The different steps followed by the coup d’état in Bolivia can be matched with what the right wing is desperately trying to pull off in Venezuela. Both processes have unfolded according to what appears to be a similar playbook. An analysis of the successive central coup moments reveals this.
Sacred heart of Bolivia, by Venezuelan artist collective Comunidad Utopix
Jeanine Añez, self-proclaimed president of Bolivia, took on the role that Juan Guaidó was called upon − and failed − to carry out in Venezuela. Añez, just like Guaidó, was a second-string leader of the opposition. Due to a combination of circumstances, she played a central role in fronting the coup d’état that forced President Evo Morales to resign on Nov. 10.
That’s not the only correlation between the two coups d’état. Both destabilization processes seem to follow the same playbook to be carried out by actors and repeated discourses, which mirror each other, both in the depths of real power as well as with the nominal representatives of that power.
“It’s a method applicable to any of our revolutionary processes. We have studied the methods, the phases of the new generation of warfare. In some cases they achieve half the result, in others the complete result. In Venezuela this has not been possible,” explains Cris González, ambassador of Venezuela to Bolivia who has returned to Caracas.
The parallel actions of the two coup processes begin from the premise supporting the entire coup plot: the false claim of electoral fraud.
“In Bolivia the [right-wing] media began harping on fraud long before the elections and thus it was reported that there was going to be a fraud on Oct. 20. That very day there was talk of fraud because a large number of people had already accepted the idea that there was going to be a fraudulent election before the first count had been issued,” González said.
That was the appeal for support used to call out and legitimize the mobilizations that were launched before the votes were counted. The media had constantly repeated this lie in order to implant that false idea in the consciousness of large segments of Bolivian society.
Sandra Cossio, member of Bolivia's Bartolina Sisa National Confederation of Native Indigenous Peasant Women, speaking at the International Conference on Comunication in Caracas on Dec. 2, 2019
Photo Fausto Giudice/Tlaxcala
The illusion of fraud
That same method was systematically applied in Venezuela from the earliest years of the revolution. It was behind the façade of the existence of a fraud that the right-wing coup sector refused to participate in the presidential elections of May 20, 2018, in which Nicolás Maduro was re-elected president. The objective was to refuse to recognize this electoral victory and declare that Maduro was a dictator, and on that basis to create the framework for the parallel government that was set in motion when Guaidó proclaimed himself interim president last Jan. 23.
In Bolivia, it was possible to mobilize a sector of the population by creating the illusion of fraud, which led to the activation of street combat groups. This was particularly visible in the cities of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba during the coup that began on Oct. 20 and forced Morales to resign on Nov. 10.
In Cochabamba, for example, recorded testimonies exposed how right-wing gangs rode in groups of tens or even hundreds on motorcycles to persecute and terrorize supporters of the Morales-led political process and all those who were Indigenous.
“Never before had we seen homemade bazookas used in a protest and the presence of armed motorcyclists, which was one of the phenomena of the coup that occurred in that area,” explains Cris González.
In both Cochabamba and Chasquipampa, where the first massacre took place after Nov. 10, local residents denounced the presence of [right-wing] Venezuelans in the front ranks of the shock troops. The type of weapons, mode of deployment and tactics of confrontation were similar to those used in the so-called guarimbas in Venezuela in 2014 and 2017.
That wasn’t all: as in the attempt to overthrow Maduro in 2017, right-wing gangs persecuted political and social leaders who were part of the process of change [in Bolivia, the movement supporting Morales] and launched attacks on any local progressive media. The houses of Morales’ supporters were defaced with graffiti and burned, and they themselves were beaten, as was the [courageous Indigenous] woman mayor of Vinto. Bolivia TV and Radio Patria Nueva [the radio station of the Unified Trade Union Confederation of Peasant Workers of Bolivia], where the director was tied to a tree, were similarly attacked.
The Bolivian right, like the Venezuelan right, denied all of their violence. That big lie was sustained by the national and international media, which had, among other tasks, to make the violence invisible.
Evo Morales was forced to resign along with Vice President Álvaro García Linera. In contrast, Guaidó’s call to “End the usurpation!” is something he never managed to carry out since he first proclaimed it at the beginning of this year.
From the moment [that Morales left], the second step -- the “transitional government” -- was implemented in Bolivia. The Venezuelan coup strategy included announcing this goal over and over.
This so-called “transitional government” [manufactured] two central [facts on the ground]. First of all, Jeanine Añez proclaims herself as president and appoints a de facto government, recognized by the United States, the Organization of American States (OAS), right-wing governments of Latin America, and even by the European Union. That legitimization in turn implied the denying that a coup d’état took place.
The Bolivian flag was flying high over this internationalist meeting in Caracas on Dec. 4, 2019, held in protest against the meeting the same day in Bogota of the 15 countries belonging to the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, which decided new sanctions againt Venezuela
Photo Fausto Giudice/Tlaxcala
A wave of terror
One of the major tasks carried out by the de facto government was to unleash a massive wave of terror by the Bolivian Armed Forces and the Bolivian National Police, resulting in three massacres and 35 acknowledged deaths.
In addition, the de facto government publicly threatened National Assembly members from the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), journalists, political leaders and former officials. Human rights organizations and social movements that came from Argentina to record the situation in the country [were threatened and physically attacked at the airport].
The “transitional government” meant that there would be a restoration of the old order, an operation carried out with impunity due to the break down of the rule of law, with persecution of the opponents, that is, the MAS, leaders of social movements and politicians. These are the conditions that the coup d’état requires for the third step: the “free elections.”
Añez asserted from the beginning, as did Guaidó, that she would call for elections and that her role is provisional. As could be anticipated, one of the central facts is that Evo Morales and Álvaro García Linera will not be allowed to participate in the upcoming elections. As for MAS, the party of the exiled leaders, for the time being they may participate.
The OAS, as expected, will validate the elections as part of its legitimization of the coup d’état. Cris Gonzalez paused, emphasizing the role played by the OAS as Washington’s main instrument of action in carrying out U.S. foreign policy. The OAS played this role in Bolivia as well as in Venezuela, where the right-wing governments of the OAS and in particular its secretary general, Luis Almagro, have seated Guaidó’s representative to speak for Venezuela at the table.
The coup in Bolivia is a mirror for Venezuela: it anticipates what would happen if the strategy that projects Guaidó [onto the world stage] were to triumph. That strategy is now facing its worst crisis since his self-proclamation.
González said that the coup strategy has not ended. “Here there is a judgement about who is the real enemy of the people: It’s the USA.” This means that we can expect new actions will be taken against the government, the political process and the country, which will translate into a tightening of the economic blockade, as well as possible attacks that have not been seen before.
“What else remains? Weapons of mass destruction that have left a trail of pain, blood and death in the Middle East. The continent must be prepared to reject this. We cannot allow our continent to become a war zone,” said Cris González.