Building international solidarity with the struggle for democracy in Bolivia

Activist Claudia Turbet-Delof spoke at the recent event, Bolivia – People Power, Hope & Solidarity, marking six months since the left’s historic election victory and defeat of the coup in Bolivia. Below we reproduce her speech.

 Jallalla Bolivia!

Jallalla brothers and sisters of the world!

Jallalla our Pachamama, our Mother Earth!

Tonight, our collective and I are thrilled to be sharing a platform with comrades and leaders who have truly made a commitment to ensure an end to the killings of Bolivian people.

Between November 2019 and October 2020, Jeanine Añez, a politician with a long history of racism and separatist values, in the name of Christianity and wielding a Bible, unleashed a racist wave of repression, which resulted in the killing of our brothers and sisters in the Massacres of Sacaba, Senkata and Zona Sur in La Paz.

In fact, she led a de facto regime that systematically targeted indigenous people. Her Minister of Government, Arturo Murillo, now a fugitive from justice, organized and mobilised gangs of well-trained paramilitary thugs that went on the rampage and beat up, spat on, lynched, humiliated and brutalised indigenous people, targeting primarily, indigenous women.

My hope for tonight is that you leave inspired by the strength of our Bolivian people and its Suma Qamana (Vivir Bien) which translates as Living Well, not living Better – as for someone to ‘live better’ by default it means that someone will have to live worse off.  I also hope you leave committed to putting Bolivia on your agenda, to using all the networks within your reach to ensure that never again, not in Bolivia, nor in the Latin American region, will a coup d’etat takes place.

So, yes, as a true movement that never ends, I am here to create more links and international collaboration.

Wiphalas across the World is an international collective that has made tireless efforts and committed resistance to the violations of human rights during the de facto regime led by Jeanine Añez. Our combined grassroots experience in activism, trade unionism and the defence of human rights enabled us to join forces and build international solidarity with the struggle for democracy in Bolivia. This was in a context dominated by the crisis brought about by the pandemic and against the mainstream media silencing of the voices of the victims of the coup, especially here in Europe.

One activity we did was to take 17 pages of victims’ testimonies and video evidence to the High Commission in Geneva, as the national and international neoliberal media continued to deny a bloody coup was taking place in Bolivia.

Jeanine Añez shut down over 50 community radios stations across the country and further imprisoned journalists who resisted her regime. They persecuted media outlets that gave a voice to the Bolivian people like Kawsachun Coca News to the point of even burning their premises.  The Añez regime also paid 30,000 Bolivian pesos – an equivalent to 14 months’ wages for most working class Bolivians – so that journalists could ‘talk well of her self-proclaimed regime’.

The far right, neoliberal, capitalist-driven media have and continue to misinform the public, most recently in Le Monde in France which tried to place the blame for the massacres in Sacaba, Senkata and Zona Sur on the Evo Morales government. Similarly, in Switzerland, on International Women’s Day, journalist Fanny Moille from Swiss Radio and TV told the world that Bolivian women needed permission from their husbands to work – misinforming the public once again about the advances of our Plurinational State and women’s rights and their achievements. Thanks to the work of a determined collective in Geneva, the journalist did retract her statement.

But this is only a small example of how the racist and classist media uses colonial practices to stereotype and normalise the dehumanisation of our peoples, especially native indigenous people, in the international landscape. They negate our progress, our growth and ultimately our capacity to govern our own nation.

We are determined to challenge these colonial practices whenever they arise. And it is this determination that became the key factor in overturning a US-backed coup: We, the Bolivian people, both in Bolivia and all over the world, do not want to see the regression of our hard-fought Process of Change (el Proceso de Cambio) – a process that has brought the longest period of stability that my country has ever had.

It’s a Process of Change that recognised all our 36 nations as equals in the new Bolivian Constitution, Afro-Bolivians, Baure, Chiquitanos, Aymaras, Guarayos, Quechuas, Yucarare, Guaranis, Yuquis and another 28 more nations, all coexisting as equal peoples of our Plurinational State of Bolivia.

