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Twitter Targets Accounts of MintPress and Other Outlets Covering Unrest in Bolivia

By Alan Macleod | MintPress News | June 29, 2020

Social media giant Twitter took the step of suspending the official account of MintPress News on Saturday. Without warning, the nine-year-old account with 64,000 followers was abruptly labeled as “fake” or “spam” and restricted. This move is becoming a frequent occurrence for alternative media, especially those that openly challenge U.S. power globally.

Immediately preceding the ban, MintPress had been sharing stories about Israeli government crimes against Palestinians, the Saudi-led onslaught in Yemen (both funded and supported by Washington), and about activists challenging chemical giant Monsanto’s latest plans. However, MintPess correspondent Ollie Vargas, stationed in Bolivia and covering the coup and other events there, had another theory on the suspension. Vargas noted that his account, along with union leader Leonardo Loza and independent Bolivian outlets Kawsachun Coca and Kawsachun News were all suspended at the same time. “There was a coordinated takedown of numerous users & outlets based in Chapare, Bolivia. Thousands of fake accounts appeared after the coup. We believe they’re being mobilized to mass report those who criticize the regime,” he said. Since the November coup, Bolivia has been the sight of intense political struggle, with MintPress one of the only Western outlets, large or small, extensively covering the situation (and from a perspective that directly challenges the official US government line). Vargas added that all those accounts suspended appeared in his Twitter bio.

In December, MintPress reported how the strongly conservative Bolivian elite is treating social media as a key battleground in pushing the coup forward, with over 5,000 accounts created on the day of the insurrection tweeting using pro-coup hashtags. With the new administration still lacking both legitimacy and public support, it appears the next step is to simply silence dissenting voices online like they have been silenced inside the country. Kawsachun Coca and Kawsachun News, located in the Chapare region, still not under government control, are among the only remaining outlets critical of the Añez administration.

As Twitter has developed into a worldwide medium of communication, it has also grown an increasingly close relationship with Western state power. In September, a senior Twitter executive was unmasked as an active duty officer in a British Army brigade whose specialty was online and psychological warfare. It was almost entirely ignored by corporate media; the one and only journalist at a major publication covering the story was pushed out of his job weeks later. Earlier this month, Twitter announced it worked with a hawkish U.S.- and Australian-government sponsored think tank to purge nearly 200,000 Chinese, Russian and Iranian accounts from its platform. It has also worked hard to remove Venezuelan users critical of U.S. regime change, including large numbers of government members. Meanwhile, despite detailed academic work exposing them, Venezuelan opposition bot networks remain free to promote intervention.

Facebook has also been working hand-in-hand with the Atlantic Council, a NATO think tank, to determine what users and posts are legitimate and what is fake news, effectively giving control over what its 2.4 billion users see in their news feeds to the military organization. Reddit, another huge social media platform, recently appointed a former deputy director at the council to be its head of policy.

Earlier this year, Facebook announced that it was banning all positive appraisals of Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general and statesman assassinated by the Trump administration. This, it explained, was because Trump had labeled the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization. “We operate under U.S. sanctions laws, including those related to the U.S. government’s designation of the IRGC and its leadership,” it said in a statement. This is particularly worrying, as Soleimani was the country’s most popular public figure, with over 80 percent of Iranians holding a positive view of him, according to a University of Maryland poll. Therefore, because of the whims of the Trump administration, Facebook began suppressing a majority view shared by Iranians with other Iranians in Farsi across all its platforms, including Instagram. Thus, the line between the state, the military industrial complex, and big media platforms whose job should be to hold them to account has blurred beyond distinction. The incident also once again highlights that big tech monopolies are not public resources, but increasingly tightly controlled American enterprises working in conjunction with Washington.

More worryingly, it is the tech companies themselves who are pushing for this integration. “What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century,” wrote Google executives Eric Schmidt and Larry Cohen in their book, The New Digital Age, “technology and cyber-security companies [like Google] will be to the twenty-first.” The book was heartily endorsed by Atlantic Council director Henry Kissinger.

After an online outcry including journalists like Ben Norton directly appealing to administrators, the accounts were reinstated today. However, the weekend’s events are another point of reference in the trend of harassing and suppressing independent, alternative or foreign media that challenges the U.S. state power, an increasingly large part of which is linked to the big online media platforms we rely on for free exchange of ideas, opinions and discourse.

On the incident, MintPress founder Mnar Muhawesh said:

Twitter’s ban hammer and censorship army of flaggers is an attempt to re-tighten state and corporate control over the free flow of information. That’s why it’s no wonder independent media like MintPress News, Kawsachun, and watchdog journalists covering state crimes like Ollie Vargas have been targeted in what appears to be an organized effort to silence and censor dissent. Twitter’s message is very clear: our first amendment is not welcome, as long as it challenges establishment narratives.”

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent.

