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Evo Morales Resigns

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Evo Morales has resigned in the face of military pressure and protests over his unwillingness to leave office.

There are going to be lots of hot takes about this from the left and from the right (and on issues such as Latin America, American papers are effectively on the right). Most of them are going to be wrong or incomplete or reflect projection upon the nation by outsiders. The main thing I would say here is to pay attention to people who actually know about Bolivia. I was lucky enough to spend about 5 weeks in Bolivia in 2008, when Morales’ revolution was still pretty new and because of that I have followed the nation fairly closely in the past decade. This doesn’t mean that I am a Bolivian expert by any means, but at least I can say a few things here.

The first is that Morales’ refusal to abide by the Constitution and his attempt to stay in office makes this pretty self-inflicted. The only way that a revolution can truly be institutionalized is with a peaceful transfer of power. Morales had time to develop a successor. He did not or at least if he did, he didn’t step aside. The next phase of his revolution required him stepping away. He did not. This divided his own movement, as did his unwillingness to fight for the environmentalism that many of his followers wanted. The Amazon fires of a couple of months ago were also in Bolivia and many former followers blamed Morales for continuing to allow the exploitation of the forest. So he simply wasn’t the popular leader he was in 2008. Even then though, everyday Bolivians my wife and I talked to often expressed frustration for his boneheaded moves that seemed to alienate people unnecessarily, even as they supported him.

Second, the Bolivian military is absolutely awful and so is the racist right-wing whites in the lowlands that dominated the country pretty much forever until Morales took over. The military being involved in this at all is highly concerning. What is worrying now is the potential for these groups to retake control and get their revenge. I cannot state strongly enough how horrifying the Latin American right remains and this is very scary. I hope that the indigenous movements that have taken power since Morales can continue to grow.

But Bolivian history is a story of incredible hardship and oppression for the indigenous majority, more than a little of it because of the United States (Arthur Schelsinger Jr personally coordinating the American work to kill communist tin miners there is a very special moment). It’s often hard to believe that much good will happen to this impoverished nation. So probably everything about this is bad.

But again, the main thing about Latin America is to avoid the hot takes and the bad mainstream American reporting and find outlets that actually feature people who have spent time in these countries and really know what is going on.

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