It took a full year, but in October 2020 Bolivia’s left-wing populist and indigenous political party MAS (Movement towards Socialism) democratically regained elected power from the hands of the right-wing US-backed interim government. MAS’s Luis Arce claimed overwhelming victory on October 18, 2020 and the voice of the people was once again heard.
From November 2019 to November 2020, news from Bolivia had been almost non-existent in major western news outlets. Just a year ago, establishment outlets including the New York Times and the BBC, were pushing speculation of vote fraud in the election that appeared to have secured a fourth term for then-president Evo Morales.
As Jake Johnston reported for CounterPunch, allegations of election fraud have since been disproven by researchers from MIT, Tulane University, and the University of Pennsylvania, who all reached the conclusion that statistical data analyzed by the OAS (Organization of American States) was “deeply flawed.”
After the coup, establishment news outlets in the US and EU went silent as interim president Jeanine Anez oversaw what can only be described as state violence and massacres targeting the interim government’s opponents. Anez’s administration and Bolivian law enforcement and military officials killed at least 36 civilians and injured hundreds more in November 2019. The graphic details of the attacks were brought to light by teleSUR and CounterPunch. A study conducted by law students affiliated with Harvard University’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) detailed massacres in two Bolivian cities, Sacaba and Senkata.
Another aspect of this story that saw little coverage in western media outlets was the fact that the US had deployed operatives in Bolivia to make donations to military officials and police chiefs in support of the coup. Bruce Williamson, the former US Chargé d’affaires to Bolivia, is believed to have paid Bolivian general Williams Kaliman one million dollars. Kailman was the general who appeared on Bolivian national television to call for ex-president Evo Morales to step down. Documents leaked by the Brazilian press back up claims made by Morales that Williamson also paid several other military officials and police chiefs sums ranging from $500,000 to a million dollars each. These payments were only brought to light by news outlets outside the establishment, including teleSUR, CounterPunch, The Gray Zone, and The Intercept.
Morales believes that the US backed the coup against him because of Bolivia’s plans to export $2.3 billion of lithium to China. He explained this in an interview with The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald in December of 2019. Morales stated that the US feared Bolivia’s economic model, based on nationalizing key industries including the nation’s natural gas and oil reserves.
Whether he was joking or not, in July 2020 Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of Tesla, tweeted at a fellow twitter user @historyofarmani, “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.” Musk’s Tesla vehicles need lithium in order to be powered. The company had planned extensive expansion into Bolivia after Morales left office.
In September of 2020 MAS canvassers were attacked by pro-interim extremist, and then-MAS presidential candidate Luis Arce survived an assassination attempt. Reporting by teleSUR on these events was at the time some of the only information flowing to the rest of the world regarding violence of the Anez administration and its extremist supporters. As Glenn Greenwald concluded in a June 2020 report for The Intercept, in covering Bolivia and the 2019 coup, the US media “blindly and dutifully adopted the State Department’s view and uncritically waved the flag.”
Amy Goodman, “‘A Blow Against Neoliberalism’: Socialist Wins Bolivian Election a Year After Coup Ousted Evo Morales,” Democracy Now! October 20, 2020, https://www.democracynow.org/2020/10/20/bolivia_2020_election_luis_arce
Jake Johnston, “Data from Bolivia’s Election Add More Evidence That OAS Fabricated Last Year’s Fraud Claims,” CounterPunch, October 23, 2020, https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/10/23/data-from-bolivias-election-add-more-evidence-that-oas-fabricated-last-years-fraud-claims/
Glenn Greenwald, “The U.S.-Supported Coup in Bolivia Continues to Produce Repression and Tyranny, While Revealing How U.S. Media Propaganda Works,” The Intercept, July 23, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/07/23/the-u-s-supported-coup-in-bolivia-continues-to-produce-repression-and-tyranny-while-revealing-how-u-s-media-propaganda-works/
“Elon Musk Confesses to Lithium Coup in Bolivia,” teleSUR, July 25, 2020, https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/elon-musk-confesses-to-lithium-coup-in-bolivia-20200725-0010.html
Glenn Greenwald, “The New York Times Admits Key Falsehoods That Drove Last Year’s Coup in Bolivia: Falsehoods Peddled by the U.S., Its Media, and the Times,” June 8, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/06/08/the-nyt-admits-key-falsehoods-that-drove-last-years-coup-in-bolivia-falsehoods-peddled-by-the-u-s-its-media-and-the-nyt/
Student Researcher: Miguel (Mikey) Rodriguez (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)