A reactionary right wing coup has deposed Evo Morales, the left wing and self proclaimed socialist President of Bolivia, after 14 years of rule. This coup has been executed by the Bolivian armed forces and police in conjunction with the right wing opposition Citizens Community led by Carlos Mesa, probably with the backing, behind the scenes, of the far right Bolsonaro government in Brazil and the US State Department.
Evo Morales was elected President of Bolivia in 2005 with 54% of the vote as a result of a massive wave of popular revolt by workers, campesinos (rural labourers) and indigenous people including the famous Cochabamba Water War (which played a role in inspiring Ireland’s water charges revolt). He became Latin America’s only indigenous head of state and he pursued policies designed to strengthen indigenous rights, combat racism, reduce inequality and advance an ecological agenda. Bolivia has an indigenous majority and in 2009 Morales was re-elected with an increased majority of 64% and again for a third term in 2014 with 61%.
His overthrow by the military and the right is now a serious blow to the working class, peasants, indigenous people and all the poor and left in Bolivia and Latin America, just at a time when there have been mass spontaneous uprisings against poverty and inequality in Haiti, Ecuador and Chile. Therefore People Before Profit, like every socialist and progressive, condemns this coup unreservedly.
At the same time it is undeniable that in recent years mistakes by Morales have undermined his position and contributed to his own downfall. The social movements which led became more and more merged with the State administration but this had the effect not of radicalising the state apparatus but of co-opting and corrupting the movements. Similarly Morales started to collaborate more with multinational corporations and alienate the working class.
In May 2010 he faced a general strike over the inadequate level of the minimum wage . Then he went on to sign a contract with a Brazilian company to construct the TIPNIS highway through indigenous lands in order to facilitate hydrocarbon exploration. And in 2016 he ignored a Referendum vote that he should not stand for a fourth term, after saying he would accept it.
All of this made Morales increasingly vulnerable to attack by the right and weakened the support from his own popular base. Hence he does not seem to have been able to resist the pressure on him from the military to resign.
It may be, and it is greatly to be hoped, that popular resistance may yet defeat this reactionary coup but it remains a fact that the fall of Morales reinforces the old lesson that when the left collaborates with the establishment and the ruling class it seals its own fate.