Verónica ZapataOn November 10, 2019, a violent coup d’état took place in Bolivia, navigated by the U.S., which managed to articulate the racist national oligarchy with the backing of the armed forces, the police and the paramilitary groups forcing Evo Morales to resign at gunpoint. The objective was to regain control of natural resources, mainly lithium, and to erase the example of a government with an indigenous face that for the first time since the genocidal conquest of America had come to power.
On November 12, Áñez proclaimed herself president, giving way to repression, including the massacres at Sacaba and Senkata. The coup left 35 dead, 800 injured, more than 1,500 arrested and hundreds exiled. A hunt for leaders, former officials, and journalists continues to this day. Neoliberal policies have been applied and the country has been plunged into a political, social, economic, and food crisis.
The Covid-19 and the health crisis has reconfigured the panorama by linking it to the other crises that acquire a new form of absolute and complete crisis with specific characteristics. The people are calling for elections to obtain a legitimate government that can deal with the pandemic and the economic crisis. Áñez, on the other hand, has used the pandemic to remain in power indefinitely, and as cover to avoid elections in order to consolidate a neoliberal political project complete with a military and police terrorist state.
From economic power to starvation suicides
During Evo Morales’ government, Bolivia went from being the second poorest country in Latin America to the region’s top country in economic growth with an average growth rate of 4.9 percent, according to the UN. The GDP quadrupled to US$9.5 billion from US$45.5 billion. Macroeconomic indicators were unsurpassed in South America and it was the country that had the greatest reduction in extreme poverty from 38 to 15%. After the coup d’état, Bolivia became a country where people commonly committed suicide from hunger. Three cases of suicide by hanging were known in April, that of a 12-year-old girl who could not stand the pain of her stomach due to hunger, that of a father of a family faced with the desperation of not being able to feed his 8 children, and that of a 15-year-old girl.
In this context of crisis, on April 27, the gasoline supply to the Cochabamba tropics was cut off, causing the death of more than 11 million fish due to lack of fuel to oxygenate the artificial pools of 3,500 fish farmers, causing massive economic damage to the region. Meanwhile, the Áñez regime tried to prevent the #TropicoSolidario campaign to carry out fruit distribution to low-income families in the region. On April 27th, Áñez came up with her own unique solution by asking for a day of “fasting and prayer” to overcome the Covid-19 in the midst of the famine and there were massive blessings being amplified from helicopters in various cities in a secular country.
The people are calling for general elections to survive
On May 3, the general elections were postponed due to the health emergency. On April 29, a massive pot-banging and fireworks display was held to demand that an election date be set, in order to elect a legitimate government to deal with the economic and health crisis in the country. The coup leaders threatened to close the legislative assembly to prevent general elections. On April 30, Law 1,297 on the Postponement of General Elections was passed, giving the Electoral Tribunal 90 days to set a date. Áñez rejected the law and announced that she would resort to the “justice” to handle it. On January 22, the mandate of Áñez’s “transitional government” ended and they self extended their mandate until May 3. For the second time, the deadline expired and the pandemic is opportunistically being used as an excuse to extend the mandate again indefinitely in order to consolidate a neoliberal political project with a military and police terrorist state.
Persecution, imprisonment, and censorship
In order to impose terror and dismantle social organizations, a hunt and prosecution of leaders, former officials, and journalists has been unleashed in Bolivia with the suppression of human rights and constitutional guarantees. The asylum seekers who are still in the Mexican embassy in La Paz remain hostages of the dictatorship. State terrorism was radicalized by the pandemic, which is used as a strategy to muzzle freedom of expression and imprison opponents. The right-wing Interior Minister Arturo Murillo, is serving as a judge and prosecutor, boasting about conducting cyber patrols and threatens to imprison up to 10 years those who create “misinformation” about the Covid-19. The ultimate aim is to hide the government’s ineffectiveness. The media is complicit shielding the government from exposure while, demonizing the social movements, and assigning responsibility for all the negative events to Morales through the discourse of the “inheritance received”.
Area freed from corruption and drug trafficking
The dismantling of strategic companies is an example of a new wave of corruption. In the Bolivian airline (BoA), the directors were replaced by close associates of Fernando Camacho, who came from the private airline Amazonas. The dismantling was initiated through sabotage to affect profitability. At ENTEL, manager Elio Montes was criminally prosecuted for embezzlement and escaped to the U.S. At Y.P.F.B., President Herland Seliz resigned after a scandal over irregular insurance contracts and fuel purchases with high overpricing and no bidding.
In the de facto government, nepotism is the norm and families, friends, and lovers of officials hold positions in the state and misuse state assets. Bolivian Air Force (F.A.B.) planes and helicopters are used as taxis for so-called “humanitarian flights” to travel on vacation and/or to private parties in the middle of quarantine. The planes are not being used to bring the thousands of Bolivians who have been stranded for more than a month in different countries. Tests for the Covid-19 are being transported by land to the laboratories in La Paz and Santa Cruz which take a week to arrive and the laboratories promised for each department never arrived. On the other hand, 5-star hotel rentals were contracted for millions of dollars for insulation. The destination of the IMF credits and the millionaire donations from various countries and organizations to confront Covid-19 is unknown. The purchases of supplies that they announce they have donated never arrive and they refuse to publish the invoices, generating suspicions about the negotiations and who got what.
The landing of narcojets at the official airport of Guayaramerín, Beni where Áñez is from is increasing. On Jan. 28, a narcojet was intercepted in Mexico with a ton of cocaine loaded at the Guayaramerín airport, revealing Áñez’s family direct ties to drug trafficking. Carlos Áñez, her nephew, is in prison in Brazil for drug trafficking. Gustavo Álvarez Peralta, a drug trafficker with the Jalisco, Mexico, cartel and wanted by the D.E.A., was appointed director of agricultural production when his connections were publicized he mysteriously escaped.
Necrotic policies imported from the U.S. to confront Covid-19
On March 22, the quarantine was declared but to date, hospitals are lacking respirators, reagents, supplies, biosecurity equipment, and doctors. Infections and deaths among health, military, and police personnel are on the rise and they are still waiting for their personal protective equipment. On May 11, the “dynamic quarantine” will begin, making it more flexible in some regions. On May 5, the Secretary of Health of Santa Cruz, which is a hot concentration of 60% of the infections in the country, announced the imminent collapse of the health system, and the mayor was forced to stop relaxing the quarantine in the capital of Santa Cruz.
On April 6, the former health minister announced his four-month projections of 3,840 deaths, 48,000 infections and the collapse of the health system. On April 13, the current health minister Marcelo Navajas took office and minimized these projections by announcing a “strategic plan”, promising 500 respirators, but they never arrived. Tests are restricted to those with “active symptoms”. The announcement of the acquisition of 400,000 tests was also never fulfilled. The tests are important to detect infections, asymptomatic cases, isolate them to cut the chain of infections. Bolivia is the country that performs the least amount of tests in the region, which explains the low official figures of Covid-19 to justify the minimal measures of containment. Navajas said that 10,000 people are expected to be infected by May 31, and that the infection rate will drop once 60% of the population has been infected, in anticipation of a health collapse. The health minister, a former U.S. embassy doctor, is following the health policy line of Trump that placed the U.S. as the world epicenter of the pandemic, letting people “bathe” in the Covid-19 and condemning the elderly and those with basic pathologies to death. Navajas, the champion of health privatization, is following that mercantile logic, which he also shares with Trump: “Health is for those who can afford it”.
Translation by Resumen Latinoamericano, North America Bureau