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Ousted Bolivian president Evo Morales, speaking from exile in Mexico (Getty Images)
Ousted Bolivian president Evo Morales, speaking from exile in Mexico (Getty Images)

MediaNovember 14, 2019

Bulletin World Weekly: Why Evo Morales was forced out, and what happens next

Ousted Bolivian president Evo Morales, speaking from exile in Mexico (Getty Images)
Ousted Bolivian president Evo Morales, speaking from exile in Mexico (Getty Images)

This is a rare public edition of The Bulletin World Weekly, an exclusive newsletter for The Spinoff Members that gets delivered every Thursday afternoon. Today’s edition focuses on the aftermath of Bolivian president Evo Morales being forced from office. 

Earlier in the week, the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, was forced out after a wave of popular protests. The indigenous socialist authoritarian had been defeated by people power. Or, at least, that was the first takeaway of what was going on in the South American country. But over recent days a different narrative has been emerging, which paints a very different picture of what happened, and what it will mean for the future of the country.

A quick note before we begin – many of these stories that are linked to in this Bulletin World Weekly are heavily contested, and come from publications that are often accused of political bias by opponents. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong, just that it’s worth reading with an understanding of where they’re coming from.

First of all, the case against Evo Morales, whom opponents accused of turning into a dictator. He had made many attempts to bend or change the rules around term limits, basically so he could keep running – this included losing a referendum on the matter. There were also allegations of electoral fraud around the most recent vote, reports US-based publication Time, though by all accounts Morales would have finished the election with the greatest share of votes. Time reports that the later Morales years included corruption scandals, and increasing persecution of political opponents.

Morales resigned, and left office, when according to widespread English language media reports he was “asked” to go by the military. It’s a bit of a moot point whether or not a military has ever genuinely “asked” anyone to do anything, as opposed to compelling them to do so under threat of force. In any case, he left Bolivia, according to AP News taking a convoluted route to get there because Bolivian airspace was closed to him. Mexico granted him asylum, on the grounds that his life was in danger were he to stay in Bolivia. It also reflects that Mexico’s new government had been forging a closer relationship with the Morales government, because they shared left wing politics, in contrast to the extreme right turn taken by other regional powers like Brazil.

The comparison with Brazil is likely to become more relevant, because of who appears to be taking over in Bolivia. There is increasing evidence of a widespread backlash against Bolivia’s previously downtrodden indigenous population, by hardline Christian descendants of the settler population. This report from The Grayzone (a staunchly left-wing publication) profiles some of those figures, and their extreme views against socialism and indigenous religious beliefs. The Nation, another left-leaning US publication, reports violence against indigenous people has been stepped up since Morales left the country. There have also been pieces of leaked audio, published by En24 News, purportedly of opposition figures discussing and planning a coup in advance of this week’s events, and how they would be able to secure support for it from top US political figures.

On that point, the end of the Morales government is certainly good for US business. This piece on Counterpunch (another left-wing site) goes into what it could mean for lithium markets – a major export of Bolivia – and how the commodity is now likely to become much more available. After all, the Morales government dramatically reversed previous power imbalances with transnational mining companies, in order to raise living standards for ordinary Bolivians.

Right now, Bolivia has an interim president in senator Jeanine Áñez. She was strongly anti-Morales while he was in charge, and this EuroNews article look at some of the issues she has campaigned on. Fresh elections will be held, she says. Morales says he may return, if it is possible to do so, and run again. Large demonstrations are taking place, including a huge ongoing one of Morales supporters at the international airport in El Alto. Whether or not he will come back remains to be seen. But regardless, given the events of the last few days, it is difficult to call any of this a win for democracy.

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One of the big macro stories in Europe right now is around the military capabilities and contributions of NATO members. This piece from Der Spiegel gives a good microcosm of the politics of it in Germany, a powerhouse of the continent. There’s huge contention between their finance and defence ministries about just how much a share of GDP Germany can afford to put towards military spending. Complicating matters, US president Donald Trump has repeatedly blasted the country for underspending, which given how unpopular he is in Europe probably doesn’t exactly help make the case for it.

The absolute state of Australian politics has been thrown into sharp relief by the deadly and destructive bushfires in both Queensland and NSW. The Sydney Morning Herald reports former deputy PM Barnaby Joyce, who actual voters repeatedly elected, says changes in the magnetic field of the sun is one reason why the fires are burning. Climate scientists say that’s nonsense, with one describing it as “ludicrous and grossly ill-informed”. Joyce later accepted that climate change was happening, but there’s probably a whole summer of this type of misleading crap coming up from a whole cast of awful characters.

A grim piece of reporting about why the protesters in Hong Kong are so willing to continue their fight: The Atlantic has talked to some who are aware of what is being done to Uighurs in Xinjiang province, and are determined that the Chinese government won’t do the same to them. It’s still a bleak thought for the future of their movement, or the idea that there is any sort of victory possible at the end of it – at this stage, victory looks more like keeping going for another day. Meanwhile, there have been serious clashes around the university after the death of a student protester, and the South China Morning Post reports that is leading to many international students fleeing the city.

Fast growing and rapidly urbanising countries in Africa are facing both the challenges and opportunities inherent in that. This piece from The Nerve attempts to answer a big question that will need to be solved – why African cities haven’t benefited from the economic growth that so often comes from urbanisation. Futuristic new cities are being considered as a way of harnessing that process, but that too comes with its own challenges – what if they are built and nobody turns up to fill them?

Finally, this is a strange old story about the geopolitics of sport. Right now, a series of Gulf nations are blockading Qatar. But according to Al-Jazeera (based in and funded by Qatar) they’ll also be sending teams to play in the Arabian Gulf Cup football tournament. Previously, the position of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE was a boycott, and that reversal means groups and fixtures will need to be redrawn.

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