action as a coup; instead, President Evo Morales “resigned” (ABC News, 11/10/19), amid widespread “protests” (CBS News, 11/10/19) from an “infuriated population” (New York Times, 11/10/19) angry at the “election fraud” (Fox News, 11/10/19) of the “full-blown dictatorship” (Miami Herald, 11/9/19). When the word “coup” is used at all, it comes only as an accusation from Morales or another official from his government, which corporate media have been demonizing since his election in 2006 (FAIR.org, 5/6/09, 8/1/12, 4/11/19).

The New York Times (11/10/19) did not hide its approval at events, presenting Morales as a power-hungry despot who had finally “lost his grip on power,” claiming he was “besieged by protests” and “abandoned by allies” like the security services. His authoritarian tendencies, the news article claimed, “worried critics and many supporters for years,” and allowed one source to claim that his overthrow marked “the end of tyranny” for Bolivia. With an apparent nod to balance, it did note that Morales “admitted no wrongdoing” and claimed he was a “victim of a coup.” By that point, however, the well had been thoroughly poisoned.

CNN (11/10/19) dismissed the results of the recent election, where Bolivia gave Morales another term in office, as beset with “accusations of election fraud,” presenting them as a farce where “Morales declared himself the winner.” Time’s report (11/10/19) presented the catalyst for his “resignation” as “protests” and “fraud allegations,” rather than being forced at gunpoint by the military. Meanwhile, CBS News (11/10/19) did not even include the word “allegations,” its headline reading, “Bolivian President Evo Morales Resigns After Election Fraud and Protests.”

Delegitimizing foreign elections where the “wrong” person wins, of course, is a favorite pastime of corporate media (FAIR.org, 5/23/18). There is a great deal of uncritical acceptance of the Organization of American States’ (OAS) opinions on elections, including in coverage of Bolivia’s October vote (e.g., BBC, 11/10/19; Vox, 11/10/19; Voice of America, 11/10/19), despite the lack of evidence to back up its assertions. No mainstream outlet warned its readers that the OAS is a Cold War organization, explicitly set up to halt the spread of leftist governments. In 1962, for example, it passed an official resolution claiming that the Cuban government was “incompatible with the principles and objectives of the inter-American system.” Furthermore, the organization is bankrolled by the US government; indeed, in justifying its continued funding, US AID argued that the OAS is a crucial tool in “promot[ing] US interests in the Western hemisphere by countering the influence of anti-US countries” like Bolivia.

In contrast, there was no coverage at all in US corporate media of the detailed new report from the independent Washington-based think tank CEPR, which claimed that the election results were “consistent” with the win totals announced. There was also scant mention of the kidnapping and torture of elected officials, the ransacking of Morales’ house, the burning of public buildings and of the indigenous Wiphala flag, all of which were widely shared on social media and would have suggested a very different interpretation of events.

Words have power. And framing an event is a powerful method of conveying legitimacy and suggesting action. “Coups,” almost by definition, cannot be supported, while “protests” generally should be. Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, a conservative US-backed billionaire, has literally declared war on over a million people demonstrating against his rule. Corporate media, however, have framed that uprising not as a protest, but rather a “riot” (e.g., NBC News, 10/20/19; Reuters, 11/9/19; Toronto Sun, 11/9/19). In fact, Reuters (11/8/19) described the events as Piñera responding to “vandals” and “looters.” Who would possibly oppose that?

Morales was the first indigenous president in his majority indigenous nation—one that has been ruled by a white European elite since the days of the conquistadors. While in office, his Movement Towards Socialism party has managed to reduce poverty by 42% and extreme poverty by 60%, cut unemployment in half and conduct a number of impressive public works programs. Morales saw himself as part of a decolonizing wave across Latin America, rejecting neoliberalism and nationalizing the country’s key resources, spending the proceeds on health, education and affordable food for the population.

His policies drew the great ire of the US government, Western corporations and the corporate press, who function as the ideological shock troops against leftist governments in Latin America. In the case of Venezuela, Western journalists unironically call themselves “the resistance” to the government, and describe it as their No. 1 goal to “get rid of Maduro,” all the while presenting themselves as neutral and unbiased actors.

The media message from the Bolivia case is clear: A coup is not a coup if we like the outcome.

Source: https://fair.org/home/the-bolivian-coup-is-not-a-coup-because-us-wanted-it-to-happen/

1 Responses to “The Bolivian Coup Is Not a Coup—Because US Wanted It to Happen”


  • Oppose the Military Coup in Bolivia. Spare Us Your “Critiques”

    by Joe Emersberger
    November 14, 2019 – counterpunch.org

    It would be hard to point to a country whose president has more democratic legitimacy than Evo Morales. Nobody can seriously dispute that he won the first round of the presidential election on October 20 by a landslide. He received 47% of the vote in an election with 88% turnout, as most polls predicted. That doubles the percentage of the eligible vote that US presidents generally receive. I’ll say a bit more about that below, but it’s crucial to note that he was elected to his present term (which does not expire until January) with 61% of the vote in an election with roughly the same turnout.

