Berlin and the Coup

LA PAZ/BERLIN | | bolivien

LA PAZ/BERLIN (Own report) - The German government and one of the opposition's leading politicians have approved the coup in Bolivia. Elected President Evo Morales' resignation, imposed by the military leadership is an "important step toward a peaceful solution," claims a speaker of the German government. According to the foreign policy spokesman of the Greens parliamentary group in the Bundestag, the military has "taken the right decision." To avoid bloodshed, Morales resigned following a police mutiny and an ultimate threat of the chief of the armed forces. Mainly the white, wealthy circles from the Bolivian lowlands, whose politicians are occasionally cooperating with German party-affiliated foundations are the driving forces behind the coup. One of these politicians is in consideration for becoming the interim president. Particularly the indigenous people, who, to a large extent had been lifted out of abject poverty though Morales' measures, are the ones suffering the brunt of the coup. A German company had also been involved in recent developments that had weakened the President's standing.

Coup d'État in Bolivia

Bolivian President Evo Morales' resignation, Sunday, had been preceded by a wave of violence. Government opponents had occupied state-owned broadcasting and television stations, attacked officials - for example, the mayor of a small town - and publicly abused them, threatened and attacked members of the government and their families. The security forces did not intervene. On the contrary, the police mutinied in such cities as Santa Cruz, Sucre, and Cochabamba. The armed forces command called on Morales to abdicate - formulated formally merely as a "suggestion" - in fact, however, an ultimatum.[1] Finally Morales ceded to the pressure and, to avoid bloodshed, submitted his resignation

"The Military's Right Decision"

This has been met with fierce protests in many countries, such as, Argentina, where President designate Alberto Fernández, explicitly called it a coup.[2] The Spanish government condemned the Bolivian military's intervention.[3] The German government, on the other hand, has approved the coup d'état. The President's forced resignation is an "important step toward a peaceful solution," according to speaker of the German government, Steffen Seibert, who stubbornly refused to distance himself from the actions of the Bolivian military.[4] The Green parliamentary group explicitly approves of the coup. Yesterday, its foreign policy spokesman, Omid Nouripour, declared, "the military took the right decision in siding with the demonstrators."[5]

Driving Forces

Mainly white wealthy circles, from Bolivia's lowlands, are the driving forces behind the coup, not least of all, large landowners. They resented the redistribution in favor of the impoverished indigenous population, particularly in the highlands, and the nationalization of important natural resources, implemented systematically and successfully by Morales, since the beginning of his first term in office, in January 2006. The elites, particularly those from the Lowland metropolis, Santa Cruz, hated Morales, aggravated in part by their racism. Nevertheless, for years, he could count on the absolute majority in elections thanks to the indigenous population to which his government owed its power. However, in the last elections he lost votes due also to resistance of segments of the indigenous population against the increased exploitation of natural resources to boost the economy.[6] This also involved a German enterprise that participated in the mining of Bolivia's voluminous lithium deposits, but, contrary to plans, was withholding from the communities surrounding the sites their share of the export returns. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[7]) The resulting protests were also directed at the president. Only a few days ago, the government ceded and canceled the German firm's mining permit [8] - too late to calm the anger.

Support from Germany

Although Bolivia is not one of the focus countries of Germany's Latin American activities, Berlin has nevertheless maintained good relations with the white, relatively prosperous Santa Cruz elites. Oscar Ortiz Antelo is currently playing a central role. He is the former administrator of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Santa Cruz, and years earlier had held a leading position with Andina, the Bolivian subsidiary of Spain's Repsol petrolem company YPF. Ortiz represented his hometown from 2006 - 2010, and again since 2015 in Bolivia's senate, and from 2008 - 2010 was president of the senate. He is also general secretary of the Movimiento Demócrato Social ("Demócratas") and serves as President of its umbrella organization the Unión de Partidos Latinoamericanos (UPLA), to which the continent's leading right-wing parties are members, including Chilean President Sebastián Piñera's Renovación Nacional and Columbian President Iván Duque's Centro Democrático. The CSU-affiliated Hanns Seidel Foundation has been supporting the UPLA since 1992, with funds originating from Germany's foreign ministry.

