Freddy Condo, a former vice-minister under Evo Morales, talks about Bolivia’s coup regime, the role of social movements and prospects for the election scheduled for October.
In November of last year, a coup overthrew Bolivian president Evo Morales, and rightwing politician Jeanine Áñez took his place. Her government has since led a wave of repression that has left over 20 people dead and established a climate of fear and political persecution in the country.
New elections are now tentatively scheduled to take place in October of this year. The Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), Morales’ political party, is participating in the election, as is Áñez, former president Carlos Mesa and other candidates.
I spoke with Freddy Condo in La Paz this past March about the political landscape in the country. Condo is an advisor to the National Federation of Women Rural Workers of Bolivia ‘Bartolina Sisa’, and was a vice-minister of rural and agricultural development during Morales’ first term in office. He worked in the Huanuni mines as a young man, participating actively in the labour struggles in this militant sector. Condo has advised indigenous, labour and campesino movements in Bolivia for decades.
In this interview, Condo speaks about the role of the right, military and police in the coup, the political and social climate under the Áñez government, the MAS’s relations with social movements and prospects for the upcoming general election.
How do you see the conflictive times of October and November of last year?
What I’ve seen from a constitutional framework is a coup d’etat. There is no justification. So, Áñez self-proclaims as the president. But who is the one who puts the presidential sash on her? It should be the parliament, right? But the general commander of the armed forces is the one who does it. That tells us clearly that the protocols established in the legal framework haven’t been observed.
The police and military were crucial in ousting Morales. Can you talk about their role in this coup?
Apparently, during the 14-year period [under the MAS], the armed forces were assisted like never before – their budget was increased, they received war equipment, it was like giving them a raison d’être. The Air Force, for instance, didn’t have planes, didn’t have helicopters, nothing! Now they have all that. So, what happened?
You can’t change a way of thinking going back years and generations. Commanders entered the military 30 or 35 years ago, so expecting to change them overnight is very difficult. I think [the MAS government] didn’t read the situation very well, they thought the Armed Forces had changed.
You have several Mamanis and Condoris [Indigenous surnames] who joined as cadets, but they still are second lieutenants or lieutenants at best, a low rank, while the others remained.
In the police force, however, there were sergeants. And there’s a lot of privilege there. For instance, telling them they will retire with ‘the 100 per cent’. Any member of the military when they retire, they receive 100 per cent of their income. It was a difficult problem. We’re talking