On November 10, 2019, President Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia announced his resignation from the presidency. Morales had been elected in 2014 to a third presidential term, which should have lasted until January 2020. In November 2019, protests around his fourth electoral victory in October led to the police and the military asking Morales to step down; by every description of the term, this was a coup d’état. Two days later, Morales went into exile in Mexico.
On November 16, Morales told Mexican daily newspaper La Jornada that the coup that unseated him “was prepared” by the U.S. embassy in La Paz. The reason for the coup, he said, was—among others—Bolivia’s considerable lithium reserves and his government’s failure to surrender to North American multinational mining corporations. Morales told La Jornada’s Miguel Angel Velázquez it seemed his “sin” was that he “implemented social programs for the humblest families.”
The coup was justified by the Bolivian oligarchy and the United States government as the restoration of democracy. By “democracy,” the oligarchs and the U.S. government mean rule by elites who politely hand over resources to mining firms at concessionary rates; they do not mean that the people—who should have sovereignty over their lives and their resources—actually govern. This is why there is no anxiety in large sections of the Bolivian oligarchy and the U.S. government that Bolivia will not have an elected government in at least a year.
A Coup Government Remains
Morales was replaced by Jeanine Áñez, a minor politician who was outside the constitutional chain of succession. Áñez said that she would not seek election after her interim period was over, but quickly turned her back on that promise; this was the first of many promises she would break. The presidential election was set for May 3, 2020. Due to her government’s inability to control the coronavirus, the election was postponed until September 6, 2020.
Áñez and her coalition are polling far behind the Movement for Socialism (MAS), Morales’ party whose ticket consists of Luis Arce Catacora for president and David Choquehuanca Céspedes for vice president, as well as behind the center-right Civic Community party of Carlos Mesa (a former president of Bolivia who also ran against Morales in the October 2019 election and lost).