You have probably heard by now that Evo Morales, the recently re-elected president of Bolivia, was forced to resign just three weeks after winning the general election on October 20th, by order of the Bolivian army. As you could guess from both the title of this post and my generally left-wing and anti-imperialist position, I am thoroughly opposed to this development. But the reason I’m here to talk about the coup (and that’s what it is no matter how many liberals will tell you otherwise) is a little different from the usual theme of how the coup is discussed. I could go on about how there’s no evidence of vote rigging or other electoral fraud on the part of Morales’ side, or how the mere fact that an elected leader could be forced to resign by the military is decidedly anti-democratic in and of itself, or how all of this seems to be related to Morales’ attempts to nationalize lithium mining assets in his country, or how Morales’ supporters are effectively being violently suppressed by the Bolivian army and police as part of the opposition’s takeover of the country, or not to mention the ethnic tensions between indigenous and non-indigenous Bolivians that appear to be involved in this whole thing, or how the opposition and their supporters act in clear opposition to the will of the Bolivian people, but I believe that all of this has been covered very abundantly by left-wing voices already. What I’m here to talk about is a theme more familiar to the kind of stuff I like to talk about on this blog – namely, religion. What do I mean by this exactly? Well, you see, the new unelected interim president of Bolivia, Jeanine Anez Chavez (no relation to the late Hugo Chavez), is a fanatical Christian conservative.
To start with, her illegimitmate declaration of herself as intermin president of Bolivia involved her wielding a large Bible in her hand and raising a ridiculously oversized copy of the Four Gospels into the air. This is a very clear indication that she’ll be using the Christian religion as a way to legitimize and solidify her power, and we can guess that it may have some influence on her policies. Now, take stock of this for a moment. If you saw this in the United States or in Europe, you would think that this would be unacceptable. If you saw a hardened right-wing ideologue seize power by proclaiming himself your ruler while wielding a Bible in his hands, you would think that your country was being taken over by a clerical fascist regime. Indeed, I remember when liberals were somewhat aghast at the fact that Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony was much more religious in tone than Obama’s previous inauguration ceremony, which to them must have suggested the resurgence of an authoritarian religious right. But apparently, in the case of Bolivia, the liberals have no problem with this, or at least I’ve not seen a single one express any concerns about this whatsoever because by god she’ll be Bolivia’s second woman president and that’s more important to them. What disgusting hypocrisy.
Then there’s the way her religious fundamentalism plays into what seems to be a hatred of indigenous Bolivians. Now before we go on there’s something I have to explain. A sizeable chunk of Bolivia’s population consists of a wide variety of indigenous or native peoples collectively referred to as Indigneous Bolivians, Native Bolivians, or Ethnic Bolivians. These include the Aymara and Quechua peoples, the largest of these native groups. There’s also a religious dynamic at play here. While Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion in Bolivia, much as it is throughout Latin America, many indigenous Bolivians retain a pre-Christian belief system, frequently centering around the goddess Pachamama, a fertility goddess worshipped throughout the Andes region. This detail is now rather important for Bolivian politics because the Christian opposition has brought that goddess to the fore by publicly condemning it. Evo Morales himself has even been accused by Catholics of being a pagan who worshipped Pachamama (needless to say I have a feeling this has something to do with his indigenous background). In fact, the goddess was also associated with a bit of a scandal for the Roman Catholic Church more broadly. During this year’s Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region, Pope Francis apparently participated in a rite that involved the worshipped Pachamama, or at least he didn’t seem to object to it, leading his critics to accuse him (perhaps with some justification) of idolatry.
Anyways, Jeanine has constantly used her platform to rail against indigenous Bolivians and accuse them of being devil worshippers over their attachment to Pachamama. In April 2013, she posted a tweet which translates as “I dream of a Bolivia free of indigenous satanic rituals, the city is not for the indians send them to the high plains or to the Chaco!”. “The Chaco”, for those who may be wondering, refers to the Chaco Basin, which is a large and barren stretch of land that extends over the border to Argentina and was considered to be something of a wasteland until the discovery of oil in the region. Yeah, basically she’s telling the indigenous people that, if they don’t convert to Christianity, they don’t belong in the city and should go live in a barely hospitable wasteland. Just one of many details you won’t hear about from the throngs of pro-opposition psyop accounts (by which I mean the “Bolivians” who aren’t really Bolivians). In June of the same year she also tweeted “”What a new year Aymara people, a.k.a. Lucifer! Satan, no one can replace God!” (or perhaps it’s “What a new year Aymara or morning star! Satanic, no one replaces God.”), which is another clear attempt to link indigenous Bolivians with Satanism for some reason. That tweet has apparently been deleted, but the internet never forgets. And the thing is, this sort of sentiment appears to be tied to a certain racist sentiment against indigenous Bolivians. She in yet another now-deleted tweet once accused indigenous Bolivians of being actors because they wore shoes. In 2015 she also accused the indigenous peoples of being basically foreign rulers in a tweet that translates as “Very clear President, in Bolivia the indians lead…but from where? From Venezuela, from Cuba???”, which sounds very familiar enough to American right-wing tropes about left-wing governments from Latin American countries sending immigrants to the US in order add to the voter base of the Democratic Party. Many of these takes have been purged from Jeanine’s account in an attempt to make her seem like a clean, liberal-friendly enough voice of opposition against Morales, but to no avail. So in summary she’s not only a Christian conservative, she also seems to be racist towards indigenous Bolivians, possibly for religious reasons mind you.
What’s more, Jeanine Anez Chavez is not the only opposition figure we can talk about here. There’s also Luis Fernando Camacho, an evangelical lawyer widely identified as the leader of the opposition and who’s also been dubbed “the Bolsonaro of Bolivia” (referring of course to Jair Bolsonaro, the insane right-wing president of Brazil). Why is he called “the Bolsonaro of Bolivia” you might ask? He seems to have been part of a fascist paramilitary organization known as the Santa Cruz Youth Union, which apparently sought to form a Christian separatist nation after Evo Morales was elected (believing that his election brought the country under the spell of a “satanic indigenous mass”) and is also noted to be responsible for violent attacks on indigenous people and even assassination attempts on Evo Morales – you should also take note that its main symbol is a green equilateral cross, similar to other fascist symbols such as the cross of the Austrofascist movement. Their followers even give Nazi salutes for fuck’s sake! After Morales was deposed, Camacho and his followers burned Wiphala flags, which represented the indigenous peoples of Bolivia. Connecting all this to the theme of Christianity is Camacho’s proclamation that “Pachamama will never return to the palace” and that “Bolivia belongs to Christ”. So, yeah, these are people who want to bring about a kind of theocratic rule at the expense of the indigenous population and religious freedom. Oh and to top it all off this Christian fascist theocrat also happens to be one of the millionnaires named in the Panama Papers. So in that sense, he is Bolivia’s answer to Bolsonaro: a rich, xenophobic authoritarian who wields the banner of Christ to suppress indigenous people, non-Christians and leftists. Furthermore he’s also friends with a reactionary Croatian oligarch named Branko Marinkovic, an avid supporter of far-right movements throughout Latin America who believes that Camacho’s movement is in “a crusade for truth” and has “God on his side”, and whose family may or may not have been involved with the fascist Ustase movement.
So yes, Bolivia appears to be having its democratically elected leadership replaced by a reactionary authoritarian Christian movement powered by people who are practically or at least potentially neo-Nazis. Those who supported the coup probably thought that they were going to get a regime of liberals like Carlos Mesa, but those hopes are quickly proving to be misplaced. If you support this coup, you’re not just opposing democracy, you’re supporting the triumph of clerical fascism in the world.