by Vijay Prashad – Alejandro Bejarano
Part 3 - The Lithium Coup
It was Morales’ socialist policy toward Bolivia’s resources that doomed his government. The oligarchy, which was angry with Morales’ government and its socialism, used every mechanism to undermine the election of 2019.
Forest fires in the northern and eastern regions of Bolivia provided the oligarchy’s media with the weaponry to suggest that Morales had abandoned his commitment to the environment and to Pachamama (Mother Earth), and that he was now working to benefit the cattle ranchers; it is important to point that this is not only ridiculous, but that as soon as the coup government of Áñez came into office, it passed legislation that allowed the ranchers to extend their lands into forested areas.
Morales’ opponent—Carlos Mesa—and other senior leaders of the oligarchy’s political parties openly said long before the election that Morales could only win by fraud. A self-proclaimed Council for the Defense of Democracy said that Morales was an illegitimate candidate because he had lost the 2016 constitutional referendum.
The media—backed by these corporate and neofascist interests—banged the drum of fraud, while Carlos Mesa—on the night of the election—said that there was “monumental fraud” in the election. These provocations from Mesa, the neofascists, and the corporate elites resulted in street violence; in the midst of this, the police—sections of whom were angry with Morales for cracking down on police corruption—mutinied.
The 36 Bolivians who died in the immediate post-election aftermath are victims of Mesa’s incendiary language. The Organization of American States (OAS), egged on by the U.S. government, came up with a “preliminary report” of fraud in the election; the hard conclusions in the report were not substantiated by the data in it. The OAS report played an important role in legitimizing the coup against Morales.
It is important to point out that there was no controversy about Morales’ election in 2014; in that election, Morales won 61 percent of the votes to defeat the entrepreneur Samuel Doria Medina, who won 24 percent (Doria Medina is the same person who is now running for vice president and welcomes Tesla to Bolivia’s lithium). Morales’ term, from the 2014 election, had not yet expired in November 2019; the removal of Morales then violated the mandate of 2014, a point that has received almost no discussion either inside Bolivia or abroad.
John Curiel and Jack Williams of the Election Data and Science Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) went over the Bolivian election data and found no fraud: “There is not any statistical evidence of fraud that we can find,” they wrote conclusively in the Washington Post. Curiel and Williams contacted the OAS, but they note, “We and other scholars within the field reached out to the OAS for comment; the OAS did not respond.” By their assessment, Morales won the election in November 2019 and should have been inaugurated this year to a new term.
Terrible pressure by the coup government against the party of Morales (the Movement for Socialism, or MAS)—as well as the presence of USAID monitors and a U.S.-backed head of the election commission, Salvador Romero—suggests that this election on May 3 is not going to be at all fair; it will likely favor the coup government, including the entrepreneur who wants to turn over Bolivia’s lithium to Elon Musk’s Tesla and Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil.