In Bolivia, "there was a forced destitution that looks like a coup d'état"

The sociologist Franck Poupeau reflects on the circumstances that led to the resignation of former President Evo Morales and is worried about the authoritarian drift of the interim government.

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Supporters of Evo Morales blocked access to the El Alto oil depot on November 17, which supplies La Paz, the Bolivian capital.
Supporters of Evo Morales blocked access to the El Alto oil depot on November 17, which supplies La Paz, the Bolivian capital. Natacha Pisarenko / AP

Bolivian interim President Jeanine Añez announces elections on Sunday 17 November "Transparent"the situation remained tense in the country. Since late October and the beginning of the crisis, at least twenty-three people have died in violence, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), nine of them for Friday alone. Supporters of former President Evo Morales have been demonstrating daily for the past week, including in La Paz, blocking roads and causing shortages.

Franck Poupeau, director of research at the CNRS and the Institute of Advanced Studies of Latin America (IHEAL), is assigned to the French Institute of Andean Studies in La Paz, associated with the Center for Research and Documentation on Americas (Creda). Questioned by The world, he doubts the totally spontaneous nature of the protests after the accusations of fraud and is worried about the character "Authoritarian and murderous" of the Provisional Government, while returning to the responsibilities of Mr. Morales in the crisis.

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Two accounts contradict the resignation of Evo Morales. "Coup d'état" or "democratic revolt". Which one do you subscribe to?

I would say that there was a forced removal, which looks like a coup d'état. A rather special coup, civic and political, not a military coup that often reduces the idea of ​​a coup. We have indeed witnessed an interruption of the institutional order that brings about a change of the authorities in place, by a form of constraint, which is not reduced to the pressure of the street in favor of "democracy".

The problem with the expression "coup d'état" is that it prevents us from seeing other dimensions. It denies the partly popular and democratic dimension – at least at the origin – of the anti-Morales movement. This is a term that the former president himself used the day after the elections to discredit the attacks on him and disqualify the protest movement.

"Just as the opposition shouted at the fraud without official evidence, Evo Morales proclaimed himself president even before the final results."

The term also makes it possible to avoid asking the question of the responsibilities and the role of the Movement towards socialism (MAS) and Morales in history, even if, today, it seems eclipsed by the authoritarian and murderous nature of the Provisional Government now in place. Conversely, if one speaks only of a "democratic movement", one will conceal all the forces in presence and the instrumentalization of the protest by the catholic right and radical. It is not a spontaneous protest and we are discovering today that there has probably been much more strategic coordination than what the fable of the "democratic movement" would have us believe. It is neither a spontaneous or entirely popular democratic revolt nor a conspiracy or a mounted coup. This makes it difficult to analyze the complex array of factors that led to the forced removal of Evo Morales. And, at the limit, there is no longer the issue: in fact, the provisional government already largely exceeds its powers, which consist in organizing new elections.


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