July 3, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

Parliament summons Jeanine Áñez to clarify corruption scandal

By Lucas Leiroz | May 29, 2020

The coup d’état carried out in Bolivia was the starting point for a major wave of social, political and economic setbacks in the country. Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, with very high poverty rates, however, during the years of Evo Morales, the country’s growth was enormous, reaching the point of being the South American country with the greatest economic growth. The seizure of power by the coup d’état represented the return of the worst growth rates, in addition to a huge escalation of violence against indigenous populations – extremely respected previously by Evo Morales – and gigantic corruption scandals.

Bolivia’s interim president, Jeanine Añez, recently proved the nature behind the new government by being indicted in a lawsuit. Añez and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Karen Longaric, were the first people summoned to provide information for a current investigation. The charge against both is of involvement in corruption networks during the purchase of ventilators and other medical supplies to – supposedly – fight the pandemic.

The corruption scandal in Bolivia started a few weeks ago, when health professionals reported that the Spanish ventilators acquired by the Bolivian State were of low quality and unfit for hospital use with the purpose of facing a pandemic. According to official sources, the Bolivian government has spent more than $27,000 on each device (about 170 devices), while domestic producers (Bolivians) charge about $1,000.

“This investigation will summon Jeanine Áñez, Longaric and other officials involved in this purchase that has become theft of the pockets of the entire Bolivian people,” lawmaker Édgar Montaño told reporters. According to the parliamentarian, Áñez must acknowledge that she knew all the details of the agreement, which she herself had ordered, while Longaric must explain why no action was taken after the Bolivian consul in Barcelona sent a report with the details of the contract. It is also worth remembering that, on Wednesday (May 20), Bolivia’s Minister of Health, Marcelo Navajas, was arrested and dismissed from office on suspicion of involvement in the corruption scandal.

As investigations progress, the situation becomes increasingly serious for Bolivian domestic politics, as major corruption schemes and illicit deals are discovered, revealed, and meticulously used as political weapons in party disputes within the country. Some people and groups that support the legitimate Bolivian president, Evo Morales, are innocently celebrating the performance of the Bolivian Parliament “against the coup”, but, in fact, there is no reason to celebrate so far.

If, on the one hand, there is something positive in the fact that the illicit activities of the coup government are being exposed, on the other, the central objective of the coup is being accomplished: the intention of the groups that financed and supported the overthrow of Morales was never to put Jeanine Añez (or any other politician) in power, but to completely destabilize the Bolivian State, creating a scenario of absolute political chaos, with total institutional bankruptcy, thus facilitating the transformation of Bolivia into a land of foreign interference.

In fact, we can predict that from now on it is likely that the next presidents of Bolivia, be they left or right (terms absolutely outdated and geopolitically irrelevant), will fall in succession, without completing their mandates and the country’s command will remain, thus, vulnerable and without a central guardian of law and order. Within the chaotic scenario, the irregular action of external agents and foreign meddling in Bolivia will be simpler and, in addition to structural problems such as poverty and hunger, Bolivians would have to deal with a situation of total subordination to foreign powers – which it did not exist in the time of Morales, when the country tried to chart a sovereign and independent way, besides achieving diverse progress in many social indices.

What now happens in Bolivia can also be seen when we analyze several previous experiences. Countries victimized by the so-called “colorful revolutions” – hybrid wars disguised under the mask of democratic revolutions – tend to be characterized after the outcome of such “revolutions” by the establishment of true “zombie states”, which consist of nothing more than innocuous institutions and without any strength to deal with the real problems of their countries.

With the presidential election situation still uncertain in the midst of the pandemic – the Executive Branch and the Judiciary made different decisions and, amid institutional chaos, nothing is yet fully defined – the future of the Bolivian government is really unknown, but the scenario is very pessimistic, with few expectations of overcoming the crisis. The tendency is for Jeanine to fall and, after her, the next president will also not fulfill his mandate completely. In contemporary hybrid warfare, attacks are continuous and “colorful revolutions” tend to be permanent.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

May 29, 2020 Posted by | Corruption | , | Leave a comment

Bolivia’s Public Companies Are Being Dismantled, Morales Says

teleSUR | May 8, 2020

Bolivia’s former President Evo Morales denounced that the coup-born regime led by Jeanine Añez is dismantling state-owned companies such as Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB), Bolivian Airlines (BoA), and Bolivian Telecommunications (Entel).​​​​​

“Jeanine Áñez’s trusted men, Herland Soliz and Elio Montes, embezzled from the Bolivian Oil Company and the Bolivian Telecommunications enterprises… A similar fate awaits to Bolivian Aviation Company (BOA)” Morales tweeted.

In February, the Entel director Elio Montes was arrested at a U.S. airport because he was carrying a high amount of money. Under his management, the Bolivian authorities investigated unjustified expenses in the telecommunications company.

“The Bolivian people fought for their natural resources and against plundering and privatization. In 2006, we nationalized the petroleum industry… Today it is at risk because of mismanagement and corruption,” the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) presidential candidate Luis Arce tweeted.​​​​​​​

“We, Bolivians, along with our social organizations, have the duty to defend strategic companies,” Morales said and warned that “if we don’t protect them, it will be tough to get out of the crisis.”

In late 2019, the Santa Cruz’s Parliamentary Group president Erick Moran denounced that the Añez regime had appointed private entrepreneurs as managers of the aviation company.

