November 11, 2019 | 14 minutes read

Bolivia, and the reality of imperialist intervention today

Our mission as communists in one of the world's foremost imperialist countries, itself a junior partner to the US, has never been clearer. Red Fightback stands in unconditional solidarity with Bolivia, the MAS, and with Evo Morales.

Bolivia, and the reality of imperialist intervention today

The US imperialist death machine has ramped up its regime change operation in Bolivia – a turn of events that surprises no one, but should move all of us to immediate condemnation. Evo Morales, the indigenous president of Bolivia, was on Sunday, November 10th, forced to resign from the presidency, under severe pressure from the military and the police. In the last few weeks, Evo Morales had survived a suspicious technical failure of his helicopter, and had been facing violent opposition from a faction of bourgeois saboteurs and their sympathisers, including the police. Evo himself had called for peaceful dialogue and for new presidential elections. However, a few hours later, he announced his resignation, in order to protect his comrades and fellow party and union workers and prevent further reactionary violence.

We had initially hoped that this would only be a temporary measure to ensure the impartiality of the new elections. However, the situation has degraded significantly: Evo Morales has now sought refuge in Mexico, which he was granted “in accordance with [Mexico’s] tradition of asylum and non-intervention”. Mexico has also received 20 other personalities of the Bolivian executive and legislature. Back in Bolivia, the fascist, racist, and anti-indigenous character of the coup was revealed quickly, as rioters began burning the Wiphala flag, which represents the indigenous peoples of the Andes. The flag was also removed from official buildings only hours after Evo’s resignation. The opposition also began to round up and arrest government officials, such as the President and Vice President of the TSE, the electoral tribunal which oversees Bolivian elections. They have also been burning and destroying homes belonging to MAS lawmakers (Movement for Socialism, Evo’s party), including the home of Evo himself. The revelation of the class and racial character of this coup is, once again, hardly a surprise. The US-backed wealthy right-wing opposition had been carefully biding their time until they could violently overthrow Evo and roll back his pro-working class, pro-indigenous reforms that have led Bolivia further on the path to progress.

The power now seems to reside with opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho, while opposition lawmaker Jeanine Anez is set to become interim president. Camacho is nothing more than a far-right comprador puppet, who is listed on the Panama Papers and has lately come to eclipse Evo’s “official” rival, Carlos Mesa, who came second in the elections. Hours after the resignation, Camacho announced that he had already seized Evo’s presidential plane and released an arrest warrant in his name.

In the last few days before the coup, rioters hadkidnapped and tortured public officials such as the Mayoress of Vinto, Patricia Arce; the ex-minister of Culture, Feliciano Vegamonte; and the director of a workers union radio, José Aramayo. They had also set fire to the home of Governor of Oruro, Victor Hugo Vasquez. On the other hand, the Bolivian people stand unconditionally with their legitimate president, leading enormous marches against the coup throughout the country. Tens of thousands of union members, farmers, and indigenous people were reported on November 9th to be marching to La Paz to support Evo. Anti-imperialist leaders such as Cuba's Miguel Díaz-Canel also wrote in support of Evo against the “treasonous coup”, as did Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro.

The justification for the protests is Evo's recent victory in the presidential elections, thus commencing his 4th term in office. In a solidarity statement, Tricontinental director Vijay Prashad and Noam Chomsky note that “the coup is driven by the Bolivian oligarchy, who are angered by the fourth election loss by their parties to the Movement for Socialism. The oligarchy is fully supported by the United States government, which has long been eager to remove Morales and his movement from power.” They explain that “for over a decade, the US embassy’s Center of Operations in La Paz has articulated the fact that it has two plans – Plan A, the coup; Plan B, assassination of Morales”. Indeed, US involvement in this operation runs deep, and, like every imperialist regime change operation, it is connected to the US security state and military-industrial complex by thousands of threads.

The Organisation of American States (OAS), in reality a US stooge, has called out alleged “manipulations” of the electoral process. Leader of the opposition Carlos Mesa actually rejected the OAS audit, despite the organisation's clear anti-Morales bias, suggesting he foresaw difficulty finding Evo’s victory illegitimate. Evo has swiftly responded by unconditionally denouncing the coup attempt:

“I would like to denounce before the Bolivian people & world that a coup is underway. A coup against a democratically-elected government. A coup against social movements, workers, patriots, humble & Indigenous people who have built a democratic cultural revolution.”

