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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 15-Nov-2019
15-Nov-19 World View -- Ouster of Bolivia's president Evo Morales evokes memories of Ché Guevara

Web Log - November, 2019

15-Nov-19 World View -- Ouster of Bolivia's president Evo Morales evokes memories of Ché Guevara

Racial division in Latin America

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Ouster of Bolivia's president Evo Morales evokes memories of Ché Guevara

Opposition politician Jeanine Áñez, who declared herself interim president of Bolivia after resignation of Evo Morales (AP)
Opposition politician Jeanine Áñez, who declared herself interim president of Bolivia after resignation of Evo Morales (AP)

Bolivia's far-left President Evo Morales resigned on Sunday after nearly 14 years in power as the country's first indigenous president. The resignation follows a heavily disputed re-election on October 20, leading to weeks of riots and chaos.

Bolivia's army generals last weekend called for him to step down, after they fought angry anti-Morales protesters for weeks. On Sunday, Morales resigned on nationwide tv, saying he resigned willingly "so there would be no more bloodshed." He also said that he felt forced to stand down because his supporters and his family near his home in Cochabamba were being harassed, persecuted and threatened.

After resigning, he fled to Cochabamba, which is a stronghold of his indigenous supporters. From there, he has fled to Mexico, where he has been given asylum. Now Morales is calling the situation a coup.

Now the anti-Morales protesters are being met by pro-Morales protesters in the capital city La Paz and across the country. An opposition leader, Jeanine Áñez, has declared herself to be interim president, and has promised new elections.

Moreno's political party, Movement to Socialism (MAS), is evoking the memory of 1960s Marxist revolutionary Ché Guevara. Guevara launched a revolutionary coup in Bolivia in 1965. Guevara's guerrilla movement was defeated by the Bolivian army, and Guevara himself was killed on October 8, 1967, allegedly with the help of the United States. MAS today uses Guevara as a symbol for opposition to United States intervention.

Racial division in Latin America

As usual, racism is the dominating factor in Bolivia's society. Society is split between the descendants of the Spanish invaders, along with the mestizos, versus the indigenous groups, led by the far-left indigenous president Evo Morales. According to the CIA Factbook, the first group comprise 68% of the population, while the indigenous people are 20%.

Although the percentages vary, this same kind of European/indigenous split occurs in populations throughout Latin America. This is true of Peru, Chile and Ecuador, which all currently have widespread protests. The same is true of Venezuela.

A common thread running through all these countries is that the European descendant population is market dominant, while the indigenous population, often called Amerindians, is marginalized, with large disparities in wealth and income. Somebody ought to figure out why this always happens.

In Bolivia, Morales has been in power since 2006. The indigenous minority was marginalized under earlier leaders. Morales, the country's first indigenous leader, is credited with substantially improving Bolivia's economy, and particularly reducing poverty substantially among the indigenous population. This of course explains why the population of Morales in the indigenous population goes well beyond racial affinity.

(As an aside, it's worth noting that in this generational Crisis era, there are widespread protests not only in Latin America, but also in countries around the world, including Hong Kong, Iraq, Lebanon, Catalonia, Kazakhstan, Libya and Egypt.)

Today a major regional issue is that Morales is one of the few leaders in the world aligned with the Venezuelan thug Nicolás Maduro, who is flooding the entire region with millions of Venezuelan migrants who are fleeing violence and starvation. In some cases, Morales is deporting Venezuelans back to Maduro and Venezuela to be punished, which is increasing tensions in Bolivia.

Morales' grab for power

Bolivia's far-left president Evo Morales announced his resignation on national television on Sunday (AP)
Bolivia's far-left president Evo Morales announced his resignation on national television on Sunday (AP)

What Morales has done is similar to what I've seen in country after country in Africa. An African warlord comes to power, usually under a constitution that limits him to two terms. But he uses the time in office to take control of the courts and the main institutions, and uses corruption to illegally enrich all his cronies, so that the entire government is tied to him and dependent on him. Their wealth depends on the leader staying in power, and a new leader would expose them to criminal corruption charges and jailing. The leader uses torture, beatings, rape, and jailing of the opposition to make sure that he stays in power. This is standard fare in country after country in Africa.

Evo Morales has been in power since 2006. The constitution prohibited him from running for a fourth term in 2019. In 2016 he ran a national referendum to authorize his running for a fourth term, and he lost the referendum. The constitutional court, which is widely believed to have been corrupted by Morales, rejected the referendum result, so that he could run for a fourth term anyway, in the October 20 election.

It's also widely believed that Morales and his cronies have been corrupting the voting system during the last few years. When the election finally took place last month, the election commission stopped in the middle of counting the votes, when it appeared that Morales was going to lose. They started counting votes again the next day, and then suddenly Morales was winning. Subsequently, the Organization of American States (OAS) did an investigation and found numerous irregularities in the election, so they called for new elections. This lead to the protests and rioting, and Morales' decision to step down.

After fleeing to Mexico, Morales changed his mind and announced that his resignation was forced, and that this was a coup. This is not surprising since, as I described above, there are typically many of his corrupt cronies in government who would be subject to criminal prosecution under a new leadership, and they undoubtedly demanded that he rescind his resignation. Politicians in other far-left Latin American countries -- Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba -- are also calling the resignation a coup, and are demanding that he be reinstated. On the other hand, Brazil, Colombia and the United States are supporting the opposition leader, Jeanine Áñez.

Along with Morales, the next two successors, vice-President Alvaro García and Senate President Adriana Salvatierra, also resigned, leaving a power vacuum in Bolivia. There are fears of more riots and violence and that the army may step in to maintain order.

The situation in Bolivia today is febrile and chaotic, with continuing clashes between European and indigenous factions, and the possibility of greater violence.

Brief generational history of Bolivia

Bolivia's history is dominated by its invaders -- various indigenous tribes, then the Incas, and then the Spaniards -- who enslaved them and used them to mine and extract minerals, for shipment back to Europe.

Bolivia gained independence in 1825 with Simón Bolívar's war of independence. The next generational crisis war was the War of the Pacific (1879-1884), where Bolivia lost its entire coastline to Chile, turning it into a landlocked country.

The next generational crisis war began in 1965 with a guerrilla movement mounted from Cuba and headed by Maj. Ernesto "Ché" Guevara, a well-known Argentine Marxist revolutionary. With the aid of U.S. military advisers, the Bolivian army smashed the guerrilla movement, and the crisis war climax occurred on October 8, 1967, when Guevara was captured and killed.

The death of Ché Guevara is still referenced today by Moreno's Movement to Socialism (MAS), and by indigenous activists in general, using it as a symbol for indigenous activism, and for opposition to United States intervention.

There is a serious fault line between the descendants of Spanish invaders + mestizos versus the indigenous groups. The tensions are growing, but I don't expect them to grow into a civil war, because it's too soon.

It's been only 52 years since Ché Guevara was killed, and so there are still many survivors alive today who lived through and remember that climactic battle and don't want to see it repeated. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the "58-Year Hypothesis" applies, which means that a full-scale civil war will not begin before 2025 (1967+58). In the meantime, there will be riots and low-level clashes in the next few days or weeks, but I expect them to fizzle reasonably quickly.


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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Generational Dynamics World View News thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Nov-2019) Permanent Link
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