Even though the self-proclaimed president said that the capital of this company would increase, its financial sustainability has worsened.

“The de facto government is destroying what Bolivians had a hard time recovering,” Morales added.

May 9, 2020 Posted by | Corruption | , , | Leave a comment

Washington Post Admits OAS Bolivia Election Report It Defended During Coup Was ‘Deeply Flawed’

By Morgan Artyukhina | Sputnik | February 27, 2020

The Washington Post reported Thursday on a study concluding the Organization of American States’ claims of voter fraud in the October 2019 Bolivian election “appear deeply flawed.” However, the paper’s editorial board consistently pushed the narrative that Evo Morales was “undermin[ing] Bolivia’s democracy” during the crisis leading to his ouster.

‘Deeply Flawed’ Conclusions

“Bolivia dismissed its October elections as fraudulent. Our research found no reason to suspect fraud,” reads a Thursday headline in the Washington Post’s analysis section. Penned by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Election Data and Science Lab researchers John Curiel and Jack R. Williams, the piece based on their study closely examines data from the October 20 Bolivian election and methods used by the Organization of American States (OAS) to determine the vote count had been fraudulent.

“There is not any statistical evidence of fraud that we can find – the trends in the preliminary count, the lack of any big jump in support for Morales after the halt, and the size of Morales’s margin all appear legitimate,” the duo concluded. “All in all, the OAS’s statistical analysis and conclusions would appear deeply flawed.”

MIT Graph showing Morales’ Movement for Socialism steadily gained ground as votes were tallied, explaining Evo Morales’ late victory

According to the researchers, the OAS’ conclusion relies on an undemonstrated assumption: that actual voting results are accurately reflected by unofficial counts and by reported voter preferences, and that deviation between these heavily points to voter fraud by the Bolivian government once official counting was resumed the day after election day. La Paz had previously promised to count four-fifths of preliminary votes on election night and count the rest the next day, but when Morales’ standing began to improve after the resumption of counting, the OAS cried foul.

“Our results were straightforward. There does not seem to be a statistically significant difference in the margin before and after the halt of the preliminary vote,” Curiel and Williams wrote. “Instead, it is highly likely that Morales surpassed the 10-percentage-point margin in the first round.”

MIT Graph showing correlation margin of voting precincts’ results before and after tallying was paused, demonstrating no new irregularities

The researchers ran 1,000 simulations to see if the difference between votes for Morales and his closest competitor, Carlos Masa, could be predicted. “In our simulations, we found that Morales could expect at least a 10.49 point lead over his closest competitor, above the necessary 10-percentage-point threshold necessary to win outright. Again, this suggests that any increase in Morales’s margin after the stop can be explained entirely by the votes already counted.”

MIT Graph showing Evo Morales’ margin of victory in 1,000 simulations of the October 20, 2019 Bolivian election

The study was reprinted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), which noted in a disclosure that it “contracted with the authors to see if the numerical and statistical results of CEPR’s November 2019 study could be independently verified. Any analysis and interpretation of findings in this report express the sole views of the authors, researchers at MIT Election Data and Science Lab.”

“The OAS greatly misled the media and the public about what happened in Bolivia’s elections, and helped to foster a great deal of mistrust in the electoral process and the results,” economist and CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said in a Thursday statement about the MIT report. “The OAS needs to explain why it made these statements and why anyone should trust it when it comes to elections.”

Parallel Findings Prior to Coup Ignored

However, at the time of the crisis, Washington Post editors seemed uninterested in CEPR’s analysis, deferring instead to the OAS, whose faults CEPR had already seen through even before Morales was ousted.

The day after the OAS statement and two days after the election, Weisbrot called on the body to retract its “irresponsible” statement on the election.

“The OAS statement implies that there is something wrong with the vote count in Bolivia because later-reporting voting centers showed a different margin than earlier ones,” Weisbrot said. “But it provides absolutely no evidence – no statistics, numbers, or facts of any kind – to support this idea. And in fact, a preliminary analysis of the voting data at all of the more than 34,000 voting tables – which is all publicly available and can be downloaded by anyone – shows no evidence of irregularity.”

“This kind of change in voting results, due to later-reporting areas being politically or demographically different than earlier ones, is quite common in election returns – as anyone who has watched election returns come in on CNN in the United States knows,” Weisbrot continued. “That is why it is wrong to draw conclusions from a change in the voting pattern without any statistical analysis or even looking closely at the data.”

“As this narrative gets repeated in the media, it will take on a life of its own, and will be difficult to correct, even as more people look at the data, or produce statistical analysis,” he warned.

CEPR’s formal report was published on November 8, titled, “No Evidence That Bolivian Election Results Were Affected by Irregularities or Fraud, Statistical Analysis Shows.” Two days later, opposition forces, urged on by supportive western powers including the United States, forced Morales from office, and the opposition and began a violent and bloody purge against the Movement for Socialism–Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples (MAS-IPSP), Morales’ indigenous-working class umbrella party.

