For weeks, Bolivia has been rocked by mobilizations and blockades by workers, peasants, and indigenous peoples against the Áñez government that came to power in a coup last November. This illegitimate regime has overseen an abominable response to Covid-19 and postponed elections — that polls indicate they would lose — four times. At a press conference on August 7, Minister of Government Arturo Murillo announced that he had a list of the leaders of the protests and that they will be “prosecuted for crimes against humanity, sedition, and terrorism.”
To add insult to anti-democratic injury, he asserted that protesters were “murderers who want to kill the people,” referring to the lack of medical oxygen in the hospitals of various cities. However, behind this rhetoric, he is trying to hide the government’s failure to provide oxygen, ICUs, tests, etc., since the pandemic began in March. These shortages existed well before the protests and caused thousands of deaths. No amount of scapegoating will change that.
Similarly, he described those at the blockades as “thieves,” of course without evidence for such a claim. This despite the fact that just weeks ago an extensive report appeared on the Bolivian news network Gigavision with abundant documentary evidence showing that government officials purchased tear gas from friends at extra cost and pocketed the leftover funds. And if we want to talk about “thieves,” this wasn’t even the first example of theft by the Áñez government. There have been numerous corruption scandals, including an infamous case of overpriced respirators.
Although the central demand of these protests is for fair elections, other demand have been emerging. The protesters want to stop the reopening of schools and they are calling for real policies to confront the pandemic. They reject loans from the IMF and they want Áñez to resign. This last demand is not just because of the coup, the corruption, or the inability of the government to handle Covid-19 — she has also overseen pro-capitalist economic measures and appointed notorious instigator of racial hatred, Branko Marinkovic, as a minister.
For her part, the president of the Legislative Assembly, Senator Eva Copa from the Movement for Socialism (MAS), stated that at this point it was impossible for the elections to be held on September 6. Copa declared that the Plurinational Legislative Assembly would try to serve as a mediator between protesters and the government. This is a continuation of the conciliatory policy that the MAS has maintained since being ousted from power in the coup d’état last November.
Government repression is growing as the blockades spread across the country. In this context, the workers of the countryside and the city, the peasants, and the indigenous peoples must unite their forces for a coordinated struggle. They must pursue a solution in which the costs of the social, health and political crises are not placed onto the shoulders of the working and popular masses.
First published in Spanish on August 7 on La Izquierda Diario Bolivia.
Translation: Ana Rivera