The Bolivian Coup Is Not a Coup — Because US Wanted It to Happen
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
When the military forces the elected president to “step down”, there’s a four-letter word for that. — The New York Times, 11/10/19
(November 11, 2019) — Army generals appearing on television to demand the resignation and arrest of an elected civilian head of state seems like a textbook example of a coup. And yet that is certainly not how corporate media are presenting the weekend’s events in Bolivia.
No establishment outlet framed the action as a coup; instead, President Evo Morales “resigned” (ABC News, 11/10/19), amid widespread “protests” (CBS News, 11/10/19) from an “infuriated population” (New York Times, 11/10/19) angry at the “election fraud” (Fox News, 11/10/19) of the “full-blown dictatorship” (Miami Herald, 11/9/19). When the word “coup” is used at all, it comes only as an accusation from Morales or another official from his government, which corporate media have been demonizing since his election in 2006 (FAIR.org, 5/6/09, 8/1/12, 4/11/19).
The New York Times (11/10/19) did not hide its approval at events, presenting Morales as a power-hungry despot who had finally “lost his grip on power,” claiming he was “besieged by protests” and “abandoned by allies” like the security services. His authoritarian tendencies, the news article claimed, “worried critics and many supporters for years,” and allowed one source to claim that his overthrow marked “the end of tyranny” for Bolivia. With an apparent nod to balance, it did note that Morales “admitted no wrongdoing” and claimed he was a “victim of a coup.” By that point, however, the well had been thoroughly poisoned.
CNN (11/10/19) dismissed the results of the recent election, where Bolivia gave Morales another term in office, as beset with “accusations of election fraud,” presenting them as a farce where “Morales declared himself the winner.” Time’s report (11/10/19) presented the catalyst for his “resignation” as “protests” and “fraud allegations,” rather than being forced at gunpoint by the military. Meanwhile, CBS News (11/10/19) did not even include the word “allegations,” its headline reading, “Bolivian President Evo Morales Resigns After Election Fraud and Protests.”
Delegitimizing foreign elections where the “wrong” person wins, of course, is a favorite pastime of corporate media (FAIR.org, 5/23/18). There is a great deal of uncritical acceptance of the Organization of American States’ (OAS) opinions on elections, including in coverage of Bolivia’s October vote (e.g., BBC, 11/10/19; Vox, 11/10/19; Voice of America, 11/10/19), despite the lack of evidence to back up its assertions. No mainstream outlet warned its readers that the OAS is a Cold War organization, explicitly set up to halt the spread of leftist governments.
In 1962, for example, it passed an official resolution claiming that the Cuban government was “incompatible with the principles and objectives of the inter-American system.” Furthermore, the organization is bankrolled by the US government; indeed, in justifying its continued funding, US AID argued that the OAS is a crucial tool in “promot[ing] US interests in the Western hemisphere by countering the influence of anti-US countries” like Bolivia.
Corporate media ignored CEPR’s finding (11/19) that “neither the OAS mission nor any other party has demonstrated that there were widespread or systematic irregularities in the elections.”
In contrast, there was no coverage at all in US corporate media of the detailed new report from the independent Washington-based think tank CEPR, which claimed that the election results were “consistent” with the win totals announced. There was also scant mention of the kidnapping and torture of elected officials, the ransacking of Morales’ house, the burning of public buildings and of the indigenous Wiphala flag, all of which were widely shared on social media and would have suggested a very different interpretation of events.
Words have power. And framing an event is a powerful method of conveying legitimacy and suggesting action. “Coups,” almost by definition, cannot be supported, while “protests” generally should be. Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, a conservative US-backed billionaire, has literally declared war on over a million people demonstrating against his rule. Corporate media, however, have framed that uprising not as a protest, but rather a “riot” (e.g., NBC News, 10/20/19; Reuters, 11/9/19; Toronto Sun, 11/9/19). In fact, Reuters (11/8/19) described the events as Piñera responding to “vandals” and “looters.” Who would possibly oppose that?
Morales was the first indigenous president in his majority indigenous nation — one that has been ruled by a white European elite since the days of the conquistadors. While in office, his Movement Towards Socialism party has managed to reduce poverty by 42% and extreme poverty by 60%, cut unemployment in half and conduct a number of impressive public works programs.
Morales saw himself as part of a decolonizing wave across Latin America, rejecting neoliberalism and nationalizing the country’s key resources, spending the proceeds on health, education and affordable food for the population.
His policies drew the great ire of the US government, Western corporations and the corporate press, who function as the ideological shock troops against leftist governments in Latin America. In the case of Venezuela, Western journalists unironically call themselves “the resistance” to the government, and describe it as their No. 1 goal to “get rid of Maduro,” all the while presenting themselves as neutral and unbiased actors.