Newspaper Beat Coup Drums During Crisis

As Weisbrot predicted, the media did perpetuate this narrative – and the Washington Post played a key role in building momentum for Morales’ ouster.

On October 14, six days before the election, the Post ran a story titled “How Evo Morales running again – and again – undermines Bolivia’s democracy,” which warned that “depending on how the election goes,” Morales’ next term “could place democracy itself at risk in the Andean country.”

“In a tight race, international scrutiny and a strong, unified response to any electoral irregularities could be what allows Bolivians to salvage their democracy from the brink,” the opinion piece warns.

​However, four days after the election, on October 24, the Washington Post’s editorial board made its official voice known, declaring that “There’s still time for Bolivia’s president to right the path to democracy.” The article justifies its position using the OAS La Paz observer statement from October 21 and a similar one by the US State Department, which was adamantly pro-coup.

Then on November 10, the coup came, and Morales was forced to resign and flee the country. After pro-opposition police forces and far-right militias acted to block MAS senators from attending a key Senate session on November 12, the highest-ranking opposition senator, Jeanine Añez, declared herself the country’s interim president. Añez moved quickly to prepare de facto martial law, and the army and police massacred dozens of Morales supporters who rallied against the seizure of power.

A backer of former President Evo Morales scuffles with police in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. The opposition senator who has claimed Bolivia's presidency Jeanine Anez, faces the challenge of stabilizing the nation and organizing national elections within three months at a time of political disputes that pushed Morales to fly off to self-exile in Mexico after 14 years in power. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
© AP Photo / Natacha Pisarenko A backer of former President Evo Morales scuffles with police in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019.

The opposition senator who has claimed Bolivia’s presidency, Jeanine Anez, faces the challenge of stabilizing the nation and organizing national elections within three months at a time of political disputes that pushed Morales to fly off to self-exile in Mexico after 14 years in power.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, built a bulwark of pro-coup support for its readers in the nation’s capital and around the world. On November 11, during the interregnum, the Post’s editorial board once again made its voice heard: “Bolivia is in danger of slipping into anarchy. It’s Evo Morales’s fault.”

“Mr. Morales, who had grown increasingly autocratic in nearly 14 years in office, insisted on running for a fourth term even after he lost a national referendum on whether he could seek it. The electoral tribunal, which he controls, then moved to falsify the results of the Oct. 20 vote so as to hand him a first-round victory,” the paper’s editors wrote, stating as fact what had previously been merely warned to be suspected. “The result was predictable: Angry Bolivians took to the streets all over the country. They had been demonstrating for weeks when, on Sunday, an audit released by the Organization of American States reported massive irregularities in the vote count and called for a fresh election.”

Two days later, the day after Añez seized power, the Post ran another story by the title “It’s not just a ‘coup’: Bolivia’s democracy is in meltdown.” Then on the 15th came the laconically titled piece, “The Bolivian ‘coup’ that wasn’t.” While the two stories quibble over what to call the opposition’s seizure of power, the underlying point is the same: Morales tried to steal the election and went against world opinion and domestic popular will by clinging to power.

With the publication of Curiel’s and Williams’ findings, the Post has helped to unring the bell it shook so hard during the election crisis. However, it doesn’t change the fact that the paper helped provide ideological cover for the ouster of yet another democratically elected leader in a Third World nation by uncritically accepting and repeating the US State Department’s positions and those of international bodies like the OAS that help forward its policies.

February 27, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

Ocasio-Cortez to Constituents on Bolivian Coup: Drop Dead

By Jacob Levich | CounterPunch | February 14, 2020

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the celebrity who moonlights as my Congressional representative, has repeatedly claimed to speak for “ordinary people,” but she refuses listen to them,  even if they are constituents.

In late November, shortly after the US-backed military coup that unseated the legitimate president of Bolivia, I together with my life companion requested a meeting with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, whose local offices are located just a short walk from our Jackson Heights apartment building. Working on behalf of a group of anti-imperialists opposing the fascist junta, we hoped to persuade her of the need to act quickly to thwart the coup and defend the lives and rights of the Bolivian people.

Although we never got past the reception desk, we were permitted to present a petition signed by leading academics and anti-imperialist organizers on behalf of the people of Bolivia. We provided all personal data and contact info requested by the office. We were promised that we would be contacted promptly to discuss scheduling a meeting.

We were not contacted. For weeks. After pressing the issue, always taking care to remain courteous and respectful of process, we were subjected to a galling and contemptuous bureaucratic runaround that sometimes felt like applying to – and being rejected by – an exclusive private school.

This three-month process involved repeated visits to her office, where our reception ranged from chilly to downright intimidating, endless emails and telephone calls, bureaucratic excuses and dissimulations, and eventually, after much persistence on our part, a half-hour vetting via conference call by a Washington staffer.

The result? As we say in Queens, bubkes.

