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Bolivia’s election result is a major blow to Trudeau’s foreign policy

The vote was a rejection of last year’s Canadian-backed coup against Evo Morales

Canadian PoliticsLatin America and the Caribbean

A supporter of Bolivian President Evo Morales outside the presidential palace in La Paz, Bolivia, after a first round presidential election, Sunday, October 20, 2019. Photo by Juan Karita.

The recent victory of Bolivia’s left-wing Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party on October 18 was a rejection of last year’s Canadian-backed coup against Evo Morales. The vote was also a blow to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s complicity in the efforts of the United States to overthrow left-wing governments across Latin America.

On Sunday, Morales’s former finance minister, Luis Acre, won 55 percent of the vote for president. The MAS also took a large majority in both houses of the Bolivian parliament.

The unexpectedly large victory is a decisive rebuke of Ottawa’s support for the ouster of Bolivia’s first Indigenous president. Hours after the military command forced Morales to resign on November 10, 2019, then Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland released a celebratory statement declaring, “Canada stands with Bolivia and the democratic will of its people.”

Ottawa provided significant support for the Organization of American States (OAS) and its successful efforts to discredit Bolivia’s 2019 vote, which fueled opposition protests and resulted in a military-backed coup. Ottawa promoted the OAS’s attempt to discredit the presidential poll and two Canadian technical advisers were part of the audit mission to Bolivia. “Canada commends the invaluable work of the OAS audit mission in ensuring a fair and transparent process, which we supported financially and through our expertise,” noted Freeland at the time.

However, the OAS audit mission was designed to precipitate the ouster of Morales. A slew of academic and corporate media studies have demonstrated the partisan nature of the audit and the subsequent OAS report, and the weekend’s election results confirm it. Still, despite this track record of dishonesty, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) promoted the organization’s involvement in Bolivia’s latest elections. On Saturday, October 17, the Twitter account belonging to the Embassy of Canada in Bolivia tweeted, “Canada is pleased to support the Organization of American States (OAS) electoral observation mission to Bolivia.”

For an entire year, Ottawa stayed silent while the unelected interim coup regime of Jeanine Áñez ramped up repression and anti-Indigenous measures. Her government also drastically transformed the country’s foreign policy, and put in a motion a process of privatizing Bolivia’s state-owned enterprises and industries. Worse than silence, on Bolivia’s national day of independence on August 6, GAC touted Canada and Bolivia’s “strong bilateral relationship” and “our shared values of democracy, human rights and a celebration of diversity.”

GAC also ignored the ‘caretaker’ government’s repeated postponement of elections. Even when the country’s social movements launched a general strike in August to protest the interim regime’s failure to uphold its basic constitutional responsibilities, GAC echoed Áñez’s refusal to hold elections over claims that the protests undermined the fight against the pandemic. The Canadian embassy in La Paz tweeted, “Canada calls for humanitarian aid to be allowed to circulate freely in Bolivia to fight #COVID19 & calls on all social actors to support the country’s democratic institutions and to use those mechanisms to resolve any disputes.” Contrary to the pleas from Áñez, protesters let ambulances and other medical vehicles circulate with little disruption.

Scanning a year’s worth of tweets made from the Twitter account belonging to the Embassy of Canada in Bolivia, I could not find a single criticism of the coup government. Perhaps not surprisingly, however, there were more than 15 tweets sent from that account that were openly critical of the Maduro government in Venezuela. On October 14, the embassy tweeted, “the conditions needed for free and fair elections do not exist in Venezuela” and linked to a Lima Group statement declaring renewed “support of President Juan Guaidó.” One might recall that, after usurping power, Áñez joined the Lima Group, a multilateral body composed of mostly right-wing governments seeking to oust the Maduro government. The Trudeau government hosted the latest Lima Group meeting in Ottawa in February.

Two months earlier, the embassy account called for “concerted international actions in support of a peaceful return to democracy in Venezuela” and linked to a Lima Group statement reiterating their “firm commitment to interim president Juan Guaidó.”

Contrasting the Trudeau government’s response to an unelected, anti-Indigenous, Christian and white supremacist government in Bolivia to that of Venezuela’s elected, socialist president is telling. So is the Liberal’s silence on the election results in Bolivia. Nearly 72 hours after the polls closed, Ottawa had still failed to release a statement congratulating Arce or the MAS on their historic victory.

The election results in Bolivia are a major blow to the Trudeau government’s foreign policy and to Ottawa’s complicity in US-led efforts to wipe out the final remnants of the leftist ‘Pink Tide’ in Latin America.

Further, Arce’s victory exposes Canada for what it has always been: an imperialist power seeking to maintain the world’s massively unfair status quo.

Yves Engler has been dubbed “one of the most important voices on the Canadian Left today” (Briarpatch), “in the mould of I.F. Stone” (Globe and Mail), and “part of that rare but growing group of social critics unafraid to confront Canada’s self-satisfied myths” (Quill & Quire). He has published nine books.


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