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A Story of Violence and Resistance in Bolivia

In three dramatic weeks in October and November 2019, the fourteen years of progressive change that Evo Morales’ pink tide government had worked to implement in Bolivia and beyond came to a screeching halt.  President Morales was forced to resign after protests against his re-election to a fourth term in allegedly fraudulent elections erupted among the urban middle classes, anti-indigenous racists, and prominent conservative politicians. The country’s far right used the ensuing crisis to orchestrate a successful coup, with military and police backing, paving the way for a repressive “transition” government led by Jeanine Áñez to take power. The Áñez government quelled popular protests with lethal force, shut down critical media outlets, and targeted members of Morales’ political party, the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS). Despite postponing elections three times, the Áñez government was eventually forced to call elections in October 2020. The MAS swept back into power, winning elections with 55% of the vote and returning democracy to the country.

This book tells the story of this year of upheaval in Bolivia, providing a critical analysis of the 14 years of the MAS government that preceded it as well as the MAS return to power in 2020. It includes personal stories and commentary from women and men on the streets, leaders in social movements, members of the MAS party and government, survivors of Áñez’s abuses, and intellectuals.

  • "This book makes a vital contribution to the struggles of the peoples of the Americas to defend themselves against the coup d’etats that anti-democratic elites of the hemisphere have unleashed again, albeit cloaked in new garments. Paraguay in 2012, Brazil in 2016 and 2018, Bolivia in 2019 all suffered coups, with intensifying violence, revealing that slaveholding, racist, and colonial legacies are still very much alive among the wealthiest in the region. The victory of Bolivia's popular movements—courageous, heroic and swift—resulting in the extraordinary victory of Lucho Arce and the return of Evo Morales’ MAS party in 2020, serve as an inspiring example for neighboring states. Once again the lesson is clear: whenever the will of the people may be expressed freely through the ballot, proposals that lead to greater equality, more just distribution of income and vigorous efforts to combat hunger and poverty will prevail. But this is possible only with robust popular participation in the decision-making process." —Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former-President of Brazil

    "Coup tells the story of Bolivia’s MAS Party, the ousting of its popular indigenous president Evo Morales and the following wave of abuses committed by the authoritarian Áñez regime. The book is a vital contribution to our understanding of how reactionary forces leveraged a bogus claim of fraud to overthrow the elected president. It is essential reading for those committed to democracy and social justice in the Americas. Coup highlights the need to remain on alert in electoral times and serves as a warning about the cunning preparation of coups d'états. Today’s coups are more sophisticated than those of previous decades, but they are equally ruthless and equally dangerous." —Madres de la Plaza de Mayo—Linea Fundadora, mothers of Argentina's disappeared

    "In the international media discourse that emerged in late 2019 after Evo Morales was forced into exile and Jeanine Áñez declared herself president of Bolivia, some voices remained conspicuously absent: those of the Bolivians living through the turmoil. Farthing and Becker set out to challenge this trend, crafting a narrative based on the testimony of dozens of Bolivian activists, political figures, and intellectuals. Stitched together in a compelling and lucid narrative, the insights of those on the ground—not only about the brutal right-wing repression under Áñez but also about both the advances and shortcomings of Morales's time in power—provide the clearest picture yet of what happened in Bolivia in 2019." Dr. Christy Thornton, Assistant Professor Johns Hopkins University and former Executive Director of the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA)

    Coup is a comprehensive account of the democratic disruption that Bolivia suffered in 2019. With remarkable handling of sources, Linda Farthing and Thomas Becker present a critical vision of Bolivia as well as the political, social and democratic challenges the country faces. Captivating read!" —Eduardo Rodriguez Veltzé, former-President of Bolivia

    “Future historians will look back at the reversal of Bolivia's 2019 coup as an event equal in importance to Fidel Castro's defeat of the U.S.-organized invasion at the Bay of Pigs. Linda Farthing and Thomas Becker have provided us with an indispensable analysis to the sources of the conflict and how the forces of hope triumphed." —Greg Grandin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America

    “Measured and methodical, Farthing and Becker’s analysis of the right-wing coup d’état in Bolivia is mandatory reading for anyone attempting to come to grips with the country’s recent past. Sharp, expeditious prose mirror the often-frenetic pace of political developments in recent years. Rooted in a blend of on-the-ground reportage and a mastery of the best local sources of journalism and social-scientific inquiry, Coup: A Story of Violence and Resistance in Bolivia, contextualizes the socio-political gains and contradictions of the era of Evo Morales, unearths the root causes of his ouster from office, and surveys the violent regime of Jeanine Áñez installed in the coup’s aftermath. In a period of recurring crises of global capitalism and an attendant rise in authoritarian forms of right-wing rule, the significance of this book extends well beyond the borders of Bolivia.” —Jeffery R. Webber, author of Red October: Left-Indigenous Struggles in Modern Bolivia

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