Enough has emerged to begin to see the outlines of United States President Joe Biden’s foreign policy in key areas, writes Barry Sheppard.
Enough has emerged to begin to see the outlines of United States President Joe Biden’s foreign policy in key areas, writes Barry Sheppard.
As long as Donald Trump continues to refuse to accept the election results, the danger of a coup, legal or not, remains, writes Malik Miah.
Peter Boyle reports that the Turkish military is stepping up its attack on Kurdistan Workers Party guerilla bases and self-governing Yazidi communities in Shengal.
Ahead of the United States election, President Donald Trump’s administration has effectively given up on controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Barry Sheppard.
August’s Republican National Convention centred on two interrelated themes.
One was the adulation of Donald Trump as the strong leader who can save te country, and who must hold onto power, come what may
The other was the mobilisation of a blatant, racist assault on the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM activists were accused as “violent thugs”, intent on physically destroying the country, and which Trump would crush in the streets.
Trump’s presence and speeches dominated each session, culminating in his long acceptance speech, with the White House as his backdrop.
“We must never allow mob rule,” he said.
“In the strongest possible terms, the Republican Party condemns the rioting, looting, arson and violence we have seen in Democrat-run cities all, like Kenosha, Minneapolis, Portland, Chicago, New York and many others.
“There is violence and danger in the Democrat-run cities throughout America.”
The convention did not adopt an election platform. Apparently, what Trump stands for is what the Republican Party stands for – even if that changes with each of his tweets.
Trump kicked off the convention to chants of “Four more years!”
“Now, if you really want really drive them crazy,” Trump replied, “You say: ’12 more years.’”
The delegates dutifully chanted this back.
During his 2016 election campaign, Trump accused the Democrats of organising more than three million undocumented people to vote, turning the popular vote in favour of Hillary Clinton. Trump went on to win the Electoral College vote, however.
“Because we caught them doing really bad things in 2016,” Trump told the convention. “Let’s see what happens.”
Trump could not legally win twelve more years, unless a constitutional amendment allowed for more than the stipulated two terms – something impossible to do unless the Democratic Party were to be suppressed.
Trump’s statement was another example of him saying he would not accept the vote in November’s election, if it went against him – although, it would take a putsch to actually carry that out.
Other features of the convention were the speeches given by Trump’s “clan”, including Donald jnr’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. Together, they took up 30% of the air time over four days, and at least one of them spoke every evening.
What the New York Times called the “Trumpsphere” – those people outside Trump’s family, “elevated because of their staunch defence of a Trumpian worldview” took up another 30% of speaking time. Their collective speaking time was evidence of their place in the current Republican pecking order, according to the NYT.
No former Republican presidents or allies of George W Bush, John McCain or other prominent Republican families spoke.
Since the convention, Trump has continued to defend the police in all the recent murders by cops of Black people. He has also praised his supporters who have come armed to BLM protests to back up the cops – even when one of these self-styled “militia men” shot dead two unarmed protesters and injured a third.
He continues to boast about how great he is, and how he is bound to win the election unless it is “rigged” against him.
Trump has also openly embraced supporters of the far-right QAnon conspiracy group. A reporter asked him: “At the crux of the [QAnon] theory is this belief that you are secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals. Does that sound like something you are behind?”
Trump responded: “Well I haven’t – I haven’t heard that, but is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? I mean, if I can save the world from problems, I’m willing to do it.”
Georgia Republican, Marjorie Greene, who recently won a congressional primary, attributed her victory to support of QAnon’s weird theory.
Trump praised her win, and said she is a “rising star” in the Republican Party.
Trump also said of QAnon: “They like me.” Apparently, this is the key to winning his approval.
QAnon’s belief is that “dark forces” are behind those in this satanic cult, including the Democrats.
In a recent interview on the pro-Trump Fox News, Trump said, “I don’t like to even mention Biden, because he’s not controlling anything. They control him.”
The interviewer then asked him: “Who do you think is pulling Biden’s strings? Is it former Obama officials?”
Trump replied: “People you never heard of. People that are in the dark shadows.”
“What does that mean?” the interviewer interjected. “That sounds like conspiracy theory: ‘dark shadows’. What is that?”
“No, people that you haven’t heard of,” Trump replied. “There are people on the streets. There are people controlling the streets. We had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend, and in the plane, it was almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms.”
“Where was that?” he was asked.
“I’ll tell you sometime, but it’s under investigation.”
Whether Trump believes this or not, his core followers do.
Trump is also reviving the old racist slurs of the Jim Crow segregationist period, including the “danger” to white women from Black men, which led to many lynchings.
“You have this beautiful community in the suburbs, including women, right?” Trump said.
“Women. They want security.
“I ended where they build low-income housing projects right in the middle of your neighbourhood. I ended it.” Trump said, referring to the Barack Obama-era “fair housing” rule.
“If Biden gets in, he already said it’s going to go at a much higher rate than ever before,” said Trump.
“And you know who is going to be in charge of it? [African American Senator] Cory Booker. That’s going to be nice.”
Marxists have used the term “Bonapartism” to describe the rise of such strongmen.
Karl Marx analysed the rise of 19th century French political figure Louis Bonaparte (also known as Napoleon III), the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Unlike his uncle, Louis was a mediocre political figure, like Trump today. But, also like Trump, he was a clever operator and demagogue. Louis also had ties to organised crime, in the form of illegal capitalist enterprises.
Louis was elected president of France at the end of 1848. In February, there had been a revolution against the monarchy, part of the democratic revolutions that swept Europe.
In June-July that year, for the first time in the history of capitalism, workers rose up and took over a capital city – Paris. They were crushed in blood by the army.
After this defeat, the different capitalist parties in parliament were in disarray, the various factions fighting amongst each other. Louis presented himself as a strongman, like his uncle, who could cut through the disarray and set things right.
After he was elected president in December, there were years of continuing bickering among the capitalist parties and factions. Louis maneuvered amongst them. At times it looked like he would be curtailed or even impeached, but he won out each time. The population was increasingly exasperated.
Louis built up his own base in the army. Finally, conditions reached the point early in 1851 when he could stage a coup, and he proclaimed himself Emperor Napoleon III.
In the present day US, albeit for different reasons than at the end of 1848 in France: workers’ organisations play little or no role in politics; like Louis, Trump presents himself as a strongman; and as was the case between 1849–51, the bourgeois parties are continuously bickering between themselves and achieving little (except for bipartisan agreements like adopting ever-increasing military budgets).
Louis embraced France’s Napoleonic past for legitimacy and made himself Emperor. Trump looks to US history, especially the Jim Crow period. He seeks to solidify authoritarianism with bourgeois democratic trappings, while greatly restricting democratic rights, something like the regimes in the Jim Crow South, but with himself at the top.
Trump is also building up an armed force that is loyal to him.
Federal forces are not supposed to interfere in domestic politics. But since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after 9/11, federal forces under its jurisdiction have been used in domestic situations, often wearing uniforms that identify them as “police”.
These appear to have been the forces that violently cleared peaceful demonstrators in front of the White House, for a Trump photo-op.
In Portland, Oregon, such forces were used over the objections of local authorities to violently attack BLM demonstrators, making arrests, using gas weapons and “less lethal” ammunition that caused injuries, including a fractured skull. Reporters recording the violence were also targeted.
Federal employees wore combat-style uniforms identifying them as police but displayed no badge numbers, name tags or other personal information.
The agency these federal “cops” were actually employed by was not even revealed. They appeared to consist of direct employees of the DHS, Border Patrol, Federal Protective Service – which is supposed to protect federal property, the US Marshal Service and possibly the FBI. There were even reports that some cops were hired mercenaries.
We have also seen the emergence of armed “militias”, who have attacked BLM protests.
These federal forces and armed militias do not appear to be actual members of the military. Instead, they are a paramilitary force answerable only to Trump.
We will see how this plays out in the next two months, leading up to the election and beyond. At this stage, nothing can be ruled out.
One of the major effects of the COVID-19 crisis is on relations between states. This pertains to immediate questions affecting the treatment of the virus – closure of borders, quarantine, the development of a vaccine, questions of international property rights in relation to medicines.
But the crisis is having a whole range of effects which go well beyond the immediate medical dangers. Perhaps the most important is the situation of the world economy, the growing threat of recession and the highly insecure future that millions are facing.
This looming economic crisis is serving to exacerbate tensions and competition between different nation states and blocs. Economic tensions and military competition often go hand in hand and this crisis will be no exception. The build-up of arms and military planning across the major powers not only makes conflict more likely, but will also worsen existing tensions, creating refugee crises at borders and leading to even greater build-up of arms internationally.
Despite the call from the United Nations for a global ceasefire at the outset of the pandemic, there is no sign of this happening, or of the major powers considering for a moment putting resources that it earmarked for the military into fighting the virus. Instead, the economic threats make them more determined to protect their interests by force.
Existing conflicts continue – as we are seeing with Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank – and new ones loom.
The crisis itself has not led to more cooperation between states, and we are certainly not going to come out of it with greater cooperation internationally – given economic rivalry the opposite is likely. Even arguments in Britain and elsewhere about how and when to ease the lockdowns, imposed in response to the virus, are framed very much in terms of economic competition with other countries. So, we are likely to see a new and intense form of this competition, which will inevitably take on a military dimension.
The British government increasingly talks of the main threat militarily coming from great power conflict rather than the war on terror, which has dominated their thinking for the past two decades. That preoccupation is now shifting and has for some time been focused on Russia as a potential enemy, but in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis is increasingly turning to China as the main “threat” to western interests.
Nowhere is this more the case than in the United States, most strongly put by Donald Trump, where the White House now talks about the enemy, meaning China, of the “China virus”, and of breaking relations with China.
Trump threatens the World Health Organisation with withdrawal of funding because it allegedly neglected to share information about the virus in China. This, plus blatant anti-Chinese racism, is creating the backdrop to potential military conflict. While there has long been anti-Chinese rhetoric coming from Trump’s administration, this is at a new level and against a background of world crisis is more of a threat.
Trump is supported by many across Europe on this. Manfred Weber, conservative politician and leader of the People’s Party in the European parliament, is demanding a 12 month ban on China buying up European companies that go bust as a result of the crisis. British foreign secretary Dominic Raab has declared that we “can’t have business as usual” with China after the crisis. Politicians like Michael Gove and Ian Duncan Smith urge cancellation of the 5G deal with Chinese company Huawei. With the International Monetary Fund’s projection of a deep recession, in which the US will do considerably worse overall than China, we can only see a worsening situation over the coming months.
We do not know exactly how this will develop, and we should not assume that a “hot war” is necessarily imminent. But there are too many signs of conflict not to sound the alarm. Any such development will have its impact on a number of existing conflicts around the world, will increase economic rivalry – and, most importantly, will face the threat of wider war.
The US is the world’s biggest military power. China too is a major military power which is extending its weapons capability. Both are nuclear powers. Any conflict between the two would be deadly for many people around the world. It would threaten a third and most destructive world war from which there would be no winners.
The anti-war movement has long opposed any such development, and has also opposed supposed humanitarian intervention which has failed to even approach its goal of protecting human life, but has led to a series of war zones, instability and humanitarian crisis across the world. A potential clash between the US and China would have even worse consequences than these. We cannot allow the outcome of this crisis to be growing militarism and competition, but rather should stand for peace and cooperation rather than this escalation.
[Reprinted from Stop the War UK.]
Even amid the COVID-19 crisis, the pro-democracy movement and freedom of speech are under attack, as the legal system cows under pressure and police brutality worsens.
More than 10 well-known democratic leaders were arrested on April 18, including barrister and founding chairperson of the Democratic Party Martin Lee, also known as the “Father of Hong Kong democracy”, and the Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan.
The police accused them of organising, publicising and taking part in unauthorised assemblies from last August to November. The pro-democracy movement said it is yet another attempt to repress opposition to the Carrie Lam administration.
Hong Kong has become a police state with the police acting with impunity. They cover their faces with masks and sunglasses and refuse to display their identification numbers or show their warrant cards.
An Indonesian journalist, who was hit in the eye by police in Wan Chai, filed a complaint but the police refused to investigate. A Christian priest, Chan Yan-ming, has written an open letter calling on Christian police to think about their oppressive behaviour in suppressing protests.
A female protester testified that she was gang-raped by police after being arrested. She has since had an abortion and fled to Taiwan. The police denied her accusation and dropped the investigation; they now claim she is a “wanted person”.
