BOLIVIA: Military Coup Exempts Forces Carrying Out Mass Executions “In Defense of Order”

Photo: Peasants at the funeral of a man murdered by state repression in Sacaba.

This repost is an unofficial translation of Giovanna Schaidhauer’s article in A Nova Democracia.


The Bolivian government’s self-proclaimed “president” Jeanine Áñez has issued an exemption for all military personnel carrying out massacres on the streets of La Paz and Cochabamba. The military, involved in “law and order enforcement operations,” is battling protests against the military coup with assassinations and beatings.

The decree, number 4078, was signed on November 14. Article 3 of the legal rule states: “The military of the Armed Forces participating in the operations of restoration of internal order and public stability shall be exempt from criminal liability when, in fulfillment of their constitutional functions, act in self-defense or in a state of necessity and proportionality, in accordance with articles 11. Law 1760 and the Code of Criminal Procedure.”

“The Armed Forces shall frame their actions in accordance with the Manual of Use of Force,” the Article continues, stating that reactionary soldiers may “use all available means that are commensurate with the risk of operations,” a subjective criterion which legalizes murder, torture, and other forms of repression.

One day after the law came into force, accompanied by her full cabinet and commanders of the Armed Forces and Police, Áñez warned that her government would take constitutional measures to “counteract destabilizing actions that seek to overthrow this government with an operation” that, according to her, is “encouraged” by “armed and criminal” subversive groups.

The decree also explicitly authorizes the use of firearms against demonstrations which are against the government of Áñez.

A woman protests in front of the police.

GOVERNMENT WILL PROMOTE PURGE IN PARLIAMENT

Interior Minister of the current “government,” Arturo Murillo, also announced on the 17th the creation of a “special apparatus of the Attorney General’s Office” to detain legislators and others who, according to the coup minister, “are involved in subversion. and sedition.” Here he refers to deputies who do not consent to the coup d’etat.

“There are senators, congressmen and deputies, not all, some of them, that I am going to start publishing their names, which are doing subversion,” a government official said. “From Monday (18) I will order, I already have lists that the leaders of various zones are passing me, we will start detaining them with court orders.”

BOLIVIAN PEOPLE REBEL AGAINST MILITARY REPRESSION

The military coup, however, faces great resistance from the masses in the streets, disillusioned with the failed “21st century socialism” and peaceful “revolution.”

Bolivians from Sacaba, outside Cochabamba, protested on November 17 for the second day in a row against brutal military repression in the region. During the protest, peasants from across the region distributed food to the protesters, in solidarity with the perverse massacre.

On November 15, a police massacre killed 12 people and injured about 100 people against a march organized by peasants.

“They killed us with bullets, the military shot at us. We want respect, we demand the resignation of this self-appointed president, whom we have not named. That’s why we were going to march to Cochabamba, but they didn’t leave us, they killed our children,” said one of the women attending the march.

Peasants around coffins of loved ones slaughtered on 11/15 by repression. 

Another witness to the massacre said the military and police beat them, took their wallets, cell phones, and shot lethal ammunition at the peasants. Shots were fired even from helicopters. “It’s a moment of terror, pitiful tragedy, to see how they beat our fellow elderly. They don’t respect us, they don’t consider us people, they don’t value us,” said a young indigenous person about the brutal and perverse actions of the army and police.

The director of the local Mexico Hospital, Guadalberto Lara, said most of the dead were shot and described the Sacaba massacre as the worst violence he has seen in his 30-year career.

From November 10 to 13, multitudinous demonstrations gathered in El Alto and marched to La Paz to reject Janine Áñez’s self-proclamation, the appointment of the new ministerial cabinet, and the brutality of the coup plotters against the indigenous people.

COUP D’ÉTAT AND THE FALSE ‘DEMOCRACY’

This process of repression and curtailment of democratic rights in Bolivia, as we have analyzed, is part of the military coup that led to the resignation of Evo Morales, chief opportunist.

As analyzed by the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Parties and Organizations of the world, in a joint statement published on May 1, 2018 entitled Proletarians of all countries, unite!: “In Latin America the bankruptcy of the opportunist governments of the big bourgeoisie with the ‘left’ facade in Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, Ecuador, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, and so on is generating increasingly bigger waves of popular protest and sowing the seed of People’s War. The old States of big bourgeois and landlords, lackeys to imperialism, principally Yankee imperialism, experience a sharp and accelerated process of decomposition and are crumbling one by one. They are part of the higher reactionarisation of this old semi-colonial/semi-feudal State, with the increase of fascist movements and tendency for preventive counterrevolutionary military coups, against the inevitable and violent popular insurgency in the face of the exorbitant rise of exploitation and repression to save imperialism from its deep economic crisis and the big bourgeois and landlord classes from their crisis of domination and to prevent the initiation of more People’s Wars.”

Morales’ protofascist government, barred from governing by the economic downturn and crisis of bureaucratic capitalism, was shunned by the movement coordinated by Yankee imperialism and which converged under the fascist far-right, led by Luis Fernando Camacho, and the civil right, whose political expression is Carlos Mesa. The movement also included the collaboration of sectors of the military High Command, in particular coup general Williams Kaliman (who is now retired and living in the USA) and the passive collaboration of sectors that were previously closely linked to the social-fascist project of Evo Morales.

Áñez, self-proclaimed “president” and more to the right-wing, in her first act, changed the entire military High Command. Carlos Orellana, Army General, was appointed Commander of the Armed Forces; General Iván Patricio Rioja took command of the Army, General Ciro Orlando Álvarez Armada took over as Commander of the Bolivian Air Force and Counter Admiral Moises Orlando Mejía Heredia is the new Commander of the Navy.

As we analyzed in Forced by the USA and sectors of the big bourgeoisie, Evo Morales resigns : “Without such economic bases, of growth and expansion of capital, it is no longer possible for a policy of class reconciliation to keep the masses passive. Bureaucratic capitalism demands more exploitation, as the crisis knocks. The masses must pay the bill with fewer rights and fewer ‘concessions’. It is the end of ‘reformism’.”