By contrast, a group of imperialist sympathizers who had been promoting the coup for months were granted instant access. On November 16, four days after the military coup that destroyed Bolivian democracy, Ocasio-Cortez met with a group of pro-Áñez, pro-Camacho activists led by one Ana Carola Traverso. Traverso’s connections to the Bolivian coup plotters have been extensively documented online.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez symbolically embraced the coup by posing for a photo with this group as they brandished the tricolor Bolivian flag, which during that period had become a signal of support for the golpistas (as opposed to the Wiphala flag, which symbolized popular resistance to the takeover). She told them that she supports their “democratic grassroots movement” and offered them “direct lines of communication.”

In sum, a gang of coup supporters, not constituents, were granted instant access, a photo op and promises of ongoing support. Actual constituents, opposing the coup, were shown the door.

Our reception by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was radically different from that I received from her predecessor, Joe Crowley. When, in 2004, I requested a meeting on behalf of the Queens Antiwar Coalition, we were granted prompt and respectful access to the Congressman. We did not have high hopes of changing his vote on the Iraq war, but we felt it was important that he hear from his constituents.

So, apparently, did he. We were greeted warmly in his rather funky local office – a striking contrast with AOC’s soulless corporate-style digs, where underlings refer to her as “the Boss”  – and were encouraged to speak our piece. Crowley never pretended to be an opponent of US imperialism, but he gave us a respectful hearing, stated his position, and engaged in what felt like meaningful discussion of the war. At a minimum, as Twitter’s bluecheck pundits would say, we felt “seen.”

AOC, by contrast, has no time for people who cannot help her to burnish her brand as she prepares to run for higher office. As a local staffer (who declined to introduce himself) proudly informed us: “She refuses 99 percent of meeting requests from constituents.”

Meanwhile, she happily clears her schedule for interviews about her makeup routine, canned videos in which she postures as a fearless progressive, and closed-door meetings with regime-change sympathizers.

But she will not make time for residents of her district. So much for “ordinary people.”

February 21, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , | 1 Comment

Bolivia: An election in the midst of an ongoing coup

By Vijay Prashad | Globetrotter | February 12, 2020

On May 3, 2020, the Bolivian people will go to the polls once more. They return there because President Evo Morales had been overthrown in a coup in November 2019. Morales had just won a presidential election in October for a term that would have begun in January 2020. Based on a preliminary investigation by the Organization of American States (OAS) that claimed that there was fraud in the election, Morales was prematurely removed from office; the term for his 2014 presidential election victory did not end until January. Yet, he was told by the military to leave office. An interim president—Jeanine Áñez—appointed herself. She said she was taking this office only on an interim basis and would not run for election when Bolivia held another election. She is a candidate for the May 3 election. (For more information on what is happening in Bolivia, see this overview from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.)

Meanwhile, Morales has been in exile in Argentina. His party—the Movement for Socialism (MAS)—has candidates for the presidency and the vice presidency, but their party cadres and followers are facing a difficult time making their case to the people. Their radio stations have been blocked, their leaders arrested or exiled (or sitting in foreign embassies waiting for asylum), their cadre beaten up and intimidated.

The United Nations secretary-general’s personal envoy Jean Arnault released a statement on February 3 that expressed caution about the elections. The situation in Bolivia, Arnault said, is “characterized by an exacerbated polarization and mixed feelings of hope, but also of uncertainty, restlessness and resentment after the serious political and social crisis of last year.” This careful language of the UN needs to be looked at closely. When Arnault says there is “exacerbated polarization,” he means that the situation is extremely tense. When he asks that the interim government “outlaw hate speech and direct or indirect incitement to violence or discrimination,” he means that the government and its far-right followers need to be very careful about what they say and how much violence they use in this election.

On February 6, Morales spoke in Buenos Aires, where he urged an end to the violence so that the election could bring the fractured country together. He called for a national agreement between all sides to end the dangerous situation. In a pointed way, Morales called upon the government to respect diversity, noting that people wearing distinct clothes and wearing the signs of a certain political party were facing intimidation and violence. He meant the indigenous population of Bolivia, and the supporters of MAS; it is widely accepted that the violence has been coming from the far right’s paramilitary shock troops, and the intimidation has been coming from the government.

For instance, the Bolivian authorities have been routinely charging MAS leaders with sedition, terrorism, and incitement to violence. Morales faced these charges, along with dozens of important MAS leaders, most recently Gustavo Torrico who has been arrested. Matters are so bad that the UN’s special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, took to Twitter to express his concern at the “use of judicial and fiscal institutions for the purpose of political persecution. The number of illegal detentions grows.” This has not stopped Áñez, who says she will move her government to investigate at least 592 people who held high office in Morales’ 14 years in government. This means that the entirety of the MAS leadership will likely face harassment between now and the May 3 election.

U.S. Interference

In 2013, Morales expelled the U.S. government agency USAID; he accused USAID of working to undermine his elected government. Before that, Morales, as is his constitutional right, informed Salvador Romero—the head of the election agency (TSE)—that when his term ended in 2008, he would not be retained. This is a normal practice.

Romero went to the U.S. Embassy to complain. He met with U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg to complain about this and urged the U.S. to do something. It was clear that Romero and Goldberg knew each other well. When Romero left his post at the TSE, the U.S. establishment took care of him. He went to work at the National Democratic Institute in Honduras. The National Democratic Institute, based in Washington, is loosely affiliated with the U.S. Democratic Party, and is part of the universe that includes the National Endowment for Democracy. These are all U.S. government-funded agencies that operate overseas to “oversee” what is known as “democracy promotion,” including elections.

