Bolivia Proves that Breakdowns in Democracy are Coups

By Emir Sader on February 21, 2020

MAS meeting for May elections, Foto: David Choquehuanca

Since it adopted its new strategy, the right-wing in Latin America has tried to prove that they have overthrown Latin American progressive governments by democratic means, through popular, civic, civil society mobilizations against governments which would have broken the institutionalism, committed arbitrary acts against democracy.

They have done it in Brazil, overthrowing the recently re-elected government of Dilma Rousseff by alleging budgetary adjustments, which do not empower, according to the Brazilian Constitution, an impeachment of a president of the Republic. This decision is so arbitrary and unconstitutional that, so far, almost four years later, the Supreme Constitutional Court, Brazil’s highest judicial body, has not judged on the impeachment against Dilma. Because if it opens the Constitution, it will not find anything to support – the most serious decision that a Congress can make – ousting a president who was recently democratically re-elected for the post through popular vote. The Court then delays its decision, as if the passage of time could make us forget the conspiracy by the Brazilian judiciary with the coup that has broken the Brazilian democracy and led the country from the most virtuous governments in its history to the hell in which it currently finds itself in.

The discussion about whether the impeachment was a coup or not is absolutely relevant because it denounces that act as the breakdown of democracy, of the Brazilian Constitution or, on the contrary, as the right-wing and its spokespeople want it in the media, it would be a correction in the path of a completely legal and acceptable action to overthrow a government that the Right was not able to defeat by democratic means, having tried and been defeated four consecutive times.

When the Right has defeated a progressive government through elections, as it has happened in Argentina, having to abide by democratic institutionalism, the Right has always been openly defeated four years later. Confirming that the Right, even when it triumphs by democratic means, does not have policies that provide stability and popular support to their neoliberal view and which they immediately reinstate every time the Right comes back to government. Democracy reveals itself though every time as being incompatible with neoliberalism, sentencing the Right to defeat – unless they turn to anti-democratic methods.

Bolivia’s case is, somehow, similar to Brazil’s. The right-wing has joined forces with the police and the armed forces, while relying on the media and the judiciary, to overthrow the legally re-elected government of Evo Morales. They alleged electoral illegalities mentioned by the Organization of American States (OAS), which rapidly exposed itself as part of the coup, to the point that it proposed new elections, accepted by Morales, but has now abandoned that proposal to join an openly coup plotter and dictatorial government.

The definitive proof of whether that movement would be to restore democracy or, on the contrary, a rupture of democracy, would be given by the new elections called by the president who, without any institutional legitimacy, has taken over the government. The repression of popular movements, the imprisonment of MAS leaders, the increasingly tight conditions and qualifications intended for elections initially called for May this year, confirm that this has been a farce of popular mobilization and democratic restoration, as Bolivia’s right-wing has tried to affirm, supported by the United States government and its allies in the region.

The recent ban on Morales’ candidacy for the Bolivian Senate only confirms the controlled, anti-democratic, exclusionary conditions in which they intend to hold the elections in. As for the candidacy of Luis Arce, of the MAS, he leads in all the polls, but even the very realization of those elections is at risk because Bolivia’s Armed Forces have assumed decisive positions in the current government.

Bolivia is walking the Brazilian path of hybrid war, of the regime of exception, and not the Argentinean path in which democratic forces have been re-imposed because it has managed to maintain the minimum democratic conditions for the electoral dispute.

Source: ALAI, translation, Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau