The 11 months of 2020 governed by the coup plotters in Bolivia re-opened wounds that had been closed since 2006 with the accession to power of the first indigenous president. Hence, his people took to the streets to defend the democracy they regained at the polls on 18th October.
Jeanine Áñez could have gone down in history if she had organised general elections immediately to restore the rule of law, but she will now be remembered for the deaths, insecurity and pain caused to thousands of Bolivians who saw their constitutional rights violated.
Discrimination, racism, privatisation of state companies were unearthed ghosts in Bolivia that returned in 2020 with the de facto government that was finally defeated in the October elections, when the Movement for Socialism (MAS) won a thunderous victory. Alleged acts of corruption, little liquidity and millions worth of economic losses were the arguments used by the coup administration of Jeanine Áñez to justify its attempts to privatise the urea and ammonia plant in Cochabamba, the airline Boliviana de Aviación (BoA), Quipus and the sugar company Empresa Azucarera San Buenaventura (EASBA) in Santa Cruz at the beginning of the year.
According to the government of Áñez, self-proclaimed president after the right-wing coup against Evo Morales in November 2019, the Gran Chaco liquid separation plant allegedly reported millions in losses in its seven years of operations, despite the fact that together with its counterpart Carlos Villegas de Tarija it enabled exports to neighbouring countries such as Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru.
The same fate befell the industrialisation of lithium promoted by the Aymara leader, as the de facto government annulled the supreme decree that established the joint venture between Germany and Bolivia, which would have guaranteed lithium battery sales for 70 years.
The 21 million metric tonnes of lithium that Bolivia has are in the interest of large foreign transnational companies that manage them for their profit, and this was one of the reasons for the coup against former President Morales, who said that these profits were for the people.
The strong police and military presence promoted by the coup supporters also posed a threat to tourism, which, during Morales’ term, generated $850 million a year as well as constant growth and social benefits, which made it one of the most important sectors in the country.
Under Áñez’s administration, unemployment rates rose by 11.8% and poverty rates by 16.8%, and instability brought that more sharply into focus this year.
In terms of discrimination, Bolivia, a Plurinational State due to its 36 indigenous peoples recognised in the 2009 Constitution, once again experienced racism and political persecution created by the de facto government.
The burning of the Wiphala flag that represents indigenous peoples and farmers and the prevention of women wearing traditional skirts accessing public places by violent groups linked to the coup leaders were some examples of constitutional violations.
Likewise, the persecution and arbitrary detention of leaders of trade union and social organisations that supported the political movement led by Morales were also denounced inside and outside the South American country.
Further evidence of racism was demonstrated by the disqualification of the Aymara leader from running as a candidate for senator for Cochabamba last September in addition to that of former Foreign Minister Diego Pary from standing in Potosí in the general elections of 18th October after the coup d’état. Another example is the absence of indigenous authorities from the Executive Power.
On the other hand, the electoral contest, which culminated in the overwhelming victory of the Movement for Socialism (MAS) with more than 51% of the votes, was characterised by the attempts of the de facto government to outlaw the party, the favourite in all polls.
As a strategy of this campaign of discreditation, the current president Luis Arce, faced several accusations last July of alleged acts of corruption when he implemented the Public Administration, an entity that administered the income of workers and reduced poverty.
But according to Arce, this ruse by Áñez only sought to divert attention from her using a 327-million-dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to amend the fiscal deficit and the negative balance of payments.
Regarding the pandemic, Covid-19 revealed even more social inequalities because the tests for detecting the new coronavirus were not available to everyone, the prices of medicines increased and, as in the Ecuadorian city of Guayas, the bodies in the streets made international headlines.
Furthermore, indigenous peoples, who represent 48.3% of the population in Bolivia, were neglected by the government amid the health crisis. (PL)