Romero essentially worked for the U.S. government in Honduras during the first election after the U.S.-instigated coup of 2009. During this election in 2013, violence against the supporters of Xiomara Castro, the candidate of the left-wing Libre Party, was routine. The day before the election, for instance, two leaders of the National Center of Farmworkers (CNTC)—María Amparo Pineda Duarte and Julio Ramón Maradiaga—were killed as they returned home from a training for Libre election workers. This was the atmosphere of this very tight election, which returned to power the U.S.-backed conservative candidate Juan Orlando Hernández of the National Party. Romero, at that time, was quite pleased with the results. He told the New York Times then that “despite ‘the general perception of fraud,’” the election was just fine.

Right after the coup in November, Áñez brought Romero back to La Paz as the head of the election court, the TSE. He has his old job back. This would have made Bruce Williamson, the U.S. charge d’affaires to Bolivia, very happy. The U.S. has its man at the helm of the May 3 election in Bolivia.

And then Trump said he is sending USAID to Bolivia to help prepare the ground for the election. On January 9, the USAID team arrived to “give technical aid to the electoral process in Bolivia.” Technical aid. The phrase should give a reasonable person pause.

Ten days later, Trump’s legal adviser Mauricio Claver-Carone arrived in La Paz and gave a series of interviews in which he accused Morales of terrorism and creating instability. This was a direct attack at MAS and interference with Bolivia’s electoral process.

If the U.S. intervenes in Bolivia, that is just “democracy promotion.”

But even with the violence from the government and its fascistic paramilitaries, even with Romero at the helm of the TSE, even with USAID on the ground, and even with the shenanigans of Claver-Carone, MAS is fighting to win. The candidates for MAS are Luis Arce Catacora (president) and David Choquehuanca Céspedes (vice president). Catacora was the minister of economy and public finance under Morales and the architect of the administration’s economic success. Céspedes was the foreign minister in that government. He managed Bolivia’s policy of international sovereignty and is an important person to Bolivia’s indigenous and peasant movements. Early polls show that the MAS ticket is in first place.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than twenty books, including The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (The New Press, 2007), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013), The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016) and Red Star Over the Third World (LeftWord, 2017). He writes regularly for Frontline, the Hindu, Newsclick, AlterNet and BirGün.

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , | Leave a comment

First Israel-Bolivia diplomatic meeting since 2009

MEMO | February 4, 2020

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, met with his Bolivian counterpart, Ruben Suarez, in an official meeting, which is the first of its kind since Bolivia cut ties with Israel in 2009, according to Hebrew media.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Monday that the meeting took place last week at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

According to the newspaper, the two ambassadors discussed setting up an embassy for Bolivia in Israel, strengthening cooperation in the fields of water technology and agriculture, and permitting Israeli tourists to revisit the South American country.

Danon invited Suarez to visit Israel as part of a planned visit by a delegation of UN ambassadors next April.

In November 2019, Bolivia announced the resumption of its relations with Israel after cutting diplomatic ties in light of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip (27 December 2008 – 28 January 2009), reported the newspaper.

According to the same source, the relations between the two countries were resumed following the end of Evo Morales’s presidential term (January 2006 – November 2019), “ who was known for his hostility towards Israel, and the arrival of a transitional pro-US government.”

The newspaper said that the recent appointment of Suarez as Bolivia’s representative to the United Nations “will boost Israeli moves at the United Nations.”

The newspaper also considered Suarez’s predecessor Sacha Lorenti to have “anti-Israel” stands.

February 4, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment

Bolivian Ex-President Morales’ Cabinet Chief Hermosa Handed Six Month Detention

Sputnik – February 3, 2020

Patricia Hermosa, the former cabinet chief of ex-Bolivian President Evo Morales’ administration, has been handed a six-month preventive detention order by a Bolivian court, El Diario daily reported.

Bolivian prosecutors pushed for Hermosa to be placed in preventive detention, claiming that she was both a flight risk and could potentially obstruct the investigation. The court on Sunday agreed with prosecutors, and ordered the former cabinet chief to spend six months in preventive detention, the newspaper reported.

Hermosa was first detained in December as part of the new Bolivian government’s ongoing investigation into Morales but was initially released due to insufficient evidence. However, she was arrested once again this past week after authorities claimed to possess recordings of Hermosa’s telephone conversations with leading Bolivian officials. She is charged with sedition, terrorism and financing terrorism.

The news comes just one day after two ministers of ousted President Morales’ administration left Bolivia for Mexico. Many members of Morales’ former government have been living at the Mexican ambassador’s residence in Bolivia while waiting for their asylum requests to be processed. Morales himself is currently living in Argentina after fleeing Bolivia.

On Friday, Morales reported that Hermosa was detained by Bolivian law enforcement officials, who also seized personal documents belonging to the ex-president during the former cabinet chief’s apprehension.

February 3, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | Leave a comment

Bolivia’s Coup-Born Regime Arrests Socialist Political Refugees

Former Mining Minister Cesar Navarro (L) and former Agriculture Minister Pedro Dorado (R), Bolivia.

Former Mining Minister Cesar Navarro (L) and former Agriculture Minister Pedro Dorado (R), Bolivia. | Photo: Twitter/ @ATBDigital
teleSUR | February 1, 2020

Bolivia’s Former Mining Minister Cesar Navarro and former Agriculture Minister Pedro Dorado were arrested at the El Alto airport on Saturday when they were about to board a plane as political refugees.

For the past 82 days, these Socialists politicians remained at the Mexican embassy. Yesterday, they received a safe-conduct allowing their free departure from the country.

“The Mexican embassy transferred the asylees to the El Alto airport with the guarantee granted by the safe-conduct extended by the Bolivian government. In that sense, the asylees should be transferred to Mexico without any problem,” the Mexican diplomatic delegation tweeted.

Even though international mediators accompanied the Socialist politicians, the Interior Ministry arrested them disrespecting the safe-conduct granted by its government.​​​​

Latin American social organizations immediately began to criticize harshly Karen Longari, the Foreign Minister appointed by the U.S.-backed, self-proclaimed president Jeanina Añez, who is ultimately responsible for the ongoing persecution against the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) militants.

“We repudiate the arbitrary and illegal act of detention of former ministers Navarro and Damian, which violates all international standards. Solidarity!,” the Sao Paulo Forum secretary Monica Valente said.

Navarro was provisionally released a few hours after his arrest. According to his daughter, the former minister would have been beaten by paramilitary groups during his detention.

Later, Interior Minister Arturo Murillo said that Navarro and Dorado “had been arrested by mistake” and they will leave the country in the next hours. So far, however, their exact legal status is unknown.

Their detention is part of the long list of MAS supporters persecuted by the Interim government installed after the coup d’etat against Evo Morales, which took place on Nov. 10, 2019.​​​​​​​

February 2, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Under fire for presidency bid, Bolivia interim leader asks all ministers to resign

Press TV – January 27, 2020

Bolivia’s interim leader Jeanine Anez has asked all cabinet ministers to resign months ahead of general elections amid growing criticisms of her bid to run for president despite an earlier pledge not to do so.

A presidential statement on Sunday said that Anez’s decision was in line with efforts in the management of the country’s “democratic transition,” months after she rose to power on the back of an an effective coup d’état that forced ex-President Evo Morales to resign.

Anez said she will name the new cabinet “as soon as possible.”

The move came a day after Communication Minister Roxana Lizarraga resigned in protest at Anez’s decision to compete in the presidential election on May 3.

When Anez assumed interim presidency last November, she said she had no intention of becoming president.

In a U-turn on Friday, Anez announced her candidacy in the 2020 election.

Lizarraga, who was appointed by Anez on November 13, 2019, criticized the interim president for having “lost sight of her objectives,” adding, “This is not the path the citizenry has signaled to us.”

Anez’s presidential bid has drawn widespread criticisms from other Bolivian politicians, including Morales —now in exile in Argentina.

Morales reminded Anez that “she promised not to be a candidate,” although he said “it is her right.”

Former president Carlos Mesa, 66, said, “I think she’s making a big mistake” because “she has not been appointed to propose herself as a candidate for the presidency.”

Ex-presidential candidate Samuel Doria Medina voiced his opposition.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Luis Felipe Dorado said he would consult the Constitutional Court about the matter.

Anez came only fourth on 12 percent in an opinion poll published on Sunday that was led by Morales’s Movement for Socialism (MAS) candidate with 26 percent.

MAS headed the survey by Mercados y Muestras and published in the Pagina Siete newspaper.

“In all the polls we are first,” Morales tweeted in reaction, adding, “We are ready to beat the coup and regain the homeland.”

January 27, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , | 1 Comment

Bolivia: MAS Presidential Candidate Becomes Target of Lawfare

Luis Arce at a news conference after being announced as the Movement to Socialism's presidential candidate, in Buenos Aires, Argentina Jan. 20, 2020.

Luis Arce at a news conference after being announced as the Movement to Socialism’s presidential candidate, in Buenos Aires, Argentina Jan. 20, 2020. | Photo: Reuters
teleSUR | January 22, 2020

Bolivia’s Office of the Prosecutor expanded an investigation against Evo Morales’ former officials, among whom is Luis Arce, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) presidential candidate.

The announcement was made by prosecutor Heidi Gil one day after the MAS unveiled that Arce would be its presidential candidate in the upcoming elections in May.

The judicial process is related to the alleged diversion of public resources from the Indigenous Development Fund (Fondioc), a case in which former Presidency’s Minister Juan Ramon Quintana has also been mentioned.

“If the Prosecutor finds enough evidence during the extension of the investigation, they will be called to testify,” Gil said referring to Arce and Quintana.

The extension of the judicial investigation was requested by the current Fondioc director, Rafael Quispe, a well-known opponent of the Morales administration who was appointed to that position by the government of Jeanine Añez.