Police have also been found abusing the COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings of more than four people. On March 31, protesters organised a memorial action at the Prince Edward MTR station to remember the “831 太子站事件 incident” in which police attacked pro-democracy protesters on August 31, killing at least five people.
At the memorial, the police ordered five people to line up, then fined them for being in a gathering of more than four people.
On May 8, protesters were attacked by pro-government supporters. Police arrested the victims but allowed the armed pro-government supporters to leave.
The president of Hong Kong Education University student union ‒ one of those arrested ‒ applied for a court order to obtain the CCTV footage to sue the police for damages. The metro company spent more than HK$1 million to hire a senior barrister to resist the court order. A High Court judge found in favour of the student and ordered the company to produce the footage. It produced an incomplete version.
Lawmakers are also being stymied. On May 8, a Legislative Council meeting, due to be chaired by a pro-democracy councillor, was brutally taken over by pro-Beijing councillors with the assistance of so-called “politically-neutral” staff and security guards. Most pro-democracy legislators were then forcibly evicted from the chamber. One pro-democracy lawmaker was assaulted by a pro-Beijing legislator on the stairs and ended up in hospital.
A key reason for pro-Beijing parties to speed up the election of the chairperson of the House Committee, which is responsible for deciding the order of business on the Council’s agenda, is to expedite the enactment of the national anthem law and the national security law by the end of the legislative year in July. The national security law, to combat so-called “domestic terrorism”, “foreign interference” and pro-independence forces, has been shelved since 2003.
If passed, these laws will help Beijing disqualify pro-democracy candidates before September’s Legislative Council election. Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong is warning of a landslide victory to the pro-democracy camp, describing it as a potential “seizure of power” and saying that resistance against the pro-democracy camp is a “battle for sovereignty”.
Local judges are increasingly signalling allegiance to Beijing with their verdicts on anti-government protest cases.
In April, District Court Judge Kwok Wai-kin expressed sympathy for a man jailed for stabbing three people, one of whom almost died at Lennon Wall, during the anti-extradition bill protests in August.
Despite the fact that the defendant had first talked to the victims at Lennon Wall, then went home to collect two knives and returned to the Wall to attack them — making his intent to kill clear — Kwok described the defendant as “an involuntary sacrifice”. Kwok also said pro-democracy protesters had “ruthlessly trampled on his right to work, live and survive”.
Audrey Eu, former chairperson of the Hong Kong Bar Association, criticised Kwok for presenting his personal views.
The Justice Department sent the case to the District Court, where the maximum sentence is only seven years, instead of the High Court, whose criminal jurisdiction is unlimited.
There are many other cases in which judges have expressed their political preferences, including one in which a pro-democracy lawmaker was convicted of assault for using a megaphone.
Last week, another 230 pro-democracy protesters were arrested, bringing the total to more than 8300. Almost 600 are being charged with “rioting” and more are being charged each day. Many face trials.
On May 15, one of the very first protesters to be charged with “rioting” was sentenced to four years in jail, even though he pleaded guilty in a bid to seek a shorter jail term. He went to the protest but did not hurt anyone or possess a weapon, but the judge said his action was “a direct attack on the rule of law”.
Beijing’s Liaison Office and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council have condemned pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok for attempting to delay the passing of the national anthem and national security laws.
The Liason Office also stated publicly that it is not governed by Hong Kong’s laws, and that it has supervisory power over Hong Kong’s Special Administrative Region government.
The Liaison Office has been criticised by the general public and legal community for interfering in the domestic affairs of Hong Kong, a breach of the Basic Law. Johannes Chan, Hong Kong University-based law professor, said the Liaison Office has never enjoyed supervisory power over Hong Kong in the Basic Law.
On April 18, the Hong Kong government and the Liaison Office responded, by clarifying that Article 22 of the Basic Law does not apply to Beijing’s Liaison Office. The Liaison Office declared that two agencies — the Liaison Office and Hong Kong Macau Office — are authorised by the central government and have the right to supervise and handle Hong Kong affairs.
In a further development, the Hong Kong government revised its media statement twice, after finding that it contradicted Beijing’s stand. Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen apologised for the confusion and was later replaced by the Director of Immigration Erick Tsang Kwok-wai in a cabinet reshuffle announced by Carrie Lam. The reshuffle represents a tightening of Beijing’s control over Hong Kong’s administration and its ambition to suppress anti-government sentiment.