The media message from the Bolivia case is clear: A coup is not a coup if we like the outcome.
© 2018 Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. All rights reserved.
Bolivian President Evo Morales Resigns After Election Result Dispute as Allies Claim “Coup Attempt”
(November 11, 2019) — Evo Morales has announced he will resign as president of Bolivia after the military called for him to step down and the police withdrew their support following weeks of unrest over disputed election results.
In a televised address, Bolivia’s president of nearly 14 years said he was stepping down for the “good of the country” but added in an attack on opponents whom he had accused of a coup attempt: “Dark forces have destroyed democracy.”
Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous leader, later said on Twitter that the police had an “illegal” warrant for his arrest and that “violent groups” had attacked his home in Cochabamba, a city in central Bolivia.
The commander of Bolivia’s police force said in a television interview that there was no warrant for Morales’s arrest. Video circulating on social media showed people walking through what was reported to be his ransacked home.
The announcement by Morales came shortly after the commander-in-chief of the Bolivian armed forces, Williams Kaliman, exhorted him to resign his “presidential mandate allowing the pacification and maintenance of stability for the good of Bolivia”.
In Bolivia’s main city, La Paz, people poured on to the streets waving the country’s red, yellow and green flags. There were reports of patrols by vigilantes guarding businesses in Cochabamba. Morales’s vice-president, Álvaro García Linera, also resigned.
The New York Times reported that Morales had flown from La Paz to Chimoré, in Cochabamba state, when it became clear that the military was turning on him. The area is populated by coca leaf growers, many of whom have remained loyal to Morales, himself a former coca farmer. His whereabouts in the early hours of Monday morning were unknown.
The departure of Morales, a leftist icon and the last survivor of Latin America’s “pink tide” of two decades ago, is likely to send shockwaves across the region at a time when left-leaning leaders have returned to power in Mexico and Argentina.
In a tweet, Mexico’s foreign affairs secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, said it would offer political asylum to Morales in accordance with the country’s “tradition of asylum and non-intervention”, if Morales sought it. He added that 20 other members of the government’s executive and legislature were already in the Mexican ambassador’s residence in La Paz.
Some of Morales’s leftist allies in Latin America, including the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, and Argentinian president-elect, Alberto Fernández, decried the turn of events as a “coup”
In a recording broadcast on Venezuelan state television, Maduro said: “We have to take care of our brother Evo Morales … We must declare a vigil in solidarity to protect him.”
Maduro’s position has been bolstered by the return of left-leaning leaders in Mexico and Argentina. But Morales’s resignation could unnerve the Venezuelan leader, who has clung to power this year despite an opposition campaign to convince the armed forces to rebel.
The Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, another longtime Morales ally, tweeted his “solidarity” and said: “The world must be mobilised for the life and freedom of Evo.”
Brazil’s government said it would back a democratic transition in neighbouring Bolivia and dismissed leftists’ argument that a coup had occurred.
“The massive electoral fraud attempt delegitimised Evo Morales, who had the right attitude and resigned in the face of popular outcry. Brazil will support a democratic and constitutional transition,” the Brazilian foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo, said in a tweet.
The Colombian foreign ministry also called on Bolivian state institutions and political parties to work together to “ensure that Bolivian citizens can express themselves freely at the polls”. It requested a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) permanent council to discuss the situation.
Earlier on Sunday, Morales had said he would call a new election after the OAS identified serious irregularities in the last vote and recommended a new ballot.
A preliminary report based on the OAS audit of the vote said it had found “clear manipulations” of the voting system and could not verify a first-round victory for Morales.
Carlos Mesa, the runner-up candidate in the disputed election, tweeted: “I will never forget this singular day. The end of tyranny. I am grateful as a Bolivian for this historic lesson.” Earlier on Sunday, Mesa said Morales and García Linera should be disqualified from participating in new elections as they had committed fraud.
The weeks-long standoff over the disputed election escalated over the weekend as police forces were seen joining anti-government protests.
At least three people have died in the unrest, which began on 20 October, the day of the election, and more than 300 people have been injured in clashes between anti-government protesters and Morales supporters.
The resignations of Morales and his vice-president meant it was not initially clear who would take the helm of the country pending the results of new elections.
According to Bolivian law, in the absence of the president and vice-president, the head of the Senate would normally take over provisionally. However, the Senate president, Adriana Salvatierra, also stepped down late on Sunday.
Legislators were expected to meet to agree on an interim commission or legislator who would have temporary administrative control of the country, according to a constitutional lawyer who spoke to Reuters.
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