The “Civic Leader” Behind the Coup in Bolivia

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Media outlets covering the coup in Bolivia have invariably hailed one of its leaders, Luis Fernando Camacho, as a “civic leader” and painted him in positive terms. What was rarely mentioned that the “civic”organization he headed, the Pro-Santa Cruz Civic Committee is a business group that’s been at the forefront of the country’s right-wing for more than half a century.

Evo Morales, who before resigning as president after “the military suggested he step down,” as CNBC put it, had agreed to hold new elections. The New York Times said Morales’s October 20 reelection was “widely considered fraudulent, a theme widely echoed in the media though the evidence cited for this comes from the Organization of American States, a key leader of the Latin American regime change movement. (See this thread by Mark Weisbrot that rebuts the OAS report.)

Meanwhile, Camacho, the “civic” leader, has been calling for Morales’s ouster almost since the elections were held and has been asking that supporters “write down the names of traitors” so they could be jailed. On November 8th, he made clear on Twitter that he wanted the military to overthrow Morales, which it was happy to do yesterday.

So what is Camacho’s Pro-Santa Cruz Civic Committee?

It’s not a citizens group, but basically a far right-wing chamber of commerce founded in the 1950s in the department of Santa Cruz. Its goal, said this article from NACLA, was to “to protect their investments, consolidate their business interests, and create a political powerhouse in the region.

Santa Cruz is one of four departments that voted for autonomy from the central government in 2006, the year after Morales was elected. “The autonomy they are working toward is in opposition to the nationalization of resources and redistribution of wealth pushed by Morales,” Benjamin Dangl wrote in 2007.

He said the right-wing groups in Santa Cruz were “the most militant and powerful” of all, and linked them to the Unión Juvenil Crucenista, a youth group which “has been known to beat and whip campesinos marching for gas nationalization, throw rocks at students organizing against autonomy, toss molotov cocktails at the state television station, and brutally assault members of the landless movement struggling against land monopolies.” Camacho reportedly was a member of the Unión before moving on to the Pro-Santa Cruz Civic Committee.

“The former president [Morales] said he had been forced out in a ‘coup,’ complicating efforts to form a caretaker government and hold fresh elections,” the Times said in a headline today. The story emphasized that Morales’s comments, made on Twitter from an undisclosed location, “could make a political transition more difficult.”

There was no anguished talk about Camacho’s remarks back on October 31, when he was already demanding Morales immediately resign and be barred from new presidential elections. He promised they would be held by December 15.

Sure. But I guess if you can describe a “coup” as a resignation, then you can also describe a fanatically right-wing businessman as a “civic leader” and pretend he’s interested in democracy.

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