Evo Morales was the first indigenous president of Bolivia, which has the largest percentage of indigenous population of any country in the Americas. His government was able to reduce poverty by 42% and extreme poverty by 60%, which disproportionately benefited indigenous Bolivians. The November coup was led by a white and mestizo elite with a history of racism, seeking to revert state power to the people who had monopolised it before Morales’ election in 2005.
The racist nature of the state violence is emphasised in a study by Harvard Law School’s (HLS) International Human Rights Clinic and the University Network for Human Rights (UNHR) released a month ago, including eyewitness accounts of security forces using “racist and anti-indigenous language” as they attacked protesters; it is also clear from the fact that all of the victims of the two biggest massacres committed by state forces after the coup were indigenous.
The New York Times reported on 7 June, the Organization of American States “flawed” analysis immediately following the 20 October election fuelled “a chain of events that changed the South American nation’s history”. The opposition claimed that there was fraud and took to the streets. The OAS Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) issued a press statement the day after the election expressing “deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results after the closing of the polls”. But it provided no evidence to support these fraud allegations – because there wasn’t any. This has since been established repeatedly by expert statistical studies. But the truth was quite plain and easy to see from data available immediately following the election. And indeed the Center for Economic and Policy Research, where I am co-director, used that data to disprove the OAS’s initial allegations the next day; and followed up with a number of statistical analyses and papers in the ensuing months, including a refutation of its final Audit report.
But after its initial press release, the OAS produced three more reports, including its preliminary audit of the election results, without ever considering the obvious possibility that the later-reporting areas were politically different from those whose votes came in earlier. This is overwhelming evidence that OAS officials did not simply make a mistake in their repeated allegations of fraud, but it appears to have known that their allegations were false. With the original, and politically decisive, allegations of fraud increasingly discredited, the OAS turned to “irregularities” in the election to maintain the assault on its legitimacy. But it turned out that these allegations, like the ones based on statistical claims, could not withstand scrutiny. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Carlos Trujillo, the US ambassador to the OAS, had steered the group’s election-monitoring team to report widespread fraud and pushed the Trump administration to support the ouster of Morales”. The White House promoted the “fraud” narrative, and its Orwellian statement following the coup praised it: “Morales’s departure preserves democracy and paves the way for the Bolivian people to have their voices heard.”
Bolivia's de facto president, Jeanine Áñez, has called indigenous religious practices “satanic”. In January she warned voters against “allowing the return of ‘savages’ to power, an apparent reference to the indigenous heritage of Morales and many of his supporters”, according to the Washington Post. Hers was supposed to be a “caretaker” government, but new elections – now scheduled for 18 October – have already been postponed three times because of the pandemic. Trump administration’s support has been over.