Bolivia: The First Coup Against the Plurinational State

Itzamná OllantayIn 2009, after almost two centuries of an exclusive Creole Republic, the peasant and indigenous movements managed to legally institute the Plurinational State of Bolivia to prevent the threatened territorial and political disintegration of the South American country. And they succeeded. It was the first such initiative in multicultural Latin America.

The Plurinational State, whose legal narrative was constructed in an ascending manner, through a process of constituent assembly, and synthesized in the contents of the current Political Constitution, served and still serves as a unifying and hopeful narrative in a country that is racialized and in permanent threat of disintegration.

Institutionalized racism (from the republican State) and the demand for regional autonomies (promoted by landowners and businessmen) were the discursive forces that accelerated the creation of the Plurinational State, in addition to the aspirations for national sovereignty and dignity annulled under neoliberal tyranny.

In 2019, a decade after its creation, the Plurinational State suffered the first coup d’état with the express intention of symbolically and materially annulling the achievements of plurinationality and interculturality in that decade.

The coup d’état (10N, 2019), followed by the current delirious dictatorship, not only sullied/burned the Wiphala (a plurinational symbol), but also massacred 34 indigenous people who were resisting the coup, and persecuted and imprisoned (without due process) indigenous people and those who had not opposed the Plurinational State, closed down 53 indigenous community radio stations, tried to ban the celebration of the anniversary of the Plurinational State.The coup d’état was intended to destroy the Plurinational State.

What progress did the Plurinational State make?

The plurinational character of Bolivia, apart from being reaffirmed 54 times in the current Political Constitution (promulgated in 2009), is expressed in the Law on Autonomies, and the Law against Racism. At the institutional level, there is plurinationality in the legislative and judicial bodies. There are also the three indigenous territorial autonomies in exercise. However, much remains to be done.

The decade of the Plurinational State was largely focused on the construction/consolidation of the Bolivian national identity. For the Bolivian nation, this decade was led and supported by an indigenous “elite”. This may explain in some measure the commitment of Evo Morales’ government to materially strengthen the central state, postponing the challenge of promoting the exercise of indigenous territorial autonomy.

It would seem, therefore, that the Plurinational State paid more attention to the construction of a national identity (mestizo Bolivian) than to a plurinational identity (as indicated by the results of the 2012 national census). Peoples such as the Aymara, or others, who were urgently advancing towards the reconstitution of their territories or nations, were not yet able to conceive of themselves as nations.

The challenge for the post-dictatorship period is to place greater emphasis on territorial autonomy and the strengthening of national identities in order to consolidate and guarantee the achievements of the Plurinational State. Only in this way, from the autonomous territories, will it be possible to confront or stop the violent reimposition of the neoliberal system.

It has been demonstrated that neither imperialism nor neoliberalism cares about democracy or the rule of law. Thus, we can see that the struggle between life and death will be fought in the autonomous territories.