“In 2020 the people of Bolivia stood up against international pressure & elected a government determined to continue the process of democratisation, equality, peace & development.”Jeremy Corbyn
By Tim Young, Friends of Bolivia
Today marks three months since the Movement Towards Socialism’s (MAS) historic victory in Bolivia’s Presidential election in October 2020 kicked out the military-led coup regime which had ousted the legitimately elected President Evo Morales in November 2019.
The new government led by President Luis Arce has faced an enormous task. The 11 month far-right coup regime of Jeanine Añez was characterised by widespread repression, corruption and incompetence.
Critically, it failed to develop a coherent strategy to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate the accompanying economic downturn, leading to soaring unemployment, poverty and inequality.
It further badly mishandled the economy with a fundamentalist free-market agenda, saddling it with a $300 million debt from the IMF, while also setting about overturning Morales’ strategy of taking control of key parts of the country’s economy from foreign corporations.
State-owned companies had begun to be privatised. Plans to ensure the proceeds of increased lithium production flowed to the Bolivian people rather than multinational corporations were torn up.
By contrast, the new MAS government has begun to make good on President Arce’s inauguration promise to rebuild Bolivia.
One of his first acts has been to approve the Bonus Against Hunger initiative to help over 4 million people in the country. The payments, which started in December, will help reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the most vulnerable families in the country as well start to reactivate the Bolivian economy.
At the other end of the scale, the government has plans to impose a wealth tax from 2021 onwards on individuals whose assets exceed 30 million Bolivianos (about £3.2 million).
Bolivia currently has a very low tax base raising minimal tax revenues, so potentially this could raise over £10 million to help revitalise the economy and fund redistributive programmes.
To tackle the COVID-19 crisis, the Bolivian government has purchased 5.2 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and 5 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. A mass vaccination campaign of the entire Bolivian population over 18 is scheduled to start in May.
On the international stage, the new government has begun rebuilding links with allies and partners that the coup regime had dismantled. The government has now restored its diplomatic relations with the elected Government of Venezuela, thereby reversing the coup regime’s recognition of the self-titled “interim president” Juan Guaidó.
The government has also renewed its support for regional integration in Latin America by resuming its participation in three of the most important regional organisations for trade, dialogue and security, ALBA, CELAC, and UNASUR.
A key part of the landscape in Bolivia politically is that the coup regime’s acts of repression and violence against anti-coup protestors resulted in a number of deaths.
To address demands for accountability and justice, President Arce announced that five experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) would be undertaking an investigation into the murders at Sacaba, in Cochabamba Department, and Senkata, El Alto Department.
The delegation of experts will provide the Bolivian Attorney General’s Office (FGE) with a technical report so it can take legal action against those responsible.
Other moves can be expected to hold to account those responsible for a range of crimes and misdemeanours committed under the coup regime in the last year, including by its head, Jeanine Añez.
Perhaps most importantly, President Arce moved quickly to make top-level changes in the armed forces to reduce the likelihood of their again siding with reactionary moves against the elected government. He has asked the new military leadership to guarantee the stability of the government elected by the sovereign will.
As internationalists, we must give our support for the MAS, the social movements and the Arce government against any attempts by reactionary forces, inside and outside the country, to turn the clock back and restore by force a right-wing regime intent on destroying MAS’s work to advance democracy, human rights, equality and social progress in Bolivia.
As Jeremy Corbyn said last month, “In 2020 the people of Bolivia stood up against international pressure and elected a government determined to continue the process of democratisation, equality, peace and development.”
Now, as the Movement Towards Socialism Government in Bolivia builds a better society and shows your can put people, health and planet before private profit they deserve our full and unwavering support.