As the Valencian jurist Joan Garcés, personal advisor and friend of Salvador Allende, has narrated, on Sunday, September 9, 1973, the Chilean president met with the commander in chief of the Chilean Army, Augusto Pinochet, and General Orlando Urbina at his residence in Tomás Moro. There, he announced that in the next few hours he would call the citizenship to a plebiscite to resolve the conflict between the executive and the legislative power, in order also to appease the tensions that the country was experiencing and the rumors of a coup d’etat — coup that the United States of Nixon and Kissinger had been promoting since the electoral victory of Allende, as it proves the murder of General René Schneider in 1970. At that meeting, Pinochet admitted to Allende that he hoped that this gesture would resolve the situation and promised to maintain the constitutional order and stop any hint of insurrection in the Army. Just a few hours later, back at his home for his daughter's birthday, Pinochet committed himself to the coup that would take place two days later and sealed with how own signature his participation in it — coup that is said he was not yet linked. However, other versions have said that in that same meeting with Allende, and knowing the plans of the call for the plebiscite, Pinochet asked the president to delay the announcement until Tuesday, as on Monday he had other commitments in his agenda that could not be changed; a change Allende accepted. Of course, as is well known, the plebiscite, which was to be announced at a public event at the State Technical University, was never announced: Tuesday was September 11 and, in its early morning, the military coup that would bomb La Moneda Palace and lead Allende to death had started.
The succession of those episodes of the Chilean tragedy seem to be reflected today, with strange similarity, in the coup that Bolivia is suffering. And, as Pinochet did with Allende, President Evo Morales, exiled in Mexico, has pointed at the betrayal of the OAS to mark the times of the coup. Thus, at a press conference on Wednesday, November 13, he indicated that “the [Bolivian] Foreign Ministry agreed with the OAS to deliver the official report [of the election audit] on the 12 and they requested that it would be on the 13. Surprisingly, the Sunday we were informed by Luis Almagro staff that they were going to publish it.” On Sunday, November 10, surprised by the OAS movement, Evo called for new elections, without realizing that this report was just one more stage to trigger the intervention of the Army, in order to force him to resign in exchange for stopping a bloodbath. Thus, President Evo concluded from Mexico that "the OAS made a political decision and not technical or legal one.”
However, the suspicions on the role that the OAS has played in this coup do not end here. As the Mexican journalist Luis Hernández Navarro has pointed out in La Jornada:
“The OAS played a key role in preparing and legitimizing the coup. They sent Mexican Arturo Espinosa to Bolivia as head of its mission, a raging enemy of Evo Morales. The official was forced to resign before due to his absolute lack of impartiality. Finally, the agency presented a preliminary report on the elections, based on a sample of only 333 electoral records, out of a total of 34,555. There OAS notes that it found irregularities (ranging from a strikethrough to a signature) in 23 percent of those records. However, it had no heart to call for new elections.”
(Something that, it might be added, President Evo did.)
But again, the suspicions on the content of the OAS report itself and its conclusions do not end in there. On Monday 11, the Argentine bioinformatic, teacher and researcher Rodrigo Quiroga publishes an elaborate study that details a series of analyzes on the possibility of manipulation of the electoral results and, therefore, on the alleged fraud in the elections of last October 20 in Bolivia; fraud on which the protests behind the coup are supposedly based. Among the detailed information that he gathers, Quiroga emphasizes that, from his own investigation, “looking at the distribution of votes for each party, per table, according to the percentage of participation”:
“The votes of MAS (the party of President Evo) [offer] a normal distribution, [which] denotes the regional polarization of the election.”
It is true that "there are possible irregularities with some tables", these being "at least 588", corresponding to a total of 95,955 votes, which should be reviewed. However, replacing "those tables with averages for each province" shows that "there is no indication of massive fraud.”
Quiroga concludes that "Evo's victory is unquestionable," but that "the difference of ten points is in doubt.”
