Bolivia has descended into a nightmare of political repression and racist state violence since the democratically elected government of Evo Morales was overthrown by the military on November 10th last year. That month was the second-deadliest in terms of civilian deaths caused by state forces since Bolivia became a democracy nearly 40 years ago, according to a study by Harvard Law School’s (HLS) International Human Rights Clinic and the University Network for Human Rights (UNHR) released a month ago.
Morales was the first indigenous president of Bolivia, which has the largest percentage of indigenous population of any country in the Americas. His government was able to reduce poverty by 42% and extreme poverty by 60%, which disproportionately benefited indigenous Bolivians. The November coup was led by a white and mestizo elite with a history of racism, seeking to revert state power to the people who had monopolized it before Morales’ election in 2005. The racist nature of the state violence is emphasized in the HLS/UNHR report, including eyewitness accounts of security forces using “racist and anti-indigenous language” as they attacked protesters; it is also clear from the fact that all of the victims of the two biggest massacres committed by state forces after the coup were indigenous.
What has received even less attention is the role of the Organization of American States in the destruction of Bolivia’s democracy last November.
As the New York Times reported on 7 June, the organization’s “flawed” analysis immediately following the October 20th election fuelled “a chain of events that changed the South American nation’s history.
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