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Clashes continue between protestors and security forces in Bolivia

By Brian E. Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Dec 2, 2019 - 12:15:29 PM

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Changes have been rapid since the coup d’état that overthrew the Pluranational State of Bolivia led by Evo Morales in early November. Racial, social and political dynamics have been altered in the country of nearly 12 million people by what many see as a self-appointed interim government.

Hundreds of supporters for ousted Bolivian President Evo Morales have clashed with police, leaving nine people dead.

Security forces tear gassed demonstrators Nov. 21 at a peaceful anti-coup march and memorial procession in the capital city La Paz. The crowd was memorializing several protestors killed days earlier by the police in the city of Senkata.

“People are demanding justice and accountability,” said Medea Benjamin of Code Pink who was live fed the protests from Bolivia. “They’re saying, ‘only if Añez leaves, will there be peace,’” said Ms. Benjamin, translating the chants of the crowds from Spanish. The people were referring to Bolivia’s self-appointed interim president Jeanine Añez.

Demonstrators marched on foot for miles from El Alto to La Paz, Bolivia with the caskets of those killed. Ms. Benjamin described the people as “courageous” to face the military and “tenacious” in their will.

Scores of people waving the indigenous Wiphala flag were in the streets as tensions continue to escalate between the indigenous people protesting the coup government and security forces responding with violent repression. The situation in Bolivia is getting worse and for the indigenous people there is no turning around say observers.

At presstime the total number killed in the political unrest was 29 with over 100 wounded. That number is expected to rise as clashes continue.

“What is not being calculated here is that the people have now tasted true freedom,” said Abel Muhammad, student National Latino Representative of the Nation of Islam.

He explained that the indigenous people were marginalized before the near 14-year presidency of Evo Morales, the first indigenous leader of the country. Nobody thought there could be leaders in power who cared about the people. However, in leaders like Mr. Morales, the late Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela—though their governments were not flawless—the people experienced empowerment.

“I don’t think it will be so easy to put the people back to sleep,” said Mr. Muhammad.

Meanwhile, the transitional government and the Congress in the South American nation has not set a date for new elections which the constitution demands to be held within three months. Mr. Morales’s party has a two-third majority in Congress, however Mr. Morales, exiled in Mexico is being barred from running in the new election.

In a war of words and threats widely seen as pandering to the United States desire for right-wing and oligarch control of Bolivia, Ms. Añez threatened to have Mr. Morales arrested on electoral fraud if he returns.

Anti-government demonstrators chant during a funeral procession for people killed in clashes between supporters of former President Evo Morales and security forces, in La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 21. At least several people were killed when security forces cleared a blockade of a fuel plant by Morales’s backers in the city of El Alto.

The interim government filed a criminal complaint on Nov. 22 against Mr. Evo Morales for alleged sedition and terrorism, said the country’s interior minister, according to Reuter’s.

In a Nov. 21 statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated “the United States supports the transitional government in Bolivia to achieve free, fair, and inclusive elections.”

The top U.S. diplomat also maintained that “violence, repression, and political intimidation have no place in a democracy.” Mr. Pompeo gave the comments, even as the indigenous people are being gunned down in the streets by the very interim government the U.S. vowed to “support,” noted critics.

Mr. Pompeo added that Bolivian security services must “respect the rights” of peaceful protestors, and the “authorities must ensure accountability” for any violations. However, days before, the interim government pushed legislation that exempted the police and armed services from legal accountability for deaths and injuries of people while quelling resistance.

“For so many decades the people didn’t believe they could have such a thing as a President Chavez or a President Morales is because of the strong arm of the military forces… controlled by the European, Western-backed money,” reasoned Mr. Muhammad.

Although the current government is interim, swift changes have taken place on the foreign policy front in Bolivia which overturned progressive alliances in the region. Besides remarginalizing the indigenous population domestically who make up a sizeable majority, internationally the interim leader—representing a right-wing power elite—broke diplomatic relations with Venezuela and President Nicolas Maduro and expressed full recognition of the U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

In a decision that waxed against humanitarian relations, the interim leaders abandoned a bilateral medical collaboration with Cuba and sent 700 medics back to Havana. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez said the move was capitulation to Washington.

“The peoples will judge those who refuse them health care and comply to the empire’s” failed attempts to discredit the work of love and solidarity of the Cuban medical missions,” said President Díaz-Canel in a Nov. 19 tweet.

The professionals affected said the people to people solidarity still exist despite the counter-revolutionary decisions of Bolivia’s coup government.

“We return victorious. We do not feel defeated. We come with our heads held high, with our mission accomplished,” Dr. Nirza García Valdés, a general surgery specialist, who worked in the Bolivian department of Santa Cruz told Cuba’s Gramma news agency. “No coup, no regime that may take charge of Bolivia’s fate, can erase our impact,” he declared.

The medical professionals expressed solidarity with the Bolivian people struggling for dignity, respect for identity and justice. Now there is a need for the world to turn its sights on Bolivia, say observers, to see the violence of a U.S.-backed leadership.

“It’s of great importance that the world community and media in particular … are there to document and show the world what is happening,” said Mr. Muhammad.