The Coup in Bolivia: The 500 Year War between Indigenous Peoples and the criollos in Latin America

The Alliance between the United States of American (USA) and Latin American conservatives and oligarchs has a new chapter in a bloody and brutal tale of genocide, murder, torture and oppression. The US government in Washington DC has a long history of meddling in the affairs of Latin America. So much so that normal social and political development occurring across the globe in the 20th century, has been hindered, stopped and even reversed in Latin America. One can almost start to wonder how Latin America would look like today. Would it have been more just? Or would the murderers and torturers have found their way to power without the aid of the CIA?

Anti-coup protestor injured in Cochabamba.

It is naive to forget the 500 year long war between indigenous peoples in Latin America – of which Bolivia is a part – and the criollos, the mostly Spanish-descendants of conquistadors and other settlers. The beginning of this struggle starts in 1532 when an alliance between Waskar Inka and the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, brought about the downfall of the Incan Empire and the following hegemony of Spanish rule in the Andes Mountains and much of South America. The Spanish established themselves as lords of land, resources and slaves while Old World deceases and Spanish brutality devastated and tore up indigenous societies. In Bolivia these were mostly concentrated in the east of country in the largest departments of Santa Cruz (the white inhabitants often called Cruceños) and Beni (the white inhabitants often called Benianos). Below them in the social ladder were the mestizos who are the descendants of a mixture between indigenous Native American women and Spanish males. These were brought up to be subordinate to the criollos and when time passed became their foot soldiers in carrying out the wishes of the Spanish criollos. These are the faces of the men in uniform we see on news channels today, oppressing the indigenous Aymara and Quechua protesting in the street. The indigenous people form the lowest class in society, the most poor and oppressed. Those whose concern was not listened to.

With Morales the indigenous people finally had a voice and a face to look up to. Rightly or wrongly they felt that social improvement did not go fast enough. They were impatient and who can really blame them. Lacking in confidence after generations of brutality, they nevertheless have organized themselves into powerful unions, capable of flexing their muscle to pressurize the government to action.

A woman reacts near the coffin of a supporter of former Bolivian President Evo Morales, who died during clashes on Friday, in Cochabamba, Bolivia, November 16, 2019.
Protestor pleading with security forces.

Bolivia is a landlocked country since the disastrous war with Chile in 1879. The criollos have raked the benefits of Bolivia’s natural resources for centuries. The vast majority of Bolivians have been brutally oppressed and despised in their own country. None or very little of the wealth of Bolivia has found its way into their pockets. In fact, the indigenous majority in Bolivia, more than 60% of the Bolivian people, have been treated as near slaves. The whole structure of the Bolivian state was established to ensure the hegemony of the Spanish ruling class. Same can be said of all the other Latin American countries. The society thus became naturally conservative as any wind of change of social or political nature was regarded as a threat to the established power structure. The ruling elite was not willing to share power with the Indians or the mestizos. In Bolivia, laws legalizing the kidnapping of an indigenous person to serve in a rich man’s household and another one dictating indigenous servants as just another property in real estate sale, were only abolished as recently as the 1960s and 1980s.

Myndaniðurstaða fyrir bolivia coup 2019
Anti-coup protestor facing the security forces.

Enter into this stagnant social structure rode the English-speaking neighbor from the north, the United States of America (USA). Driven by corporate greed and political altruism that regarded social changes as a threat to their conservative world view. This view met with enthusiastic support from local elites in Latin American countries. Always looking for ways to keep their oppressed populace in check, or in other words, for ways to keep the poor from murdering the rich. Organization, money and training was now available to keep the elites in power. That is, as long as US based corporations had a free reign to do what they pleased in Latin America. Security personnel from these countries were trained in the US in torture and other death squad tactics. In many of these countries, like Bolivia, the US embassy had their own offices in the government halls in the unofficial capital La Paz.

Myndaniðurstaða fyrir school of the americas bolivia
Bolivian security personnel graduating from WHINSEC.

The training was conducted in the infamous School of the Americas (SOA) in the state of Georgia in the USA. Run by CIA and the US Military in Fort Banning military base, police and military attendees from all over Latin America were trained in torture and so called counter-insurgency tactics. This involved terrorizing the people through murders, torture and ethnic cleansing to stay obedient and quiet. Rebranded in 2001 as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), this school still functions as the main recruiting and training center for weak willed and willing fools to serve American and elite interests in Latin America.

Morales looking to the side
Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia, serving from 2006 to 2019. During his rule the country underwent unprecedented stability and economic prosperity. But, in the shadows the criollo elite plotted his downfall and a return to the universal rule of the oligarchs over the majority indigenous Bolivians.