[Wlam* is a Hong Kong student studying in Sydney. His name has been changed for security reasons.]
Australia is already feeling the effects of the climate crisis through rising temperatures, drought and major bushfires.
Meanwhile, governments are loosening environmental laws and agribusiness farming is damaging the habitat of native and introduced species.
All of this is changing the environment in which animals, including humans, live. But could it also be impacting on the spread of diseases?
There has been a rapid rise in the number of flying foxes in Coffs Harbour, in mid-north coast New South Wales. The clearing of hundreds of hectares of trees for blueberry cultivation, along with run-off from pesticides, has apparently damaged their native food supply. Seeking new food sources, these bat have begun moving into urban areas.
But there are health warnings associated with flying foxes and micro bats, as they carry the Australian bat lyssavirus, which is similar to rabies.
Diseases are caused by an organism know as a pathogen. All a pathogen needs to thrive and survive is a host. Once it sets itself up in the host’s body, it manages the body’s immune responses and uses it to replicate itself before spreading to a new host.
Depending on the type of pathogen, it can be transmitted in several ways: skin contact, bodily fluids, airborne particles, contact with faeces or a surface touched by an infected species.
The most typical pathogens are bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses, such as lyssavirus.
There have already been 89 incidents of people requiring treatment to guard against lyssavirus after been bitten or scratched by flying foxes in the Coffs Harbour region.
Lyssavirus can also be passed on to humans indirectly. In the Brisbane suburb of Hendra, which is close to two major racecourses, the virus spread to horses via food that had been contaminated by flying fox bodily fluids. Known as the Hendra virus, it was subsequently passed on to humans involved in caring for these horses.
In horses, this virus can generate a fever, increased heart rate and rapid deterioration of respiratory and/or nervous system signs. However, there is a vaccine for horses.
In humans, it can cause fever, cough, sore throat, tiredness and, later, meningitis or inflammation of the brain and sometimes convulsions and coma. It can be fatal and there is no human vaccine currently available.
A pandemic refers to a large-scale spread of a particular disease for which there are no vaccines or known treatment. Perhaps the best-known pandemic was the worldwide spread of human influenza towards the end of World War I.
The pandemic took place in three waves: March 1918, where the mortality rate mirrored previous influenza outbreaks and their effects on the elderly and very young; September 1918; and early 1919, where it became extensively fatal. It is estimated that, worldwide, about 500 million people were infected and 50-100 million people died as a result of the pandemic.
Analyses of samples from second wave frozen corpses indicated the disease had migrated across species, most likely from bird-to-swine, then swine-to-human and finally human-to-human.
Since then there has been a rise in the speed with which various influenza viruses have spread. This has been linked to post-World War II changes in food production.
Global agribusiness meat production is based on the Taylorist time-and-motion factory model, in which maximum profitability shapes productivity. It revolves around shaping the type of animal best suited for quick development and fast delivery to market at the lowest possible cost.
At a national level, agribusiness production is generally structured vertically; that is, a single company owns and controls every stage of the process. When an avian or swine flu outbreak occurs in one country, the company moves to source its supply from another location.
In 1997, a deadly bird flu swept through poultry on two farms in Hong Kong. Two months later, a child died of the same highly pathogenic strain that had apparently jumped the species barrier. This was followed later by a small number of infections and deaths linked to handling of poultry.
By the end of the year birds begin to rapidly die in the city’s markets and authorities were forced to step in, ordering the destruction of all 1.5 million poultry.
Infected birds died from the inside out, imploding from internal organ damage. Humans similarly suffered organ breakdown and collapse, especially of the lungs, which often led to patients effectively drowning in their own fluid within days of infection.
In 2009, an outbreak of a new strain of swine flu in Mexico spread globally through human-to-human contact. Within a month, the World Health Organisation had reported 15,510 official cases of swine flu and 99 recorded deaths in 53 countries.
Since flu can transmit before symptoms appear, it had all the earmarks of a pandemic. But while the flu spread quickly, its virulence was not much more than that of a bad seasonal flu.
Pandemics do not just affect human populations.
