Latin America: What’s Going On and What Can We Learn

Latin America: What’s Going On and What Can We Learn
Evo Morales reentering Bolivia from Jujuy, Argentina. Photo courtesy Indymedia Argentina

By Leni Villagomez Reeves

Bolivia: It Was a MAS Landslide

Yes! Luis Arce and David Choquehuanca as the candidates from the Movement to Socialism (MAS) Party—the party of Evo Morales—won the recent Bolivian election in a landslide, with 55% of the vote in an election with three major and multiple minor candidates.

Down-Ticket Races also Saw MAS Victories

Bolivia has a bicameral system (remember 6th grade civics?) with a 130-member Camera de Diputados and a 36-member Senate. MAS candidates picked up additional seats for a total of 73 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 21 in the Senate. Furthermore, the new Senate will contain a majority of female senators, with a proportion of 20 women and 16 men.

Okay, I’m tired of statistics and perhaps you are also. Why is this extremely gratifying and great?

Indigenous Peoples, Unafraid and Undefeated

The Bolivian people, led by the indigenous population, made it clear what government they want. They did so in the previous election also, but their will was overthrown by the right wing in a coup, backed by the military and the usual sUSspects.

The startlingly White coup government disrespected and oppressed the indigenous peoples of Bolivia—and 44% of census respondents in Bolivia indicated feeling part of some indigenous group, predominantly Quechua or Aymara—both in real and symbolic ways. The indigenous peoples of Bolivia made this election happen, and then they made it their victory.

No Doubts about This Election

This election, like the last one, was conducted under excruciatingly meticulous international observation. Indeed, if U.S. elections were held to the same standard, we can all think of a number of elections that would have been held to be illegitimate.

Of course, not all international observers are created equal for the coup government. A delegation of observers from Argentina invited by the Plurinational Legislative Assembly had one of the observers, a legislator, detained at the airport. In addition to Fagioli’s detainment, other members of the Argentine delegation, including other lawmakers, were also mistreated by Bolivian security forces.

But all observers, including the Organization of American States (OAS), have agreed that this election had no irregularities. Naturally, the right is dusting off the old “flawed election” song but this time without any accompaniment.

The People Resisted Intimidation and Violence

The right/White coup government wasn’t expecting this. It had the army, the police, paramilitary forces and just plain mobs of right-wing goons and thought that it had enough control and intimidation to control the polls.

Evo Morales intended to run for senator from Cochabamba, but was disqualified, as an asylum-seeker living outside Bolivia; the Áñez government had issued a warrant for his arrest.

Brenda Segovia, a MAS candidate for parliament running in the Santa Cruz area, a stronghold of the right and its paramilitaries, was arrested in mid-October after her headquarters was attacked and burned by a mob of 80 armed men on Oct. 6. Wait, her offices were attacked by a right-wing mob, and then she was arrested? Yes, for “inciting to violence.”

No one else has been arrested or charged in the attack. This attack was one of more than 50 similar incidents. The paramilitary assaults and weaponizing of the legal system is typical of the right wing and not only in Bolivia.

David Choquehuanca

You can tell by the name that his ancestors didn’t arrive with the Spanish conquest. He is Aymara and an activist in the Aymara campesino, indigenous and rural worker movement. He has been one of Morales’s advisers since even before Morales’s election to the presidency. He served as foreign minister from 2006 until the coup.

Choquehuanca is a  pachamamista—an advocate for the Earth and for Indigenous ways, rather than internationalist ways of development. He was proposed as the MAS presidential candidate but insisted that Luis “Lucho” Arce be the presidential candidate, in hopes of picking up broad support from the middle class, disillusioned with the coup government and its supporters. It worked.

Christian Fundamentalists Lose Support

Fernando Camacho cried as he saw his 14% of the vote. This is the leader of the “burn the Whiphala, slam down the Bible on the Bolivian flag” faction. People didn’t get fooled by this phony Christianity this time.

Of course, he has already started calling for “civic mobilization” against the election and for his followers—and business interests—to “put up a fight.” However, the racist right-wing call disguised as religion is not pulling in the crowds as he expected.

