The coup against Evo Morales was premeditated


Former Bolivian President Evo Morales gestures during an interview with Reuters, in Mexico City, Mexico November 15, 2019. PHOTO/Reuters/Edgard Garrido

An illuminating blow-by-blow account of events leading to Evo Morales’ ousting from power, compiled by the Bolivia Information Forum.

On 10 November, President Evo Morales and Vice President Alvaro García Linera tendered their resignation following three weeks of violence perpetrated by an opposition campaign of destabilization following contested elections. 

In a press conference, both leaders said they were stepping down in order to prevent further violence.  Their constitutional mandates were to run until 22 January, 2020.  We believe this coup has been in the making for some time, and here we seek to offer a blow-by-blow account of its antecedents.

The country is now plunged into great uncertainty. The death toll continues to rise after violent clashes between security forces and Morales supporters, eight of whom were killed when soldiers opened fire in Sacaba. Since the elections at least 19 people have died.

Under Bolivia’s constitution, next in line would have been the leader of the Senate, followed by the leader of the Chamber of Deputies, but both resigned. Deputy leader of the Senate, Jeanine Áñez, from the opposition Democratic Union, announced she was willing to act as interim president and call new elections within 90 days.

The military high command, which demanded Morales’ resignation, could try to fill the power vacuum.

What will happen next is hard to predict.  The opposition is divided between Carlos Mesa, who was Morales’ main challenger in the elections, and Luis Fernando Camacho, leader of the business-elite founded Civic Committee in Santa Cruz. An outspoken conservative radical, Camacho has pushed Mesa into increasingly extreme positions. 

While still president, Morales sought to restrain his supporters in their response to the opposition campaign.  But it was unlikely that they would take it lying down.  On the evening of 10 November, there were already signs of anger on the streets of La Paz and El Alto, and roadblocks continued in the Altiplano. 

The country is now living through a period of legal and political limbo. 

Early steps for a coup

The scene had been set weeks before. Carlos Mesa had declared ‘victory’ within half an hour of announcing the preliminary results of the 20 October elections, saying that he would enter a run-off election with Evo Morales.  Minutes later, Oscar Ortiz, fourth placed in the tally of votes, announced that he would give Mesa his support.  There appears to have been a pre-election agreement within the opposition that Mesa would come out saying he was going to a run-off election or else declare fraud by 10 pm that evening.

Interruption of the preliminary results system led to calls of electoral fraud in the making.  Opposition leaders had, over several months, repeatedly alleged that there would be fraud, mentally preparing their supporters for such an outcome. 

The Organization of American States (OAS) declared its concern about the suspension and, in meetings called to discuss developments, issued a recommendation that there should be a run-off election come what may, regardless of the fact that the official count was still under way. It was agreed that the OAS would take part in a binding electoral audit. The results of this were due by November 13. The primary immediate victims of the violence were indigenous people, attacked both verbally and physically… the indigenous MAS mayoress of Vinto was dragged through the streets without shoes, her hair cut and covered in red paint

Preparing the ground

Just 24 hours after the elections, the count was interrupted in six departmental electoral tribunals.  Several of these departments were firebombed.  In both Potosí and Chuquisaca, the electoral courts had to move outside the departmental capitals to carry on with the official count.  MAS, the Movement for Socialism (Morales’ party) campaign premises were attacked.

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