Former Bolivian president Evo Morales on his rise to power, the coup which overthrew his government – and why today's election is a fight to restore popular sovereignty.
An interview with Evo Morales
Evo Morales’s fate after last November’s military coup in Bolivia follows the same dark pattern as that of many left-wing, progressive, and anti-imperialist leaders in the region. Parallels have been drawn with the coup against Chile’s Salvador Allende in September 1973, the attempted military uprising against Hugo Chávez in Venezuela in April 2002, and the Ecuadorian police’s bid to oust Rafael Correa in September 2010.
With Morales now in exile in Argentina, he has also been compared to that country’s leader Juan Domingo Perón after the September 1955 takeover by an ultraconservative faction of the army. The military dictatorship implemented a total ban on the Peronista movement, yet the exiled Perón continued to bear enormous influence due to the base he had built through the decade of radical social change and independent foreign policy he pursued under his presidency. Though his name was banned, the Peronist movement remained active, and after its candidate Héctor Cámpora’s March 1973 election victory, Perón was finally allowed to return.
Today, Evo Morales and the Movement for Socialism (MAS) find themselves in a rather similar situation. The period since the military coup in November has been marked by repression, massacres of dozens of trade unionists and indigenous activists, and attempts to ban MAS from standing in today’s presidential election. This is combined with an ongoing campaign of media manipulation and fake news designed to smear fourteen years of socialist government.
Despite this, MAS remains Bolivia’s strongest political force, with the latest polls indicating that its Luis Arce Catacora and David Choquehuanca should win the election in the first round. Yet a free and fair contest is seen as unlikely, given the continual interference from the Organisation of American States (OAS) and its secretary, Luis Almagro.
Ahead of the vote, Denis Rogatyuk and Bruno Sommer sat down with ousted president Morales to discuss his record as a trade unionist and as head of state, his experience of the coup, and what MAS can do if and when it returns to government.