Berlin's Networks

From time to time, Ortiz has traveled to Berlin to establish and maintain contacts. Back in 2008, during his period as Bolivia's President of the Senate, he came to Berlin at the invitation of the "Stiftung für Grundwerte und Völkerverständigung" (Foundation for Basic Values and International Understanding). Several former government ministers and a foreign ministry legation councilor were members of this foundation.[9] He visited both Brussels and Berlin with an UPLA delegation in November 2016, where he not only held talks at the Hanns Seidel Foundation, but had also met with Michael Krake, who heads the section for strategic planning in the Ministry for Development and with Daniel Kriener, who heads the section for the Andean countries in the foreign ministry. Kriener is Germany's current ambassador to Venezuela, who, because of his brazen participation in the attempted coup, was declared persona non grata last March.[10] Ortiz also maintains contact to the FDP-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation. Ortiz' Fundación Nueva Democracia is a member of the Naumann Foundation's RELIAL (Red Liberal de América Latina) network. Ortiz, as evidenced by an April entry on his Facebook page, had visited Berlin recently, to confer with members of the Bundestag and government functionaries. His concrete reason was his candidature for president, on the Alianza "Bolivia Dice No" ("Bolivia Says No") ticket.

Number Three to the Top

With 4.24 percent of the votes, Ortiz ultimately had to concede his defeat in the elections. He nevertheless is being considered as the future strongman in La Paz, because he is "the only person," who has sufficient skills and knowledge for this role.[11] After the president, vice president and the president of the senate have resigned over the past few days, Senator Ortiz could be elected the new Senate President. As number three in the state's hierarchy, he would automatically become head of state in the current situation.

Assassination Plans

At times, Germany's foreign policy proxy organizations also had ties to the Comité pro Santa Cruz, a rightwing coalition from Bolivia’s Lowland metropolis, whose current President Fernando Camacho most emphatically promoted last week's coup and sought to lead it. From 2007 to 2009, the Comité pro Santa Cruz was led by Branko Marinković, a multimillionaire, large landowner,[12] who also acted as spokesman for the Fundación Libertad y Democracia (Fulide). Until its dissolution in 2009, Fulide was a member of Germany's Naumann Foundation's RELIAL network. In 2009, on the basis of several testimonies, Bolivia's judiciary charged Marinković, who served as interface between Berlin’s foreign policy networks and the Comité pro Santa Cruz, of having offered money to a former Croatian mercenary and several other Europeans to assassinate Morales.[13] Marinković quickly fled the country. Most recently he was promoting the overthrow of Morales from Brazil, while his successor at the head of the Comité pro Santa Cruz, Fernando Camacho was pushing from at home. Marinković announced that he would return to Bolivia if there is a change of government.[14]

 

[1] Golpe de Estado en Bolivia: Evo Morales renuncia a la Presidencia. lapoliticaonline.es 10.11.2019.

[2] "En Bolivia se ha consumado un golpe de Estado". bolpress.com 10.11.2019.

[3] Esteban Villarejo: España condena la intervención de los militares en Bolivia. abc.es 11.11.2019.

[4] André Scheer: Solidarität mit Bolivien! junge Welt 12.11.2019.

[5] Historischer Moment in Bolivien. gruene-bundestag.de 11.11.2019.

[6] Thomas Guthmann: Nach der Wahl in Bolivien. npla.de 10.11.2019.

[7] See also Protesting Germany's Securing of Resources in Bolivia.

[8] Claus Hecking: Deutsches Lithium-Unternehmen ruft Altmaier zu Hilfe. spiegel.de 06.11.2019.

[9] See also Divide and Rule.

[10] See also Aufforderung zum Putsch (II).

[11] Bolivia tiene dos salidas a la crisis después de renuncia. opinion.com.bo 11.11.2019.

[12] Simon Romero: In Bolivia, a Croat and a Critic Is Cast in a Harsh Light. nytimes.com 26.09.2008.

[13] Prosecutor says Bolivian opposition backed plot. uk.reuters.com 05.05.2009.

[14] Cuatro exiliados anuncian su retorno luego de la caída de Evo. lavozdetarija.com 11.11.2019.