At present, there is a pandemic of African Swine Fever (ASF) that has spread to more than 50 countries and has particularly devastated China, home to half of the world’s 1.3 billion pig population.
ASF has been identified in Eastern Europe, where the current outbreak began in 2014, Southeast Asia (Vietnam, South Korea, Laos, the Philippines), Western Europe (Belgium) and, more recently, in East Timor.
While the virus does not spread to human beings, it is virtually 100% fatal once established in a pig population. Infected pigs die in a similar manner to animals infected with blue flu.
The severity of the crisis has meant global prices have risen substantially in intensive or semi-intensive pork producing countries not yet infected, such as the United States and Canada.
Australia, is taking steps to deal with the $2 billion threat ASF poses to the industry here.
Federal agricultural minister Bridget McKenzie announced the creation of a national feral-pig coordinator on November 8. There are an estimated 25 million feral pigs in Australia that are already responsible for annual loses of $14.5 million in agricultural production.
However, if the government’s only strategy for dealing with ASF is feral pig control, then it is almost certain that the disease will gain entry through other methods of transmission.
ASF can be transmitted through direct contact with infected animals, either wild or domestic, and parasites, such as ticks.
The virus can also survive several months in processed meat and several years in frozen carcasses. In July, meat containing the virus was found by port authorities in Northern Ireland. While Australian pig production is mainly for fresh pork products, the vast majority of bacon, ham and other cured pork products are still imported.
Bolivia’s democratically-elected President Evo Morales said in a televised speech on November 9: “I would like to denounce before the Bolivian people and the world that a coup is underway. A coup against a democratically-elected government. A coup against social movements, workers, patriots, humble and Indigenous people who have built a democratic cultural revolution.”
The ongoing coup attempt by the United States-backed opposition in Bolivia has reached boiling point. Sections of the police have declared mutiny and far-right protesters attacked and shut down the government’s media outlets, assaulting its journalists. Now new elections have been called by the Bolivian government in an attempt to defuse the situation.
Beyond the fast paced developments, it’s necessary to understand the politics and background to this coup attempt, which has now undertaken a dramatic shift to the right as fascist elements within Bolivia’s right wing opposition come to the fore.
There is now an increasingly clear rupture between the minority of more moderate voices, and the fascist rhetoric of Fernando Camacho, the Santa Cruz caudillo (political leader), who has emerged as the new leadership of the right wing protest movements that seek to annul the democratic results of Bolivia’s recent elections that gave a clear victory to Morales and his Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) coalition on October 20. However, the resistance to the coup, led by indigenous communities and trade unions, has also stepped up and proved itself capable of keeping the far right at bay.
Carlos Mesa, the neo-liberal centrist candidate who came second in October’s Presidential race with only 36% of the vote, has now lost the media spotlight to far right politician Camacho, leader of the “civic committee” of Santa Cruz, the most right wing region of the country, with a history of racism against the country’s indigenous majority, the last flare up of which was the 2008 “Media Luna” coup attempt that saw a wave of racist violence carried out by the “civic” and “youth” groups that are taking a leading role in the protest movement today.
The extent to which Mesa has lost control was laid bare on November 6 when an important opposition rally was held in La Paz. Camacho led this event and Mesa was not even present. The chant “neither Evo nor Mesa” is now common at opposition protests.
Camacho and the Civic Committees are now the leadership of the opposition protests and their politics are unambiguously extremist and fascistic. Unlike Mesa, Camacho has taken a maximalist position, meaning he does not believe in holding a second round, or holding fresh Presidential elections, he calls instead for the immediate fall of the government and the passing of state power to the supreme court until new elections can be held at which Morales would be barred from running.
At the mass rallies that he has led in Santa Cruz, he always holds up a bible and recently announced that he “is going to restore God to the Presidential palace, from where he has been taken out [by Morales]”. Religious conservatism has been a common theme for his movement. The civic committee’s last high profile protests were in 2016 against the extension of LGBT rights under Morales’ Gender Identity Law that allowed trans citizens to change their gender on official documents.
