By Abraham Keefe
The lead up to, during and well after the US election, the world once again shifted its gaze towards the Americas. The reach of US politics extends far beyond simply the borders of its nation, as American foreign policy (often tending towards a distinctly imperialistic streak) has proven extremely consequential in conditioning the political and economic situations of many other nations, in particular in the Global South. One does not have to lift their gaze from the Americas to see this in possibly its most prevalent form: the forceful imposition of neoliberalism onto Latin American nations has a long and devastating history, continuing to this very day.
Most well-reported has been the Trump / Bolton assault on the democratically elected Bolivarian government in Venezuela, which culminated in a failed invasion attempt earlier this year. And a few months prior to that in November 2019, the US came for Venezuela’s ideological comrades in Bolivia, where its hegemony over the OAS and subsequent diplomatic pressure resulted in the dismissal of a Bolivian election, before analysts and academics could later affirm its legitimacy. MAS, the Chavismo-inspired party whose government had achieved such success, was ousted. Evo Morales, it’s inspiring figurehead, was forced out of the country.
No doubt, this was the safest option for him post-coup. MAS legislators and activists were abused and humiliated on the streets, indigenous flags were burnt and cut off police uniforms, and demonstrators were killed by police on two occasions, in Sacaba and Senkata. The new “interim president”, Jeanine Añez, talked of “bringing the Bible back” to her new office, and moved to open up Bolivia’s profitable lithium market to the United States of America. But the real architect of the coup, and a notable influence on the new government, was Luis Fernando Camacho, who rose to prominence through the youth group of an overtly fascist Bolivian political party. This includes being pictured partaking in fascist salutes – perhaps scarily reminiscent of other fascists and zealots the USA has helped bring to power on the South American continent in the past.
Following the initial unrest, coronavirus hit, and like so many other nations with profit-oriented governments across the world, it hit bad. Bolivia’s per capita death rate from the virus was worse than that of the US, and close to that of its neighbour Brazil; excluding Andorra and San Marino, Bolivia remains in the top 5 worst for this category. Bolivia’s coronavirus response showed us the priorities of the interim government, but also prolonged its existence – the election was continuously delayed until finally occurring on the 18th of October this year.
Añez herself ended up dropping out of the race entirely after trailing behind the three main candidates in the polls, leaving three options open for the Bolivian electorate. One was Camacho, another was centre-right politician Carlos Mesa. The third was a candidate fielded by MAS, Luis Arce – the former Minister of Economy from the days of Morales’ economic prosperity. Bolivians were, at last, given a choice, but nonetheless the conditions of the election were much less than ideal. The interim government used its final hours to intimidate both the incoming international observers, and then its own people, the latter involving a militarised display of force.
And yet, the Bolivian people gave a resounding answer nonetheless, on the future they want for their country. Arce received an outright majority of votes in just the first round of voting, doubling the count of Mesa and even nearing 50% when factoring in eligible non-voters. The Bolivian people spoke, and with them spoke the masses of the Global South; speaking for economic independence, postcolonial politics and socialistic government in the face of crisis and foreign interference.
So whichever interventionist sits in the White House from next year forward, they might do well to remember such a statement as the one made in Bolivia in October 2020, when making decisions on foreign policy. We can only hope.
Image: by Dennis Archer via Flickr