On that same November 11, another even more revealing report of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) appears, whose publication was accompanied by various interviews with one of its authors in different media. The document highlights that:
Both the findings and the conclusions of the preliminary OAS report are of doubtful value, and it is explained that the OAS itself recommended the use of the rapid counting system (Transmission of Preliminary Electoral Results, TREP) and agreed with the Bolivian government to stop it to report once again the counted electoral records were around 80%, as it was done — which dismantles all suspicion about the vaunted "computer blackout" during the count. Similarly, it is pointed out that once again the OAS demanded to resume the TREP, something that was also done.
In addition, the report indicates that, although the TREP has no legal validity, the OAS report dedicates a great part of its content (around 90%) to the fragility of the TREP computer system.
It is also stressed that the OAS report, in addition to not showing massive irregularities, expresses that it is “hard-to-explain” that in the last 5% of the votes counted, Morales held 60%, while the CEPR underscores that that data is reasonable, since these votes came from regions with strong historical support for MAS.
The document highlights among its conclusions that “the politicization of what is normally an independent process of electoral monitoring seems inevitable when an organization that is entrusted with this monitoring — in this case the OAS — makes unsubstantiated claims that call into question the validity of an election count”, and that this implies “a serious breach of the public trust, and even more dangerous in the context of the sharp political polarization and postelection political violence that has taken place in Bolivia”. Therefore, the CEPR suggests that “unsubstantiated allegations should be retracted, and measures should be taken to insure the neutrality of electoral observation by the OAS in the future.”
On November 13, another report comes to light, this time under the authorship of Walter Mebane, professor of political sciences and statistic and international expert in electoral fraud, who finds irregularities in 274 tables. Professor Mebane states in his analysis that, "even with estimated “fraudulent” votes removed, MAS has a margin of more than ten percent over (the opposition party) CC". The conclusion is, therefore, even more forceful than in Quiroga’s study, since, as he points out when sharing Mebane’s, he “uses a newer version of the results with 100% of the tables loaded,” while Quiroga used one with the 96% who did not count the votes from outside Bolivia. "By adding these [last votes], even when removing the “rare" tables to MAS, the difference goes beyond 10%."
In short, and according to the investigations of both Rodrigo Quiroga and Walter Mebane and the CEPR, it is clear that it was the OAS itself that first recommended the TREP system and the times to stop and resume it; later, it promoted the rumors of fraud on a count without validity neither legal nor conclusive; and, finally, once the civic-political-police uprising was unleashed, it maneuvered through deception to discredit Evo's victory without any technical basis, opening the door to the final military coup.
It should be noted, by way of conclusion, that more than 60% of the OAS budget is provided by the United States, which was founded in 1948 as an extension of the Monroe doctrine and part of the “pan-American" principles — an euphemism built to avoid more explicit imperialist language. It is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that the OAS acts according to the interests of that who pays and rules in it, as it already did and continues doing in Cuba or Venezuela. For this reason, it is not surprising that little by little audios and other evidences involving senators such as Marco Rubio, Bob Menéndez or Ted Cruz, among others, in the plans of the Bolivian coup plotters — and in collusion with the OAS — against Evo start to be revealed.
In the same way that the nationalization of Chilean copper condemned Allende to the predatory capital of the United States, Bolivia observes today how the largest lithium reserve in the world — as historian Vijay Prashad has pointed out, fundamental in the global energy transformation — plays a seminal role in the internal politics of the country and in the struggle for its sovereignty. The OAS has acted with Evo as Pinochet did with Allende: before the announcement of a plebiscite or an election, its has betrayed its word to mobilize the coup forces. It is, as always, an attempt to place at the head of the country servile leaders willing to implement neoliberal policies of dispossession and hand over national resources in exchange for any miserable prebend that fattens their vanity. However, unlike Allende after Chile's coup, Evo is still alive thanks to Mexico. It is, therefore, to be expected that “much sooner than later” the indigenous president will return free to his country to continue building a better society. The fighting continues.
Alejandro Pedregal is a filmmaker and writer. His most recent book, Evelia: Testimonio de Guerrero (Akal / Foca, 2019), collects the testimony of social defender Evelia Bahena García in her fight against mining companies in the state of Guerrero (Mexico). He holds a PhD from the Department of Cinema, Television and Scenography of the Aalto University (Finland) and is lecturer at the University-Wide Art Studies (UWAS) unit of the same institution.