Challenges for the New Government

The new government will only have to recover the economy, crashed by the coup government in their rush to loot and privatize the public sector, even before Covid. Rebuild the public sector with the commitment to the community: healthcare, education, environmental protection.

Judicial reform, a media system belonging to the people not the rich, and definitely reform of the police and armed forces so that further coup attempts become impossible. And holding those who committed crimes during the coup government responsible before the law.

Chile: Victory with Combined Street and Electoral Actions

Time to change the constitution. On Oct. 25, the people of Chile voted overwhelmingly to get rid of the current constitution and draft a new one.  Just above 78% of those voting voted for the current constitution to be scrapped and for a constitutional convention made up of members elected directly and specifically for that convention.

The People of Chile Forced the Government to Do This

This vote didn’t just happen. Thousands of Chileans began demonstrating a year ago for changes in the government—for better healthcare and education and elimination of the economic and social injustices imposed starting at the time of the bloody Pinochet coup in 1973. After a month of demonstrations, the government agreed to hold this referendum.

Background: In 1973, Pinochet, with U.S. direct involvement, overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. With the coup, Chile became a slaughterhouse for opponents of the fascist dictator, and, with Operation  Condor, this terror spread throughout Latin America.

Chile has not yet recovered from  this prolonged period of destruction of people and democratic and community structures. The constitution adopted in 1980 to pretend to legitimize the dictatorship is still in place, with an authoritarian neoliberal orientation prioritizing profits over health, education and social welfare and equity.

How come it took so long? How long does it take a people’s movement to recover after all the leaders have been tortured and killed? Pero ¡Chile Despertó!

MEXICO: Referendum on Investigation

The Highest Court has approved the legality of a referendum to investigate possible criminal acts of former presidents. (And we all know why that is relevant to the United States.)

Mexico has had virtual and constitutional legal impunity for former presidents; they have been untouchable even after leaving office. After a citizen petition to hold former presidents responsible for any criminal actions got more than two and a half million signatures in two weeks, current President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) requested the Supreme Court of Justice approve the constitutionality of a general public referendum about ending this immunity and guaranteeing rights and justice to possible victims of criminal acts committed by presidents.

The referendum will be a crucial step in beginning to deconstruct the immunity and impunity that has allowed presidents of Mexico to act without consequences. It will also be an important chance for citizens in Mexico to engage in participatory democracy.  

Colombia: U.S.-Sponsored Far-Right Government Routinely Massacres Activists

At the end of October in Colombia, a national strike led by Indigenous people was renewed. Unions, including the Teacher’s Union, student groups and Afro-Colombian associations, joined this action. Some 10,000 Indigenous people, leaders and other activists were in Bogotá, demanding that the government of far-right President Ivan Duque end the murders of community leaders, especially Indigenous leaders, and implement reforms such as guaranteed income for those who lost their jobs because of coronavirus, more funding for health and education and steps to stop gender-based violence.

Among the underlying problems: Colombia is the second most unequal country in Latin America and the seventh in the world (of 194 countries.) Colombia has one of the highest economic gender gaps in Latin America. Colombia might be the most dangerous place in the world to be an activist.

The U.S. government is invested in maintaining a right-wing government in Colombia because of multinational exploitation and the Monroe Doctrine in general and, in particular, because the border shared with Venezuela is such a convenient base for threats and attacks against that country.

It’s hard to write about what is happening in Colombia because there are daily routine government-sponsored assassinations of activists in Colombia. It’s relatively few people each time, but it adds up. And it is directed precisely toward the leaders of the people.

It’s not reported by the media because they think you are not interested. Prove them wrong.

You will have to look for the news—try searching “Colombia, killing of activists.”

Colombia is the most dangerous place on earth to be an environmental activist.

Colombia might be the most dangerous place on earth to be a human rights activist.

Colombia is the most dangerous place on earth to be an indigenous rights activist.

Colombia is the most dangerous place on earth to be a women’s rights activist.

Colombia is the most dangerous place on earth to be an Afro-Colombian rights activist.

Colombia might be the most dangerous place on earth to be a community activist.

Colombia might be the most dangerous place on earth to be a labor activist.


Leni Villagomez Reeves is a local physician and activist. Contact her at Check out her news and views about Cuba on Facebook (fresnosolidarity/).


  • Community Alliance

    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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