The Bolivian Coup; Evo in Buenos Aires

December 17, 2019

President Evo Morales — who is technically still president of Bolivia — gave a press conference in Buenos Aires at the CCC (Cultural and Cooperative Centre) at 10:00 AM local time, December 17th. President Morales was forced to leave Bolivia on November 12th. having won re-election for a controversial fourth term as president of Bolivia. In a relatively bloodless coup Morales was advised by his own military generals that they no longer ‘supported’ him so he decided to leave the country, a move he said was to avoid further bloodshed. While there were relatively few deaths in the Coup d’État (though more have happened since with the military and police impunity offered by the de-facto government) officials from Evo’s own Socialist Movement Party (MAS) were targeted en-masse and violently intimidated to resign. Threats included cellphone calls by militia members holding members of the politician’s families to ransom, house burnings and raids and other violent attacks. Among those houses raided was the president’s own rented flat in La Paz, and, he told journalists sadly, even his sister’s own home was burned out.

President Morales eventually chose to accept an offer of sanctuary in Mexico offered under section 11 of the Mexican constitution which offers political asylum to those persons who are victims of political persecution. Mexican President Lopez Obrador offered Evo Morales safe passage but the trip proved logistically difficult as some neighbouring countries were less than enamoured with hosting a Mexican military plane with a recently ousted socialist president on board. Diplomatic channels enabled President Morales to leave the military controlled airport in La Paz, Bolivia where he boarded a Mexican military airplane with his vice-president. The plane was re-routed various times around Peru, through Paraguay (though only with the help of President Elect Fernandez of Argentina) and around Ecuador to Mexico: On the 2nd. of December Lopez Obrador spoke in Mexico city noting his support for Evo Morales. He told his audience that Evo’s presidency was interrupted by a coup and he ended his speech with a resounding message: “Democracy Yes! Militarism No!”:

Morales began his talk with a Mea Culpa explaining that he should have been more vigilant about coup threats against his MAS party. In 2008, he explained, ther was an attempted coup involving gas exports through the Chaco to Brazil where military and police groups protected the gas pipeline. The then active regional political-economic group UNASUR (The Union of South American States) was also particularly effective at preventing the coup from succeeding. In 2011 groups came to La Paz asking for President to resign Evo allowed them to camp out and make their claims avoiding police repression. In 2013, Evo explained, police cars and tyres were burned again in further pressure on him to resign. Morales went on to describe other attempted military coups, which he also managed to avoid since 2013 but, he added, this time in 2019, neither the State intelligence services nor Bolivian military intelligence advised President Morales of the scale of the risk which had been obviously planned for at least two weeks before it happened. Evo also lamented the successful pressure from increasingly nationalist right wing presidents in South America which has led to the ineffectiveness of the UNASUR agreement which had prevented the success of coup attempts in South America before Lula was jailed by Bolsonaro’s in Brazil.

Evo explained to the press that he had had two weeks of stressful adaptation to his new reality after 14 continuous years as President of Bolivia but that he had now had two more weeks to plan his contribution to the elections in Bolivia in the New Year based out of Argentina for now a country which he has requested asylum too. If and when the de-facto government allow elections in 2020 Morales reiterated clearly in Buenos Aires that he would not stand for re-election in 2020 but that this did not mean that he cannot exercise his political rights to work with other candidates. Specific candidates were not mentioned but President Morales did speak of a number of possibilities many of them younger than him including Luis Alberto Arce Catacora a former Economics Minister among other prospective leaders from politics and academia.

Evo ended his talk with a short round of questions then left quickly in a regular taxi. Bolivian Argentine residents and press Photographers mobbed the unsuspecting vehicle on Corrientes Street to chants of support.
“¡Evo no está solo, Carajo!”
“¡Evo querido, el pueblo esta contigo¡”

Evo escaping from his fans after the conference in a taxi

Tony Phillips
The author is a researcher in South American Regionalism based in Buenos Aires, Argentina and in Dublin, Ireland and an occasional correspondent for Other News.