“Behind every moderate liberal, you find a fascist.” - Bolivia’s ousted vice president Álvaro Garcia Linera
Indian massacres have returned to Bolivia. The self-declared “presidency” of Jeanine Áñez has revived the old oligarchy’s race hatred and the barbaric practice of Indian killing, the collective punishment of the nation’s Indigenous majority for daring to defy a centuries-old racial order of apartheid and oppression. Since the ousting of Bolivia’s first Indigenous president Evo Morales, security forces have carried out at least two massacres of Indigenous people protesting the military coup.
Only two weeks since seizing state power, the evidence is clear: this is a rightwing, military dictatorship. There are also echoes from Bolivia’s past dictatorships, showing Áñez derives her authority not from popular power but at the end of a rifle barrel. In contrast to the Indigenous president she deposed, she wasn’t elected, and there was no civilian coronation for her presidency. The Plurinational Legislative Assembly, which normally appoints the president, like they did with Evo Morales thrice before, was nearly absent. Instead, a military general placed the presidential sash on Áñez.
Although the legislative body approved new elections, the decision comes with serious compromises and little promise of diminishing Áñez’s grip on power. In short, the outlook of “free and fair elections” is slim under the current oversight of an authoritarian government that massacres Indigenous people with impunity, imprisons social movement leaders, and charges anyone opposed to it with sedition or terrorism.
Indeed, a brutal dictatorship reigns.
On November 15, the army opened fire on a peaceful demonstration in Cochabamba, killing eight and wounding dozens more.
On November 16, a day after the Cochabamba massacre, Áñez issued a decree exempting the police and military from criminal responsibility in operations for “the restoration of order and public stability.”
A carte blanche to kill at will, security forces have obliged the directive with increasing cruelty.
Last Tuesday, teargas and bullets rained down on a blockade at the Senkata gas plant in El Alto. Eight were killed, and dozens injured. And this was just the first week of Áñez’s presidency.
Two days later in La Paz, from behind armored vehicles, security forces showered a funeral procession with teargas and rubber bullets. The coffins of victims from the Senkata massacre fell to the ground as people scattered in panic, adding further humiliation to already grief-stricken families and communities.
The official death toll since the protests began is estimated to be more than 30, with dozens missing, more than 700 injured, and nearly a thousand arrests. Bolivia’s Indigenous majority are the primary targets of this racist, state-sanctioned violence.
The first coup attempt happened in 2008, when the Media Luna, which is composed of the four opposition-dominated regions in the East where most of the European-descended population is concentrated, tried to secede from the country. The racist separatist movement emerged amidst the drafting of a new constitution, which recognized Bolivia as a Plurinational state with the equal status of Indigenous peoples and control over natural resources. The region erupted into open rebellion, attempting to divide the country into two states: a wealthy one dominated by descendants of Europeans home to a large oil and gas industry and agribusiness and one with a poor Indigenous majority. The rightwing protests against resource nationalism and ending apartheid took 20 Indigenous lives.