The Process of Change, under the then President Evo Morales led to a revolutionary shift from deep-rooted neo-colonial practices to initiatives that put our natural resources, our Mother Earth, our Pachamama and our people at the centre of a reformation process where our future prospects would no longer be based on the colour of our skin, our surnames or the neighbourhoods that we lived in.

Everyone became an equal citizen, everyone obtained the right to access free healthcare and free education. Bolivia’s poverty fell from 60% to 37% and its yearly economic growth increased by 4.5%.

 Indigenous women played a massive role in this. Their struggle substantially influenced the Constitution in the following areas:

  • Equal access to education, health and work
  • Gender equality between men and women
  • Prohibition and punishment of any form of discrimination
  • Prohibition and punishment of violence against women and children
  • The right to participate in politics – it is a requirement that 50% of the Parliament is mad up of women.

But this change and successful economic model praised by many countries in the world was not welcomed by everyone in Bolivia, as this success posed a threat to those that had traditionally profited from private contracts and multinationals that made billions from our natural resources. Their power began to lessen but their efforts to topple a democratically elected government grew, eventually materializing in the coup d’etat in November 2019.

These opposition forces, though now a clear decreasing minority in our country, received substantial financial backing and resources from the usual interventionist countries that seek to destabilise any progressive nation that dares to preserve the sovereignty of their people and who will not accept extractivism, colonialism and intervention as conditions for imposing bilateral agreements.

Separatist fascist groups in the East of Bolivia, such as the Comite Pro Santa Cruz and Union Juvenil Crucenista created the ‘Nacion Camba’ a fascist denomination that according to them distinguishes them as a ‘better race’, spreading it through the nine Departments of Bolivia, as with the Resistencia Juvenil Cochala in Cochabamba.

Their tactic is to dehumanise and discredit indigenous people and their intellects by calling them animals, raza maldita, savages, llamas, apes and illiterates. Their leaders, Ruben Costas, Branco Marinkovick and Luis Fernando Camacho are some of the figures, alongside NGOs such as Rios de Pie, that have openly and proudly shaken hands with the US and Bolsonaro for either funding or strategic support for their fascist separatist movements in Bolivia in exchange for free access to our Lithium. It is why people like Elon Musk publicly boasted of his ability to fund the coup in Bolivia.

These separatist forces, heavily funded and supported by the US, the European Union and the Church, have, to a degree, successfully imposed anti-native indigenous values on fellow Bolivians who still see themselves as lesser than the European Caucasian and refuse to embrace our Plurinational State and its multicultural strengths. Statements such as the ones of Alejandro Entrambasaguas, a supposed ‘journalist’ related to Vox interests, have been applauded even by Bolivians, despite its deep racism against Bolivian citizens.

As an international movement, we will continue to strive to foster education on the decolonisation of our minds and our bodies so that the Process of Change continues to be a driving force for the Suma Qamana (Vivir Bien) that we want for all Bolivia and the world.

Before I close with a call to action for us all, I want to dedicate the last part of my message to all the 37 people killed, the 860 injured and over 1,500 imprisoned and still politically persecuted. To the indigenous women who were systematically abused:  we will always stand with you.

As a call of action, I want to I want to share with you two actions, because our work is simply not finished: fascist forces are working against the clock to again topple the democracy of the people.

First: Offer your international support and solidarity to the phenomenal agenda of our newly elected President Luis Arce and and Vice-President David Choquehuanca. Already our country has seen humanity back in the streets of Bolivia and a bruised economy being restored again.

Second: Support and bring visibility to the Fue Golpe (“It was a coup”)Mural and Film Documentary, which are now being described as tools to incite violence.

 Jallalla Bolivia! Jallalla the plurinational state of Bolivia!

Claudia Turbet-Delof is an activist with Wiphalas Across the World

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