Those loyal to Camacho’s civic committees have been carrying out egregious violence, mostly against indigenous women during the recent protests. One woman in Santa Cruz was attempting to pass an opposition roadblock on her way to visit the local cemetery when she was “detained” in a toilet and threatened with being burnt alive for being a “masista” (government supporter) and a “colla” (a racist term used against highland Andeans). She was eventually released after being forced to get on her knees and “apologise” to the right wing protesters as they filmed it.
Another, woman, Patricia Arce the elected socialist mayor of Vinto (a town in the Cochabamba department) was kidnapped, beaten, covered in red paint and had her hair cut off then paraded through the streets barefoot by opposition protesters, before being rescued by police.
Her words, whilst still being held captive, were caught on film and serve as an example of the bravery of the working class and indigenous Bolivians who have resisted the coup thus far, she said, “I’m not afraid of you, I tell the truth. This is a free country and I’m not going to be silenced. If you want to kill me then kill me…I’ll give my life for this process of change”.
This level of violence was previously seen in Bolivia in 2008 during the Media Luna coup attempt, but at that time it was restricted only to the eastern regions of the country, that were demanding autonomy from the central state. However, this time, the Santa Cruz based far-right have taken leadership of a movement that spans the entire country.
At a rally on November 7, Camacho was joined by Waldo Albarricin (former centrist who now calls for the armed forces to join the coup), leading figure of the opposition in La Paz, and Marco Pumari, leader of the Potosi (Andean department) civic committee, who proclaimed jubilantly from the stage that “Camacho will make the heretics read the bible!” This right-wing opposition in the Andean regions formerly opposed the racism of the Cruceno elites, but have now cast Mesa’s centrism aside and lined up behind Camacho’s religious extremism.
Morales responded to this sudden resurgence of political Christianity, saying on twitter, “Our Plurinational State guarantees freedom of worship, there is no longer any religions given primary or secondary importance, it’s sad that religion is being used to organise mobilisations of racism and discrimination. Religion is reconciliation and blessing…”
The response of the Bolivian government has been extraordinarily hands off. The police have been given orders to not lift the opposition “bloqueos” (where protesters block roads indefinitely, these have been concentrated in the wealthiest and whitest areas of the large cities). These bloqueos are entering their 17th day, paralysing traffic circulation in upper class districts such as San Miguel and Calacoto in the Zona Sur of La Paz.
Those resisting the coup in the streets have not been the forces of the state, but rather trade unions and indigenous communities. Miners and rural workers have flooded into La Paz and maintained a permanent presence outside the Presidential palace, so as to stop right-wing forces from seizing it, something opposition protesters have attempted to do.
The indigenous popular city of El Alto has come in swinging for Morales’ government this week, holding a number of mass rallies at which social movements pledged resistance to coup.
Despite the hands off approach of the state, the opposition claims they are suffering repression due to clashes between them and protesters who support the government. In some places intense fighting has broken out between both sides. In the town of Montero, known as a government stronghold, truck loads of oppositionists from Santa Cruz were brought in to attack “masistas”.
Heavy fighting broke out between local residents and the oppositionists that resulted in two deaths of opposition protesters, and a scenario took place in Cochabamba that resulted in the death of one. The government has formally condemned violence of both sides in such confrontations and arrests have already been made. Nevertheless, the opposition are equating outbreaks of street fights to police/military repression.
The threat of the US government taking measures against Bolivia remains present, with war hawk and US Senator Marco Rubio himself issuing “warnings” to Morales.
Though the Bolivian government hope that they can pull through this conflict and avert the sanctions and intervention that have been imposed on Venezuela and Nicaragua, it is in pursuit of this that they have given all manner of concessions to the right wing.
These past few weeks have proven the futility of trying to reason with coup plotters – the opposition are not a democratic force and have rebuffed every attempt at a peaceful negotiated solution that the Bolivian government have proposed. The government’s supporters have mobilized en masse to resist the coup and defend Morales’ recent election victory. They are demanding that the coup be quashed once and for all.
The stakes involved in this struggle are huge. The US and Bolivia’s right-wing opposition are not prepared to accept the legitimate re-election of Morales and seek to reverse the tremendous economic and social transformation of the country that this socialist movement has achieved since it first came to office in 2006.
The US are attempting to make all of Latin America its “backyard” again and Bolivia is its next target. Progressive people across the world must stand with Bolivia against the coup plotters and the attempts of the US to destabilise the country.