    Morales’ recent “resignation” came at the point of a gun. He fled to Mexico whose government offered him asylum. The unelected military and police forced him out. Generals openly “suggested” that he resign and both the police and military made clear that they were not going to defend him from armed opponents. Most of the democratically elected members of congress are now in hiding. As in all military coups, it has come with a media blackout to help the security forces brutally suppress protests.

    If you support democracy, then you call on Bolivia’s security forces to let Morales return and finish out his term. You call on them to do their job, which is to protect all elected representatives and everybody’s right to free expression and peaceful protest. That’s their only legitimate function. You should also call on your own government to refuse to recognize any “authorities” in Bolivia who stand in the way of Morales’ return and who seek to criminalize his political movement.

    No matter how popular a president, there will be a segment of the population who dislike him or her – and a hardcore segment willing to lynch the president if the police and military would let them. If you think US presidents are protected from this nightmare scenario because they have more legitimacy than Morales then you don’t understand your own country. The fact that prominent people as supposedly diverse politically as Trump, the New York Times editorial board, and Human Rights Watch (with varying degrees of bluntness) have helped support the coup in Bolivia is an indication of how shallow support for democracy really is in US political culture. Alan McLeod pointed out in FAIR that the western media has done its part to support the coup by refusing to call it what it is. Here is a petition to the New York Times asking it to retract an editorial that endorsed the coup.

    But didn’t Morales make “bad moves”?

    In 2016, Morales tried to abolish term limits through a referendum but lost it by two percentage points. A year later Bolivia’s elected Supreme Court (which is elected to a six-year term) ruled that term limits are unconstitutional and thereby nullified the results of the referendum. The ruling was debatable, but not outrageous like many Supreme Court rulings around the world have been. Citizens United comes to mind. The Supreme Court ruling that Handed George W. Bush the US presidency in 2000. The Honduran Supreme Court ruling in 2009 that effectively outlawed a non-binding opinion poll and thereby sparked a military coup from which Honduras has yet to recover.

    Also, Bolivians who disliked that ruling had many democratic and constitutional ways to reverse it. They could vote in a new Supreme Court (US citizens can’t) or simply vote Morales and his allies in the legislature out of office – which they didn’t.

    Principal aside, was it tactically dumb of Morales to run again? Perhaps, but it’s easier to raise other tactical questions that are much more important.

    Why did he allow OAS bureaucrats who are 60% US-funded to have any role in monitoring the election? An analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) showed that the OAS has no basis for impugning the results. Kevin Cashman has elaborated on why the “preliminary audit” issued by the OAS weeks later was similarly baseless.

    It is not the first time OAS bureaucrats have impugned a clean election to devastating effect as Mark Weisbrot pointed out in the Nation. In 2000, it helped unjustly discredit legislative elections in Haiti. That helped justify harsh US sanctions which were followed ultimately by a US-perpetrated military coup in 2004. Since then, Haiti has never had elections as free and fair as the ones they had in 2000. In 2011, the OAS struck again and inexcusably changed election results in Haiti.

    Why did Morales let them near the election? If he didn’t that would be grounds for his enemies – with Washington’s backing – to say he wanted to rig the election. US sanctions- which don’t require a credible pretext or respect for international law – would likely have followed. He may well have calculated that his popularity and achievements in office would be more than enough to offset OAS corruption. If so, he was wrong.

    Why didn’t he do a better job of getting the military under control? He obviously should have done better on that front, but worth remembering how such moves are demonized in the western media and by local adversaries. That would especially true if he had made use of Cuban expertise for example. What about arming his supporters in militias? Same problem.

    We are the problem

    Name a democratically elected president overthrown by a US-backed coup who was not flawed in some way, or whose hard core opponents, even though clearly a minority, were unable to put a lot of protesters on the streets? That list could obviously not include Goulart, Allende, Aristide, Arbenz, Chavez, Zelaya, or anybody who failed to walk on water.

    An honest look at Morales tactical dilemmas shows that the political culture of the US and its top allies is the big problem facing any democracy in the Global South. Democratic legitimacy does very little to protect you when the US and its propaganda apparatus targets you for destruction. The coup against Morales should be an incredibly easy one for any “progressive” to unreservedly oppose – and by oppose I mean demand Morales finish off his term. People eager to highlight their “critiques” of Morales are part of the problem.

    Source: http://www.counterpunch.org/2019/11/14/oppose-the-military-coup-in-bolivia-spare-us-your-critiques/

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