World leaders divided over Bolivia crisis


Leaders worldwide are weighing in on the unrest in Bolivia, with some saying the political change in the country corrects a rigged election while others are calling it a coup.

What’s happening in Bolivia 

The political turmoil began in October, when former Bolivian President Evo Morales declared victory in the election. The indigenous socialist president was set to start a fourth term.

But protesters denounced the election, saying there were inconsistencies with the results, and took to the streets for weeks.

Because of the objections, the Bolivian military “suggested” that Morales step down. He resigned in November and flew to Mexico, where he was offered political asylum. In his place, right-wing Christian politician Jeanine Anez declared herself interim president.

But Bolivia did not settle down after the political change. In fact, things have gotten much worse.

Mostly rural and indigenous people who support Morales are protesting in cities throughout Bolivia, including the capital La Paz.

Since Friday, security forces have killed at least five protesters who support Morales, bringing the death toll to 23. Morales continues to post on Twitter from Mexico about the uprising and says 24 have died.

“We demand that the de facto government of Anez…identify the intellectual and material authors of the 24 deaths in five days due to the police and military repression,” Morales tweeted on Sunday. “I denounce to the international community these crimes against humanity, which should not remain in impunity.”

What politicians are saying

Views on what is taking place in Bolivia are all over the spectrum – everything from it being a coup to celebrating it as a “significant moment for democracy.”

U.S. President Donald Trump released a statement on Nov. 11, the day after Morales resigned. He said the events will send a “strong signal to the illegitimate regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua.”

“The United States applauds the Bolivian people for demanding freedom and the Bolivian military for abiding by its oath to protect not just a single person, but Bolivia’s constitution,” Trump said in a statement.

But not everyone shared his opinion. Others including 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have called the political turmoil a coup.

“What’s happening right now in Bolivia isn’t democracy, it’s a coup,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “The people of Bolivia deserve free, fair and peaceful elections – not violent seizures of power.”

Another politician whose statements have received a lot of attention is British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“To see Evo Morales who, along with a powerful movement, has brought so much social progress forced from office by the military is appalling,” Corbyn tweeted. “I condemn this coup against the Bolivian people and stand with them for democracy, social justice and independence.”

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has also been an outspoken critic of what’s happening in Bolivia. He called it a “coup to the heart of democracy.”

“How and who conspired against the only Bolivian [government] that did work for the poor? Legality was broken and the physical safety of Evo, other leaders and the Bolivian people must be preserved,” he tweeted.

Overall, there seems to be a partisan split, with leftist politicians more likely to call the uprising a coup and conservatives tending to view the resignation of Morales as a return to democracy.

If it’s a coup, is it a U.S.-backed coup?

The United States has a history of instigating and supporting coups in Latin America. Experts say that most of the coups that the U.S. took some sort of role in were during the Cold War years, especially in the 1960s and 1970s after the Cuban Revolution.

Here are some of the most famous coups:

  • 1964 Brazil: The Brazilian Armed Forces overthrew the president with the support of the U.S. government. The U.S. supported the military regime because they worried that the president was trending toward Communism.
  • 1970’s Argentina: The U.S. government knew of the plan beforehand to overthrow the president and replace her with a military junta, or a group of military leaders who run the government. The U.S. coached the opposition through the transition, saying the military junta would have their full support. Under their rule, an estimated 30,000 people were killed or disappeared.
  • 1970’s Chile: The U.S. government under President Richard Nixon knew of plans to overthrow the government, supported the military junta and helped them when they were in power. It was a violent period in the history of Chile that lasted years.

And as recently as the 2000’s, the U.S. under President George W. Bush met with people who planned to overthrow the Venezuelan government under Hugo Chavez before the actual coup took place in 2002.

But Jonathan C. Brown, a professor at the University of Texas who studies revolutions in Latin America, said that at the moment, he does not see evidence that the political change in Bolivia was a U.S.-instigated coup. This seems to be the consensus of most U.S. experts – it is just too soon to determine the United States’ role in the political change.

Brown said he thinks the U.S. is finally realizing that if it disturbs “the wasp’s nest,” it could create the chaos that it does not want.

But Brown did point out that the U.S. has a history of influencing political outcomes throughout Latin America.

“The United States…you know it gets its way in Latin America pretty often, but not always,” he said. “One thing the U.S. wants in Latin America is stability and as few radicals in power as possible.”

And it does seem clear that the White House is in favor of the change in Bolivia.

“We are now one step closer to a completely democratic, prosperous and free Western Hemisphere,” Trump said earlier this month in a statement.
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