Former interim president of Bolivia Jeanine Áñez was arrested on Friday (12 March 2021) on charges of “sedition and terrorism” for her role in the 2019 coup d’etat. After socialist president Evo Morales was ousted, Áñez seized the role of interim president with the backing of the police and military as well as the United States.
Morales, the first indigenous president in the history of the country, had won the presidential election in 2019 only to be falsely accused of election fraud. The ensuing political turmoil resulted in Morales’ resignation and exile to Argentina.
The popular economic program of Morales’ ‘Movement for Socialism’ (MAS) party was centred around the nationalisation of the country’s natural resources and using them to fund social programs. This along with the large-scale redistribution of land back to long-neglected indigenous Bolivians saw the country’s economy soar under the party’s leadership. Poverty was halved, education and literacy boomed; the nation saw a return to dignity after a long history of colonization and foreign manipulation.
Áñez’ subsequent administration was one of heavy-handed violence and persecution. She changed laws to allow the armed forces to ‘pacify’ protests against her regime by any means necessary, resulting in a plethora of extrajudicial killings. Her presidency was one of privatization and wider neoliberalism, with an agenda of undoing the socialist policies made under Morales.
The coup also had a racist element, with the new government seeking to revert authority away from indigenous people that had been empowered under MAS. Áñez’ cabinet had zero indigenous members, and supporters of hers could often be heard weaponising race-based language against MAS supporters during the conflict. Almost all victims of state violence and killings under Áñez were found to be indigenous.
After a year of intense repression and conflict, the 2020 presidential election resulted in a sweeping victory for MAS. The party, under the leadership of Luis Arce garnered 55% of the vote, almost 30% more than the closest runner up Carlos Mesa; Áñez dropped out before the general election due to low polling numbers. Under its new leadership, the party brought Morales back from exile and began the process of bringing the tyrannical coup leaders to justice.
After being arrested along with other co-conspirators, Áñez said that, “The political persecution has begun. MAS has decided to return to the style of the dictatorship. A shame because Bolivia does not need dictators, it needs freedom and solutions.” A statement rich in irony due to the state of affairs under her leadership.
This restoration of democracy and socialist values by the will of the Bolivian people did not come easily. The election fraud narrative that brought the coup into fruition was heavily contributed to by the ‘Organization of American States’ (OAS), an institution headquartered in Washington. The OAS is infamous for working on behalf of U.S. foreign policy interests, despite its intended purpose of being an international body. The U.S. also came out in support of Áñez upon her assumption of power, leading many to believe that the state department also played a part of organizing the coup itself.
Of course, U.S. foreign intervention is nothing new. In Latin America alone, attempts at U.S.-backed regime change and election meddling can be found in nearly every country. The socialist leaders of the region have always taken a strong stance against neoliberalism and capitalist hegemony, further weakening Washington’s grip on the global economy, and subsequently prompting intervention. As Latin America has increasingly turned toward socialism over the past 20 years, this imperialism has only increased in scope. Bolivia could have just as easily fallen into a U.S.-backed military dictatorship as Cuba, Chile, and so many others previously.
The arrest of Áñez and others is a good start, and a triumph for the Bolivian people, but this terrorism will never stop unless it is attacked at the root. It is up to the communists within the imperial core to organise for an end to western aggression and intervention, which has long obstructed the building of a peaceful and equitable world.