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Bolivia’s free territory of Chapare has ousted the coup regime and is bracing for a bloody re-invasion

Spending time with the union members of Chapare, who run society in a collective fashion, offers special insights into the resistance to the coup. They succeeded in expelling the police, but now fear a bloodbath in retaliation.

by Ollie Vargas

Part 3 - Taking on the coup

Since the coup, that union-based resistance of Chapare has taken on the role of policing.

On November 10, as it became clear that the coup had overwhelmed Evo’s elected government, the police preemptively fled the area, escaping to the nearby city of Cochabamba.

Coup officials knew that social organization was so solid in Chapare that they would never be able to contain the resistance. And they were right. After the coup took hold, almost every police station in the region came under attack from the local population.

Israel, a local journalist at a union-run station called Radio Kawsachun Coca, explained, “The people were so enraged, no one could stop them.

Israel was echoed shortly after by Senobio Carlos, the mayor of Puerto Villaroel. “We never told the police and military to leave; they fled,” Carlos said. “In fact, there was one military base where soldiers hadn’t managed to leave before protesters had blocked off all exits. I personally went there and told them that I would guarantee their safety if they join the community and don’t turn their guns on us.

Carlos said he was branded a traitor by his own community for attempting to negotiate with the soldiers, who were whimpering for mercy. Since then, the community’s position has hardened. Union leaders now say that the police are entirely unnecessary, and can only return if “they get on their knees and ask for forgiveness.

With the coup’s security forces expelled from the area, the workers established what they call the union police, under the command of the community. I met them while they were standing guard at a union meeting, and found them without any weapons, other than a few sticks. They were drawn from and fully accountable to the community.

Everyone I spoke to in the Chapare appeared content without the state’s police in the area. One council member, Limbert, from the local town of Ivirgarzama, said, “We’re even safer now without the police. They used to charge truck drivers illegal tolls; they’d ambush people who were walking home at night and steal their phones. Now we don’t have that; anyone can walk around safely in the Tropic.” 

Still, a few military bases have remained intact in the region. Inside, local teenagers are performing their military service.

As the coup unfolded, a local journalist named Sabina recounted, the parents of those young men surrounded the military base and pleaded with their children not to side with the coup.

Since then, troops have been active, but agreed to only stay within their base. All other military units have fled.

Source, links:

https://thegrayzone.com/2019/12/24/bolivia-free-territory-chapare-coup-invasion/

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