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Editorial: Bolivia's coming election must not be stolen like the last

SCENES outside the Bolivian court that decided not to stop the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) standing in this month’s elections are a taster of how the right will react to its likely victory.

Thugs attacked MAS supporters gathered awaiting the verdict with firecrackers and baseball bats.

The court ruling is a victory — but not an indication that the election will proceed fairly.

Disqualification of charismatic socialist leaders, often on the grounds of trumped-up criminal allegations, is not unique to Bolivia.

Turncoat Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno, elected on a platform committed to continuing his predecessor Rafael Correa’s socialist policies, has driven his former leader into exile.

And it is unlikely that Brazil would currently be ruled by Jair Bolsonaro, whose trampling on indigenous rights, contempt for the environment and disastrous mishandling of Covid-19 all justify his nickname “Trump of the Tropics,” without the baseless charges against former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that stopped the frontrunner from standing. 

In Bolivia the same tactic has been deployed to stop Evo Morales running, this time with the added indignity that he is, in fact, Bolivia’s elected president. 

Objections raised by the US stooges who run the Organisation of American States that there were irregularities in his re-election last October have been debunked in detail by the US-based Centre for Economic and Policy Research; but as journalist Mark Weisbrot points out, they should have been easy to see through from the beginning.

There are important lessons in the appalling events of last autumn which need to be more broadly absorbed across the left. 

The fact that a political tendency can mount demonstrations is not evidence that it represents a majority of the people. 

The fact that the United States and allied governments, or indeed major media outlets, are prepared to go along with an opposition’s claims tells us precisely nothing about their veracity. 

Last year Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab parroted US propaganda about “systemic flaws” in the election — and lamented Jeremy Corbyn’s “unbelievable” behaviour in condemning the army’s seizure of power.

Raab’s support for the coup means Britain shares responsibility for the brutal repression that followed, the massacres of protesters who dared to rally in defence of the first indigenous president in the republic’s history.

These events must inform our attitude to Bolivia’s presidential election this month.

The Bolivian government is not legitimate. President Jeanine Anez is an army appointee. Her administration’s determination to undo the gains of 14 years of socialist rule — which saw Bolivia’s economy expand faster than any other in the Americas while reducing poverty most rapidly — through fire-sale privatisations consists of simple theft from the people.

Second, the repression has never ceased. MAS supporters continue to be harassed and jailed and their most popular leader is not allowed to participate. 

It is a tribute to the democratic strength of the MAS and the unique social and ecological revolution it led that despite this, all polls show it sweeping to an overwhelming victory again.

But we have the best reasons to know that the brutes who did Washington’s dirty work — “we will coup whoever we want,” as US tycoon Elon Musk so eloquently put it — have no qualms about violently preventing or overturning that result, since they did exactly that 11 months ago.

The Morning Star has reported on contingency plans being looked at by paramilitaries with links to the army to stage “false flag” bombings to discredit MAS.

The Interior Minister has issued ominous warnings that the police and the army are ready to step in to “defend democracy” if the regime considers it necessary.

It is vital that the eyes of the world are on the Bolivian vote, that the left stands in solidarity with a Bolivian people who have been robbed of their chosen government and whose real achievement in forcing new elections could still be smashed with the full approval of the US, British and European governments.


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