Bolivia: Coup and the return of the military “issue”

We condemn the coup d’état, political persecution and the violence committed by those who do not respect the democratic order in Bolivia. This rupture with the rule of law should prompt an immediate reaction by the region’s states. It is imperative that regional mechanisms and UN bodies initiate a dialogue with countries, in particular to ensure the right to asylum and refuge.

On Sunday, November 10, a civil-military coup took place in the Plurinational State of Bolivia after the head of the Armed Forces, Williams Kaliman, “suggested” to President Evo Morales that he abandon his constitutional mandate, posing this as the only alternative for guaranteeing peace and the population’s physical integrity and life. The military foisted an unacceptable, extortive dilemma on the president-elect: his resignation can only be understood as a break with the constitutional order, a coup d’état.

This reprehensible coup situation is extremely worrisome given the revival of distinct manifestations of the military “issue” in Latin America: the region’s militarization with regard to security tasks, interventions in states of emergency, and the military’s role in political matters. In light of the Argentine executive branch’s validation of the institutional rupture in Bolivia, we at CELS publicly ask that the country’s legislators convene an emergency session to condemn the coup perpetrated by the military, police and civilian sectors. The actions taken by the Armed Forces and the police, coupled with the racist expressions of civilian groups and anti-rights sectors in Bolivia, should prompt an immediate reaction from democratic governments that includes concrete, emergency measures to preserve this neighboring country’s institutions. PARLASUR (the MERCOSUR Parliament) already rejected the civil-military coup and declared that it will not recognize any regime emerging out of it. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which played an essential role in bringing about the end of military dictatorships in the region, has called for respecting the rule of law.

Furthermore, it is imperative that regional mechanisms (such as the IACHR, PARLASUR and MERCOSUR) and UN bodies initiate a dialogue with all the states in the region, particularly those that share a border with Bolivia, regarding the need for international protection of people who have been threatened or who have a well-founded fear of suffering persecution, violence or human rights violations. Their right to request asylum or refuge must be ensured and countries’ borders must remain open.