By Leni Villagomez Reeves
In Bolivia, unions, campesinos and indigenous people’s organizations began a general strike on Aug. 3. They are enforcing the strike with roadblocks across every major highway. People across the country are involved and mobilized. The issues are the repression, incompetence and corruption of the right-wing government installed by the U.S.-supported military coup last November.
In the November coup overthrowing the elected government of Evo Morales Aymara, Jeanine Áñez, who was second vice-president of the senate from a right-wing party that polled about 4% in the election, declared herself interim president with a promise to hold elections within 90 days. That didn’t occur. There have been four proposed election dates and four postponements.
Since the coup, Bolivia has gone from being the fastest-growing economy in the area to a state of economic collapse that began before the pandemic hit. This was accompanied by defunding of public health and the privatization and plundering of economic sectors that belonged to the Bolivarian people under the deposed socialist government.
There is police, military and paramilitary repression of the left, of workers, of campesinos and of indigenous people recalling dictatorships of the Pinochet style. The coup had the explicit goal of removing indigenous people from participation in the Bolivian political system although 44% of census respondents in Bolivia indicated identification with an indigenous group, predominantly Quechua or Aymara. An all-White government took power, Bibles in hand.
At the beginning of August, the Bolivian Workers Central (Central Obrera Boliviana) and the Unity Pact, which brings together the peasant and indigenous social movements, gave the government 72 hours to restore the previously promised Sept. 6 election date. They promised a general strike and roadblocks if the election date was not restored, and they have kept their promise.
Of course, the reason that Áñez and the Bolivian Right do not want to hold elections is that the candidate from MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo), Luis Arce, would win the election in the first round, according to polls.
Now the Bolivian military is demanding another impunity decree, like the one issued during the coup, which absolved them from responsibility for their crimes, for any illegal actions, extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses committed while suppressing the strike and protests. The weakened Áñez government fears this might be the last straw and has instead utilized armed paramilitary forces to attack the protestors.
In Cochabamba, there is the Resistencia Juvenil Cochala, organized specifically for the coup from mostly criminal elements. In Santa Cruz, the Unión Juvenil Cruceñista, a “Christian fascist” paramilitary group has a long history. Both paramilitary forces are heavily armed, and accustomed to attacking the working people, campesinos and indigenous peoples that they see as inferior. So far, the huge scale of the strikes and roadblocks has been too much for them.
This article was written in mid-August. Events are moving quickly so that by the publication date, the situation in Bolivia might have changed completely. It will still be important to remember that Bolivia was destabilized by forces controlled by the United States, and the main reason was to gain control of Bolivia’s nationalized natural resources, and the principal tool used was anti-indigenous racism. But the Bolivian people are fighting back.
Leni Villagomez Reeves is a local physician and activist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out her news and views about Cuba on Facebook (fresnosolidarity/).