Multitudinous protests against the coup continue arriving to La Paz and the repression has already caused at least 30 deaths. Photo: Aizar Raldez/AFP
One of the first ‘promises’ made by the self-proclaimed, de-facto government of opposition senator Jeanine Áñez was to “hunt down” ex-minister Juan Ramón Quintana, Raúl García Linera – brother of vice-president Álvaro García Linera -, as well as the Cuban and Venezuelan people that live in Bolivia.
The threat was publicly declared by the interior minister Arturo Murillo, designated by Áñez.
Later on, the communications minister of the de facto government, Roxana Lizárraga, accused Cuban and Venezuelan diplomats of being responsible for the violence unleashed in the country.
The statements came after an attack on the Venezuelan diplomatic office in La Paz on November 11. Armed paramilitaries surrounded the embassy with explosives and threatened to invade the building.
However, the aggression did not begin with the coup. According to Crisbeylee González, who served as the Venezuelan ambassador in Bolivia for more than 10 years, since 2008, the embassy has suffered threats from the organizations in opposition to Evo Morales and Álvaro García Linera.
During the days of tension, Crisbeylee, who is also a personal friend of Morales, decided to protect her team and she returned to her country.
On November 17, the Venezuelan diplomatic staff, made up of 13 functionaries and their family members, flew with the Venezuelan state company Conviasa from La Paz to Caracas.
Upon returning to her country, the ambassador spoke to Brasil de Fato and denounced the terror she suffered in the last couple of days.
Brasil de Fato: How did you all take the news that you would have to leave the country? Was there any hostility before the coup?
Crisbeylee González: For a while now, the opposition has talked about a “Chavista bunker” referring to the Venezuelan embassy, where we would supposedly be “ideologically orienting” the Bolivian people’s movements and youth. They even talked about us supposedly exerting pressure on Evo so that he would not abandon the socialist, Bolivarian proposal.
There were always certain times when the xenophobia increased, especially during elections. Every time that there were elections or a coup attempt, the principal target is always of course president Evo Morales but right after that, it’s the Venezuelan embassy. The diplomatic mission has always been an element that must be combated.
Since 2012 when there was a coup attempt by the police, they began to say that our embassy carried out military training with the Bolivians. A very similar discourse to what was created in Chile against the Cubans during the rule of Salvador Allende.
And with this, they were able to create a strong expression of xenophobia within the Bolivian middle classes against Venezuelans. The media also helped to create this adverse discourse against Venezuelans.
In these past couple of days [since the coup], one of the first things that they did was to say that the Venezuelans had to leave and that they were going to attack the Venezuelans. Before the elections on October 20, they already talked about attacking the embassy.
BDF: How was it to return to Venezuela?
CG: We left Bolivia at dawn, when La Paz was still blocked. In El Alto, we took the first plane of Conviasa, and had a layover in Santa Cruz. We were humiliated. They put us in a line so that everyone could see what they do with “diplomats who misbehave.”
Finally, the workers at the airport came over to us and apologized for what was happening and promised us that we would return. These things give us a lot of joy.
We left very sad, but with the conviction that the Bolivian people will not allow this coup to continue.
BDF: In the first days [after elections] it seemed like the Bolivian opposition was going to follow the same plan as the Venezuelan opposition, with Camacho as the protagonist, in the role of the political “outsider” like Guaidó. However, after, there was a fascist escalation in the coup plot. While you were there, could you feel or know in advance that a coup could happen?
Yes. We said that we came from the future to tell them what was going to happen, not because we are enlightened, but because we have had to combat diverse coups organized by the gringos and the OAS. So we saw an accumulation of factors that brought the situation to the point of no return.
In a very respectful way, in relation to everything that has happened, we point out that the government should never trust the OAS, which since its creation has been an instrument of the United States against the free people, against progressive processes.
The coup supporters were not only interested in the resignation of the leaders, but in their elimination, which is why we saw the death threats against president Evo Morales and the other leaders.
The whole coup strategy was produced very quickly, in a fraudulent way, because they burned ballots and they burned polling stations. If they were sure that they had won, and that Evo had hid votes, why then, did they burn the polling stations?
If I am sure that I won the elections, I would protect the polling stations, with prosecutors, to guarantee my triumph.
And the opposition does it with a total fanaticism, with the biggest cross of the crosses. They walk with candles, with bibles, with an exacerbation of religious act that left everyone skeptical, because no one thought that this would convince the people to follow this man. Camacho is sure that he will be the next president and that in 90 days Áñez will call for new elections.
However, in some interviews, she said that more than 90 days would be necessary. At the same time, she concedes new benefits for the military junta. This makes us remember the dictatorial regimes in our continent in the 1970s, that first installed themselves for 15 or 20 days but stayed in power for decades.
In Bolivia, the oligarchy thought that it had won and immediately took down the wiphala flag from the flagpole in the Plurinational Assembly. The police cut it off their uniforms and this represented pain, a very deep sadness for the Indigenous population, wounded not only because they obliged Evo Morales to resign but also because they hurt the soul of the Indigenous people of Bolivia when they burned their flag.