When visiting Bolivia, one can see the sadness in the eyes of ordinary people, most of whom are of indigenous Aymara and Quechua descent. The generational trauma of being victimized for over 500 years. Evo Morales, president from 2006 to 2019, gave them hope of an improved life which he surely did deliver. Nationalizing important companies and levying tax on international companies that had until then payed little or no tax to state coffers, gave Morales necessary revenue to fund various social projects in the country. Minimum wage was raised from €50 to €150 a month. He was very popular and oversaw a drop in poverty as well as robust economic growth, new infrastructure projects, and investment in health care and education. Morales also gave voice to a majority indigenous population that had long been excluded from Bolivian politics. Cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was terminated, their agents expelled and the US Embassy office in the governmental palace was closed down. Turning to Chinese and Russian governments and companies, Morales signaled to the world increasing independence for Bolivia. Bolivia was declared a multiethnic state with equal rights for all its citizens.

Bolivia is home to a rich culture thousands of years old. The mysterious ruins of the city Tiahuanako near Lake Titicaca is one of the more enigmatic. Only a small fraction of the whole city has been investigated because of lack of funds.

However, at the same time, many indigenous groups grew frustrated with Morales for favoring natural gas extraction and expanded mining, and because he did not significantly expand indigenous land rights or honor those communities’ constitutional rights to be consulted about infrastructure and extraction projects that affected them.

In his effort to appease the unruly elite, he failed to pull their teeth out. To avoid confrontation Morales had not cracked down on the most extreme elements in the eastern part of the country. Instead they were allowed to run around freely to stir up trouble whenever they could. Afraid of antagonizing the military, Morales had not got rid of high ranking officers trained in the infamous School of the Americas.

And so, the snakes bit Evo Morales. When overplaying his hand intending to serve the fourth consecutive term as president of Bolivia, the ruling elite sensed a weakness in Morales’s support base. Powerful labor unions who once were staunch supporters of Morales, didn’t like him serving as president for the fourth term in office. They felt it was time to find another credible candidate to continue the popular social policies.

The elite however felt their chance had come to get rid of the first indigenous president of Bolivia. With funding and other aid from the CIA, the paid-for riots began in the east of the country. Teaming up with top-brass graduates in the army from the School of the Americas, Morales was ousted. Refusing to engage rioters on the grounds of not harming their own people, the police and military commanders called on Morales to resign. Loosing the vital support of the security forces, he left the country to Mexico. A military right wing coup had ousted an elected president from power. The interest of the few had outweighed the interest of the many.

Supporters of former Bolivian president Evo Morales shout slogans during a demonstration in Cochabamba on Monday.  (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP via Getty Images)
Anti-coup protesters in Cochabamba.

Once Morales was gone, both police and army were now suddenly willing to fully engage protesters. This time around they were not clashing with paid-for rioters by the criollos, but poor indigenous peasants, the main core of Morales supporters. Since then 23 people have been shot dead by security forces, 715 injured and hundreds arrested.

Jeanine Áñez and Luis Camacho, the face and perpetrator of the coup against Evo Morales.

Power rests now in the hands of the self declared president Jeanine Áñez who is a Christian religious conservative from Beni province in the east that is ruled by powerful landlords. She has been accused of being a racist based on comments she has made of indigenous people. All her ministers are white in a country where indigenous people are in majority. Behind the scenes the fascist Christian religious conservative millionaire Luis Fernando Camacho from Santa Cruz, also in the eastern part of Bolivia where the white Bolivianos have their power base. Camacho has often been called the Bolsonaro of Bolivia because their fascist ideology are so similar. After the Evo Morales government resignation, he stormed into the presidential palace and made an anti-Incan religion speech: ‘Pachamama will never return to the palace, Bolivia belongs to Christ’. His name can also be found in the infamous Panama-papers as an expert in money laundering and tax evasion.

Since Morales was ousted, anti-coup protests in many of Bolivia’s main cities, like La Paz, El Alto and Cochabamba, have become a daily occurrence. At first peaceful but security forces combined with paid-for anti-Morales gangs have attacked and used disproportionate violence against peaceful protesters. Some reports suggest the police are arresting and jailing former Morales party members, fueling indigenous citizens’ fear that Bolivia will return to a past in which they were marginalized in the political system.

Myndaniðurstaða fyrir bolivia coup 2019
Camacho with his fascist friends.

What will happen in the next couple of days and weeks is difficult to predict. Will the military and right wing people in the east of Bolivia allow free and fair elections? Or will Bolivia stay on the road of dictatorship and oppression like what happened in Honduras where the US recently orchestrated a similar coup against a democratically elected leader. Honduras is now gripped in corruption and lawlessness where criminal gangs terrorize the citizens. Honduras is now on the brink of becoming a failed state. Will Bolivia follow?

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