LA PAZ – Thanks to Washington’s orchestrated coup, Bolivia has fallen into the grips of political upheaval within a surprisingly short span of time. Earlier this month, at least five activists supporting the return of Evo Morales died in a fierce clash with the country’s security forces, marking a new wave of unrest.
A week ago, after almost 14 years of rule in the Andean nation, Morales abruptly submitted his resignation and flew to Mexico for political asylum.
“My sin was being indigenous, leftist and anti-imperialist,” Morales said.
As Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Morales was seen as a leftist icon and widely popular among the country’s indigenous population which had in the past been marginalized under the colonial rule of the Spanish Empire.
Before leaving, Morales emphasized that it was his responsibility to “prevent coup-mongers from persecuting my trade unionist brothers and sisters, abusing and kidnapping their families, burning the homes of governors and legislators.”
Demonstrations turned violent in the streets of Sucre, the country’s capital after the Washington-headquartered Organization of American States questioned the legitimacy of Morales win in the latest election, while offering no concrete evidence.
Morales’ departure now leaves a power vacuum in Bolivia as his supporters took to the streets to protest the unelected Jeanine Anez – former president of the Senate. Since declaring herself president, many have cast doubt about the forces that propelled her to the nation’s highest office.
Shortly after Morales boarded the flight to Mexico, Luis Fernando Camacho and his loyal followers ransacked his residence and broke into the Presidential Palace. A 40-year-old wealthy lawyer from the country’s affluent Santa Cruz region, Camacho was the leader of the Santa Cruz Youth Union, a group espousing a far-right ideology.
For long, Camacho as a member of Bolivia’s conservative elite has resented many policies and social programs enacted under the leftist Morales administration, including nationalization of the country’s oil and gas.
The newly acquired government revenue was then largely redistributed to the underprivileged and lifted at least half a million Bolivians out of poverty. In a country that has long been ruled by the descendants of the Spanish conquistadors, racism against the native population is deeply ingrained in the political and social structure.
Carlos Mesa was the frontman behind the opposition movement. As president from 2003 to 2005, Mesa continued the legacy of his ousted predecessor and represented the interest of big businesses and multinational corporations.
In 2005, he was forced to resign as angry Bolivians took to the streets to protest the exploitation of the country’s rich natural gas reserves by foreign firms. In the latest elections, he came in second but still 10 percent behind Morales.
According to leaked US government cables released by Wikileaks, Mesa had meetings with the charge d’affaires of US embassy in Bolivia where he discussed how to topple Morales. Yet, he is only part of a network of US affiliates inside Bolivia who helped carry out the will of Uncle Sam.
As is, the history of Bolivia and Latin America is a tale of US interventionism and imperialism, which has been a stated US policy towards the region ever since the adoption of the infamous Monroe Doctrine. Just by looking at the Latin American experience, the US definitely played a hand in the recent events in Bolivia.
The US has an extensive history of meddling in Latin American affairs and has been looking to overthrow the Morales administration for quite some time. In 2008, the US Embassy coordinated the “media luna” coup that saw horrific racial violence as far-right groups in Santa Cruz attempted to gain autonomy with the help of foreign terrorist cells, according to cables released by Wikileaks.
“The North American empire doesn’t forgive that a left-wing country, a socialist community shows the world that there is a non-capitalist way of doing things with equality, dignity and identity,” Morales said in a recent interview with Al Jazeera. “But we will be back to Bolivia and join the fight to strengthen our social forces.”