They [the opposition] did not remember the people, they thought everything would be resolved with the blockade that they did, with the support of the media.
For us, the law and respect to life is important, while they believe that they must kill the poor people, who resist these processes, so that they can maintain their domination and power.
They hide their violence behind a discourse of ‘pacification’ of the country. A pacification based on fire, guns and lies, because they hide what is happening in the communities.
BDF: What is the legacy of Evo Morales? What actions could have annoyed the sectors of the oligarchy?
CG: Evo is a very humble man, very hardworking. He is a president that wakes up at 4 or 5 in the morning and works until night, and throughout the day is searching for a way to improve the conditions of life for his people.
For this reason, he was able to open some cracks in the neoliberal model for the distribution of wealth, while he built a path towards social justice. He did not only represent the Indigenous and peasant movement, but he was concerned with the middle class too, and the youth.
From the time I arrived in Bolivia to the day that I left, the country turned into something completely different. A 180 degree turn.
In the Bolivia that I knew [before Evo], the women with polleras (skirts typically worn by Indigenous women in the region) did not get on airplanes. After, it got to the point where it became difficult to find tickets because there was an increase in purchasing power of the people.
The same in education, in health: the macroeconomic indexes that we all know; the city infrastructure, the inter-connectivity of the country, it was not only to unify it but also to ensure that the Bolivian peasant products could reach other places.
Additionally, after they were unable to win the demand for sea access, Evo had started to build an inter-oceanic highway that would connect the Paraguay-Paraná hydro-way through the Atlantic.
This is all to say that Evo was constantly struggling to improve his country, which made Bolivia one of the strongest countries on the continent today.
However, Evo never carried out any direct action against the dominant classes of Bolivia. On the contrary, on many occasions, he incorporated them into his economic measures, giving better conditions to business owners. He opened up markets across the world to the livestock farmers and to large landowners so that they could commercialize their products.
BDF: What does the coup d’état in Bolivia represent for Venezuela?
CG: It is very painful, an outrage. In the activities that we have carried out since we arrived at Caracas, people receive us crying because they cannot believe what is happening to our brother people in Bolivia.
Bolivia is the favorite land of the Liberator [Simon Bolivar]. So, what does Bolivia mean for the Venezuelan soul? A limitless love for liberty above all.
Beyond that, we have immense affection for president Evo Morales. We consolidated this love through the relationship of Evo and Chávez, which people said was like father and son.
The outrage of our people is expressed by a feeling that they are doing something against us, as if Chávez were suffering a coup.
The same thing happened when Lula was detained, we felt as if they were incarcerating Chávez.
However, we have hope that Evo will return to Bolivia, that he will reestablish constitutionality and peaceful cohabitation between both sides that in some way are irreconcilable but that can coexist and find some agreements.
BDF: In this moment there is a certain dispute between the Chamber of Deputies, led by parliamentarians of MAS that seek to take back control over the constitutionality of the country against the Senate, dominated by the de facto government that seeks to consolidate power. What can be expected? How can MAS reestablish constitutional order and call for new elections – what Evo had already accepted even before resigning?
CG: I think that as things happen, the path will become clear. I cannot predict anything because we arrived here a little more than two days ago.
The repression is brutal, which immobilizes a part of the society that demands peace, however it comes. I think it is the role of the Plurinational Assembly is to reject the resignation of president Evo Morales and along with this, negotiate for the upcoming elections.
I hope that sooner or later, the balance shifts in favor of the people. The resistance of the people put the imposed government in check-mate, they can no longer hide the massacre that they committed against the people.
There are already more than 30 dead in less than 10 days of the coup. Just as Pinochet could not hide the massacre of thousands of Chileans, this woman will not be able to hide the truth.
We are seeing the most backward face of fascism in our region, the neocolonialism, the inquisition.
At the same time that they preach with the bible in their hands, they see the blood spilled from El Alto to La Paz. This reminds us of the period of the inquisition, wherein they worshiped God and tortured and punished the people that confronted power.
I do not know what will happen, but history must continue and the infamy must be denounced, as well as the cruelty committed against the leadership of Evo Morales and the Bolivian people.
BDF: What is the role of Venezuela in this process?
CG: First, it has to continue raising the consciousness of our people. We have seen in all of the meetings that we have done until now the level of consciousness about what is happening in Bolivia. Now we have to denounce the coup in the streets, media, bilateral diplomatic spaces, and spaces of regional integration.
We are also a country that is threatened, permanently cornered. So I think that our task is also to continue denouncing this disgrace, this massacre.
The voice of the people. The social and political organizations must permanently be denouncing what is happening, without forgetting that it was a coup that took the spaces of the people that now seeks to institutionalize a big lie: that Evo resigned and that they represent democracy.
In this war of forces between the truth and the lie, the truth must open paths, we have reason. It will be the free people that show to the whole world that they do not believe and this lie will fall under its own weight, because no one can hide the blood on their hands, no one can hide the dead under the rug.
So it is not just a task that corresponds only to the Venezuelan people, but to the Brazilian people, the Latin American peoples and their organizations that are the force that can sustain this struggle.
English translation by Zoe PC