Evo Morales has been, without any shadow of doubt, the legitimate, democratically elected President of Bolivia. Bolivia has been thriving for over a decade under the leadership of Evo Morales and the MAS. Their healthcare system has led to similar victories as Cuba: between 2006 and 2018, a program operating with the help of Cuban doctors provided over 16 million free health appointments, and overall, the Bolivian economic model has been praised as an example for the world. A central part of the “Pink Tide” movement that has seen revolutionary socialist and social-democratic governments voted into power across Latin America, Bolivia boasts impressive achievements under Evo's presidency. Since Evo took power and nationalised the country’s natural gas and crude oil, poverty has been considerably reduced thanks to greater public spending. Evo also began a process of land redistribution which benefitted indigenous peasants. In total, he cut poverty from 60% to 34%, planted 5 million trees in 2018, tripled electrification of rural homes, and 53% of his 2014 parliament consisted of women.

The preparation for the coup has been underway publicly and noticeably since this summer, although the Bolivia dossier has been sitting on desks in the State Department for much longer. While Bolivia was not part of the “7 countries in 5 years” plan for regime change that included Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran, Latin America has historically been seen as the “backyard” of the US. Washington’s so-called Monroe Doctrine began in the mid-1800s as a policy of opposing European colonialism too close to US territory; it was however kept alive throughout the 20th century by invoking fears of “Soviet interference” and of newly socialist countries becoming forward bases for world communism (doesn't sound that bad to us!). For example, the US-backed Contra war against Nicaragua was initially justified first through lies about weapons trading and democratic elections, but was then escalated into a mission to stop Nicaragua from becoming a Soviet satellite.

In short, the Monroe Doctrine has been consolidated into a deliberate imperialist policy to keep capitalism alive and thriving in Latin America. Former US National Security Adviser and lifelong war criminal John Bolton said “in this administration, we're not afraid to use the word Monroe Doctrine...It's been the objective of American presidents going back to [President] Ronald Reagan to have a completely democratic hemisphere”. In the end, we have to think back to Evo’s famous words about how “the only country in the world where there are no coups is the United States, as there is no US embassy there”.

The cover story began with the usual lies about undemocratic governments, “regimes”, the weaponisation of indigeneity that the US has become very apt at (regardless of the fact that Evo is himself indigenous), and, in short, the tricks the US has accustomed us to. This summer, as the fires in the Amazon were – briefly, all too briefly – on the front page of world newspapers, Evo was fighting fires of his own in the south-west region of Chiquitanía, near the border with Paraguay and Brazil. We say Evo not in order to erase the efforts of the firefighters and other workers, but because we mean Evo in the most literal sense: as far-right Brazilian president Bolsonaro was quite likely counting the cash to be disbursed to his fascist acolytes who set the fires in the Amazon on purpose, Evo paused his presidential campaign to fight the fires with his own two hands. The effort managed to extinguish 85% of hotspots within eight days. Of course, imperialist media had the audacity to ask why we were focusing on Bolsonaro when Evo was around, the subtext being “by the way, he's also a scary communist”. The Independent (presumably independent from any trace of conscience) went as far as to say “the world believes the Amazon is in trouble because of Bolsonaro. Instead, they should look to Bolivia”. Some of the organisations that joined the Bezos- and Murdoch-owned rags in condemning Evo included the “radical” news outlet Novara Media and Extinction Rebellion (XR). XR, who have said perhaps a total of two words about Bolsonaro, did not hesitate to support a propaganda campaign spearheaded by Jhanisse Vaca Daza, a supposed environmental campaigner and in reality a full-on graduate of CIA-sponsored regime change schools and affiliate of imperialist organisations, and call “SOSBolivia” rallies in five cities around the world. XR thus comfortably joins the rest of the human rights industrial complex that the US empire has absorbed into its propaganda machine. On the topic of Daza, The Grayzone reports that she is nothing else than a graduate of the same regime change schools and programs that have trained imperialist operatives in every “pacifist” colour revolution attempt in the last few decades. On her qualification in “leading nonviolent protest” from the Kennedy School, The Grayzone has this to say:

“The Kennedy School has become a haven for expat regime-change cadres since the progressive wave swept over Latin America. Among the school’s alumni and faculty is a who’s who of the coup administration the US has recently sought to install in place of Venezuela’s elected government: Ricardo Hausmann, Leopoldo Lopez, Juan Ignacio Hernandez, and Carlos Vecchio.
“These figures have since spearheaded the bid to re-privatize Venezuela’s oilfields, hoping to secure their own personal financial interests by helping to hand over Venezuela’s oil wealth to the US energy sector. They maintain plausible deniability by insisting they are mere functionaries of a would-be Venezuelan government rather than emissaries of the oil companies on whose behalf they’ve represented.”

She is also connected to the Human Rights Foundation, another literal regime change school described as “a training network for exiled activists seeking to topple the governments of states targeted by Washington.”She was named one of several “freedom fellows” earlier this year, an initiative run “'in partnership with CANVAS,' or the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies.” Her course of study in “leading non-violent protest” at the Kennedy School was also described as a “systematic opportunity for nonviolent social movement mid-level leaders to learn from the experiences of peers and through the coaching of Harvard/CANVAS faculty.”