Since the coup d’etat consummated on November 10 in Bolivia, numerous MAS militants have been subject to judicial persecution.

In this regard, the MAS leader Evo Morales said that the current U.S.-backed de facto regime does not seek justice but “revenge and impunity.”

Former Minister of Economy Luis Arce is one of the intellectuals who designed the economic model that allowed Bolivia to keep high growth rates for more than a decade.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

January 22, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | Leave a comment

Bolivia: As Elections Near, US-Backed Interim Gov’t Mobilizes Military, Arrests Opposition Leaders

By Alan Macleod | MintPress News | January 20, 2020

Wednesday, January 22 marks the day that Jeanine Añez is set to stand down as “interim” President of Bolivia, beginning the process for fresh elections set for May 3. Añez came to power in November, following a U.S.-backed coup that deposed the Movement to Socialism’s (MAS) Evo Morales. However, she is certainly not acting as if she intends to relinquish her power, let alone move towards new elections. Instead, she has sent the military, replete with tanks and other armored fighting vehicles, into the capital cities of all nine departments of the country.

MintPress News’ Ollie Vargas was on the scene in the center of the capital La Paz, where he filmed hundreds of armed soldiers performing drills outside the Cathedral of St. Francis and dozens of military vehicles circling the city, sirens on and guns drawn.

“The purpose of that is to intimidate people ahead of possible protests against the coup on the 22nd of January… This was a show of force saying you are not going to be able to march where you want. The military is preparing for war-style operations if marchers do arrive in the city. It is about intimidating the people,” he said in an interview with TeleSUR English; “The point was to be a show of force, rather than itself be an act of repression. It was there to show what repression could come.”

The military played a leading role in the November coup, demanding Morales resign and handpicking Añez as his successor. The police, too, were crucial, rebelling against Morales and later repressing protests from the country’s indigenous majority, even conducting massacres in the towns of Sacaba and Senkata. “It seems like the police are following the instructions of the far-right in Bolivia,” said United Nations Special Rapporteur Alfred de Zayas. Last week, Añez rubber stamped a pay rise for the country’s police, bringing their salaries up to that of the military’s.

For an interim government, the Añez administration has certainly made some sweeping policy changes, both at home and abroad. Internally, it has begun a mass privatization program aimed at conducting a fire sale of the country’s considerable natural resources. Since November it has been at war with the press, launching a crackdown on all media hostile to it, closing down multiple TV stations, with critical journalists disappearing or being found dead in suspicious circumstances. It has also set up new SWAT-like secret police battalions aimed at suppressing what is calls subversive voices, both domestic and foreign.

Añez has completely reoriented the country’s foreign policy, pulling out of multiple international and intercontinental organizations, expelling thousands of foreign nationals, recognizing Israel and inviting the Israeli Defense Forces to train the Bolivian security services and closing its own anti-imperialist military school.

It has also moved far closer to the United States than previously, recognizing U.S.-backed figure Juan Guaidó as the legitimate head of state of Venezuela. Earlier this month, a team from the U.S.-funded group USAID arrived in the country to advise the government on how to best conduct the upcoming election. Given the U.S.’ history in overthrowing heads of state across Latin America, the news has not been greeted with pleasure by all. Thus, while many inside the country have voiced their concern over the suspension of democracy, no one is accusing the new government of being lazy or unambitious.

MAS candidates forced to organize abroad

Under very difficult circumstances, the MAS party yesterday announced that its candidates for the May elections will be a ticket of Luis Arce Catacora for president and David Choquehuanca for vice-president. MAS leaders met in neighboring Argentina due to the repression in their own country. The location meant that a number of key figures accused of crimes by the new administration, including up-and-coming star Andrónico Rodríguez, could not attend. Arce, 58, Western-educated and middle-class, was Minister of Finance under Morales in an era when Bolivia generated high and sustained economic growth. Many see him as far from radical. His running mate is David Choquehuanca, an indigenous activist from a peasant background. He was Morales’ longtime Foreign Minister and was also secretary of ALBA, an intercontinental organization Añez has recently pulled the country out of. He is commonly seen as the driving force behind Bolivia’s anti-imperialist foreign policy, currently being dismantled by the coup government. Some will be disappointed that Andrónico Rodríguez, a charismatic indigenous 30-year-old union organizer groomed by Morales for a leadership position, was not chosen.

Whether those candidates will, until May, be able to remain in their positions – or even out of prison – is an open question. Many MAS officials, including President Morales and Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera, have been forced to flee the country or face arrest. Another MAS leader, Walter Ferrufino was arrested this weekend as he was traveling to Argentina for the meeting.

In the October election, Morales and the MAS gained 47 percent of the vote in the first round, enough to secure an overall victory. In contrast, Añez’s party, the Democrat Social Movement, received four percent. While all sides continue to behave as if a vote will take place in May, the absurdity of holding an election under the circumstances of a military takeover, where by far the most popular party is being repressed, means that there is a very real possibility the proceedings end up lacking credibility.

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent.

January 21, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | 1 Comment