In October, while America was preparing for the most important election in our modern history, Bolivia was trying to vote out its tyrannical, United States-backed, interim president, Jeanine Añez. Añez, “who believes indigenous Bolivians to be ‘satanic’ desert people,” proclaimed herself the president of Bolivia back in November 2019, after the democratically elected president, Evo Morales, was forced to resign. Añez’s rise to power was aberrant, to say the least.
On Nov. 10, 2019, Bolivian right-wing parties accused Morales’ campaign of having committed fraud. These claims were perpetuated by the Organization of American States (OAS), sending the country into a further state of delirium. By Dec. 2, 133 international economists and statisticians published an open letter to the OAS, stating “the final result was quite predictable on the basis of the first 84 percent of votes reported” and demanded the OAS “to retract its misleading statements about the election.” Regardless of these false accusations, Morales submitted to a recount, upon which violent protests, fueled by far-right leaders, exploded around the country. On these pretenses and connections between the far-right parties and the military, a coup d’etat was launched upon the government, all while citizens were deceived and confused by the accusations.
Within 24 hours, the forces behind the coup had silenced all progressive TV channels, preventing the public from knowing the truth. At least six of the key coup conspirators are alumni of the infamous School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, in Fort Benning, Georgia. The School of the Americas was created in 1946, since then the school has trained “more than 57,700 officers, cadets and non-commissioned officers from Latin America.” In 1993, there was a growing concern due to the amount of graduates that were implicated in human rights violations in their own respective countries. Critics have gone as far to label the academy as a “school for dictators,” due to training 10 former Latin American heads of state, many of whom were critiqued for their authoritarian-type rule. Williams Kaliman, a fellow graduate, rose to become a top figure of the military and police structure that has been cultivated and molded by the United States through the School of the Americas. He appeared to have pledged loyalty to Morales over the years and became Morales’ left-hand man. When the coup had started, his loyalty to Morales seemingly fled and he revealed his true colors. Kaliman himself was the one who “suggested” that Morales step down. A leaked audio surfaced exposing alumni of the School of the Americas plotting the coup. As Jeb Sprague of The Gray Zone explains, “the coup plot could not have succeeded without the enthusiastic approval of the country’s military and police commanders. And their consent was influenced heavily by the US, where so many were groomed and educated for insurrection.”
This intricate operation resulted in Morales and many Movement For Socialism (MAS) party-affiliated government members being removed from office after receiving threats by the military backed far-right militia, leaving Añez, the opposition leader in the Bolivian Chamber of Senators, to take power as president. Commander Kaliman adorned her with a presidential sash, symbolically granting her control over the military. U.S. President Donald Trump and many other political figures applauded the military mobilization to rectify the “illegitimate regime”. Within 24 hours, the streets that were once packed with protesters since the start of the coup were now desolate, with nothing to fill them but the vicious jackals of the state. 48 hours into her presidency, on Nov. 14, Añez passed Decree 4078, which excuses all armed forces from being accountable for their actions, practically granting them unrestricted impunity. Soon after, the military was mobilized to suppress the discontent peaceful protesters, leading to a massacre in Sacaba and El Alto. By Monday, Nov. 18, the Interamerican Court of Human Rights stated “23 people had been killed and 715 had been injured by firearms exclusively used by the military and police.” Most of this information is barely covered by Western news outlets. It fares us to ask — all of this chaos and bloodshed … for what? Why did America, “the champions of democracy,” push a democratically elected official out of power, who helped raise almost half of his country out of poverty, for an authoritarian, far-right, racist, elitist leader? It’s the same reason that America had helped instill dictatorships in Bolivia during the Cold War — resources.
After World War II, America invested millions of dollars into the country’s eastern lowlands which were full of natural gases, and to insure their returns, supported tyrannical and cruel rulers. Many believe this coup was motivated heavily by the fact 50 to 80 percent of the world’s lithium supply is located in Bolivia. Lithium might as well be the new natural gas, since it is used to create electric cars. Companies such as Tesla require large amounts of lithium graphite to make lithium batteries. Instead of just exporting resources to America like it had in the past, Bolivia wanted to further distance itself from the influence of the United States and reinvest the lithium into its own economy, resulting in the first Bolivian-made electric car in 2019.
This is not the first time the United States has backed a regime that is oppressive to its citizens to protect a source of wealth. A prime example is when the British government asked President Eisenhower to get rid of Mohammed Mossadegh, so they could continue draining Iran of their oil for the BP oil company. Mossadegh was responsible for creating the National Front Party in 1949. He tried to fight corruption within the party and shifted power from the monarchy to the parliament. He also tried to regain control over Iran’s oil industry from the British Empire. Due to the protests led by Mossadegh against the Shah, the people realized the Shah was nothing more than a puppet for the British and forced the Shah to accept Mossadegh as prime minister. Within a week, he passed a bill that nationalized Iran’s oil industry. Due to this, he won Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1951, but in the eyes of the imperialist powers, all Mossadegh was doing was interfering within the economic interests of Britain and America. Eisenhower agreed, and the CIA disposed of Mossadegh. According to CBS, “The operation took less than a month in the summer of 1953. It was the first time the CIA had ever overthrown a government … it not only brought down Mossadegh’s government, but ended democracy in Iran. It returned the Shah to his Peacock Throne.” Some people project the U.S. government to be responsible for almost 60 coups since the Cold War. Luckily, Bolivia voted the MAS party back to power, demanding Añez and her fellow conspirators be held responsible for the massacres of Sacaba and El Alto. Despite claiming ourselves as champions of democracy, it seems as though we impede the process of democracy in other countries, if it doesn’t enrich our capitalistic desires. After all the controversy of Russian interference in our election, how is it ethical to keep intervening within other governments, especially when the purpose of our interventions seems to rest more and more upon purely material acquisition?
Akshay Kumar is a junior majoring in economics.