An earlier Grayzone report, detailing the manufacturing of failed Venezuelan comprador puppet Juan Guaido, reveals that CANVAS “is funded largely through the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA cut-out that functions as the US government’s main arm of promoting regime change; and offshoots like the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs,” and that “according to leaked internal emails from Stratfor, an intelligence firm known as the 'shadow CIA,' CANVAS 'may have also received CIA funding and training during the 1999/2000 anti-Milosevic struggle.'”Indeed, according to Stratfor, CANVAS is nothing else than “a[n] ‘export-a-revolution’ group that sowed the seeds for a NUMBER of color revolutions [emphasis in original]. They are still hooked into U.S. funding and basically go around the world trying to topple dictators and autocratic governments (ones that U.S. does not like)”. The latest batch of HRF alumni maps almost literally on a list of countries the US is currently targeting: Jhanisse Vaca Daza in Bolivia, “human rights defenders” in Sudan, Lebanon, Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Hong Kong.

The transparency of the US empire's recent coup attempts is almost laughable if their acceptance by the public in the countries of the imperial core didn't turn them into tragedy. It seems like the lies are only getting more obvious and the “democracy” and “human rights” lines are getting recycled over and over, and yet, manufacturing consent has seemingly never been easier for a population taught to trust billionaire media as gospel and decry all non-Western media like Telesur or official Chinese government sources as “state propaganda”. As our comrades in the New Communist Party of Aotearoa described it, the erosion of any semblance of consensual government in favour of the neoliberal State has turned the US into “an imperialist government that consists of nothing more than a thin skin stretched too far over unabashed corporate interests backed up by military force.” And yet, the imperial core makes little attempt to reject this absurd charade – and this sadly includes far too many western “leftists” who find it absolutely fine that they seem to agree perfectly with the CIA on which countries are actually democratic or not. The fact that no one seems to learn from this at all is what brings the farce back in the realm of tragedy, as every single US intervention over the past century – and there have been dozens – started with an emotional story about human rights that are so well-defended in the capitalist dystopia that is the US, but somehow always under attack in countries that have oil, or have dropped the dollar, or are trying to evade imperialist exploitation and build socialism. In fact, the US openly admitted it wants Venezuelan oil, and, after reaching an agreement with Turkey to stop the latter’s advance into Syria, Trump boasted of “securing the oil”. Besides, the US only began to spread lies about China when Trump gave the full go-ahead to the policy of reviving great power competition.

What is important to note about this development is that, as with Venezuela, there remains a bourgeois component of the state apparatus that is able to rally to the call of global imperialism, aid any regime change operations, and hopefully install itself as a new comprador elite once the leftist government has been disposed of. The same occurred in Venezuela: it was the bourgeois elements that actively sabotaged food distribution efforts, for example, actively contributing to the crisis, which was already amplified by murderous US sanctions. Telesur revealsthat “since the early 2000s, supermarket owners affiliated with Venezuela’s opposition have been purposefully hoarding food products so they can resell them at higher prices and make large profits. Food importing companies owned by the country’s wealthy right-wing elite are also manipulating import figures to raise prices.”

At this point it is quite imperative to point out that, while we may be critical of certain aspects of a socialist government’s foreign or domestic policy, we are not, and never will be, as communists in the imperial core, in a position to dictate to the Global South the extent and pace of their removal of the bourgeois state apparatuses in their respective countries. We remember clearly a conversation with a member of one of the older communist parties in Britain, at a solidarity demo for Venezuela, around January this year. The person in question had no reservations about criticising Nicolás Maduro for not being “more like Lenin” and annihilating, at once, all remnants of bourgeois power in Venezuela. That's all good advice, but what gives this person the right to call out Latin American governments for not staging an all-encompassing insurrection when the US empire has plunged entire countries into fascist terror when they've had the gall to even think about socialism? Chile remembers, Grenada remembers, Panama remembers. In the meantime, the Bank of England still holds billions in Venezuelan gold. But sure, please do continue criticising these governments and their leaders while probably alternating between the three forms of praxis known by most communist parties in Britain: selling newspapers, writing fascist-adjacent propaganda about LGBT people, and covering up abuse.


"What we must bring to the table is solidarity and tireless revolutionary opposition that seeks to thwart our imperialist governments in their fight against progress, by building a revolutionary socialist and internationalist working class movement."


However, the dynamic between proletarian power and bourgeois opposition in “Pink Tide” countries remains noteworthy and demands a proper analysis, and it is true, as Lenin wrote in State and Revolution, that bourgeois power becomes the more violent the more it is threatened, like a cornered animal. This conflict has been an enormous influence on the development of Latin American socialism, but it is entirely due to the watchful eye of the US militaristic death machine, ever so careful to not allow any of that pesky socialism in what it continues to see as its backyard. Democratic struggle is a legitimate form of struggle under these conditions. What we must bring to the table is solidarity and tireless revolutionary opposition that seeks to thwart our imperialist governments in their fight against progress, by building a revolutionary socialist and internationalist working class movement. Only the destruction of imperialism can allow these countries to firmly and resolutely do away with all remnants of capitalism and build unbreakable proletarian power.

At a broader level, throughout Latin America, what we may be witnessing is the beginning of a renewed Pink Tide, perhaps this time a deeper shade of red. Ecuador has managed to overturn Moreno's planned neoliberal reforms. Venezuela continues to resist. And, perhaps most notably, the Chilean resistance to neoliberal plunder and exploitation, led by a revolutionary alliance of Chilean workers and indigenous peoples like the Mapuche, has gained ground over the past month, despite the brutal and violent opposition of Sebastian Piñera, himself the farce to Pinochet's tragedy – which is not to say that his methods have been in any way less cruel than Pinochet's. Metro stations in Chile were quickly turned into the torture stadiums of old, and the Chilean police and military have been going from door to door, torturing and assassinating people, in service of a regime that exists and survives only as a direct consequence of imperialist support today, and imperialist sabotage 40 years ago, when Reagan and Thatcher threw bundles of cash into Pinochet's pockets in order to remove (murder) the democratically-elected socialist Salvador Allende.

As Michael Parenti notes in Against Empire, imperialist intervention tends to take three distinct forms: sometimes the sword follows the dollar, sometimes the dollar follows the sword, and sometimes the legitimacy of global imperialism itself, and the global class system, is under attack from a country that dares to ask “what if we didn't have to be exploited?” This was the case in Grenada: a country of 102,000 could never represent a genuine existential threat to the US murder club, and the US did not particularly depend on or pursue investments in the country, but the New Jewel movement proposed a path to development and self-sufficiency – not only applicable to other Latin American countries, but, as Maurice Bishop accurately pointed out, to the first and foremost colonised population that the US has extracted profit from the longest: the millions of Black Americans living in the US. The Grenadian revolution was a Black revolution, and the US was, at the time, busy funnelling crack into inner city communities after disarming and defanging the Black Panther Party through sabotage and assassination. The last thing the fascist pigs in Washington needed was some upstart revolutionary in Grenada advancing ideas like “what if we overthrew imperialism?”. On the other hand, in Chile, motivations were more pragmatic and the dollar was to be secured by the sword: Chilean copper was, after all, what powered the technological revolution in the US, just like the cobalt mined by children in the Congo and the recycled material extracted by Ghanaians from landfills packed with last-generation iPhones fuels the 21st century.

As for Bolivia, we can clearly see that the imperialists had a clear motivation in mind: Evo was overthrown to prevent the nationalisation and industrialisation of lithium battery production, as the MAS was planning to develop state owned lithium battery factories, use profits for social good, and deal directly on the international market instead of exporting to Western corporations. Bolivian lithium is essential in “green” tech, and we can now see clearly why Western-backed eco-imperialists like Extinction Rebellion joined the call to overthrow Evo, and why Jhanisse Daza was portrayed as an “environmental activist”. The capitalist solutions to climate change involve a boost in extractivist practices in the Global South to develop “green” technological solutions that do nothing more than delay extinction and provideanother lifeline to capitalism. It looks, therefore, like the sword followed the dollar and vice versa. Of course, in the end, it was also a propaganda win and a continuation of the Monroe Doctrine – a dying US empire desperate for resources needs to reassert control more than ever, and maintain the illusion that it remains the impregnable global bodyguard of ruthless imperialist exploitation.

Whatever the motivations, our mission as communists in one of the world's foremost imperialist countries, itself a junior partner to the US, has never been clearer. Let us first of all have the conscience and critical thought required to stop falling for the most absurd imperialist propaganda we've ever seen, and reject the suggestion to subject all anti-imperialist leaders to dogmatic purity tests to ascertain whether or not they're worthy of support. Once that has been achieved, we must all counter this propaganda ruthlessly and tirelessly, wherever we see it, but only as a key component of a wider project of revolutionary struggle against global finance capital, against the global war machine, against imperialism, “the arsonist of our forests and savannahs” and the killer of hundreds of millions around the world for the purpose of filling the coffers of capitalists in a handful of countries and maintaining the abject lie that a better world is impossible.

Any hesitation at this stage is complicity. Silence is complicity. Inaction is complicity. Fight for justice and for the real roadmap to peace, dignity, and the end of all oppression and exploitation.

Red Fightback stands in unconditional solidarity with Bolivia, the MAS, and with Evo Morales against this shameless fascist coup. Hasta la victoria!