Last week, (July 25, 2020) billionaire big brain Elon Musk appeared to give a nod to the Bolivian coup, as critics pointed out his possible gains from the uprising. “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it,” he said.
While probably no one has ever considered Musk to be a political intellect of any sort, his ‘it’s just a joke bro’-style comment provides a window into the general feeling that the wealthy and powerful American ruling class have toward the Global South.
The November Coup in Bolivia
The current anti-indigenous, anti-worker and anti-democratic regime of Jeanine Anez, backed by the United States, has imposed misery on the Bolivian people by rolling back a generation of field-leveling economic and social policies enacted under the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) government of President Evo Morales.
These historic advances were stopped in their tracks in early November 2019, when a coup was underway. On October 24, 2019, Morales claimed a decisive electoral victory once again to serve another term as president in a huge blow to the right-wing opposition that had become increasingly radical against his leadership. Soon after, the Organization of American States (OAS) released a statement questioning the validity of the electoral results, to which many analysts reacted with skepticism, thus giving unfounded wind to the radical right.
Right-wing protesters, under the auspices of this misleading report, intimidated MAS leaders by burning down their homes and making threats against their family members. Morales yielded, offering to hold another election, but opposition figures were not interested in democracy, as he was forced to resign in early November when the military and police turned on the MAS government, installing the Anez coup regime.
The Bolivian coup regime has since attempted to return the country to the former era of neoliberalism or worse.
Political repression under the Anez regime
On May 10, after six months of this misery, Anez’s supporters took to the streets. Police and right-wing protesters burned the Indigenous Wiphala flag in a video uncovered by Kawsachun News, highlighting the inhumanity of the current Bolivian leadership. Anez also expanded a ‘supreme decree,’ which allows those who ‘spread doubt among the population’ or ‘disseminate false information’ to be prosecuted in a clear attack against freedom of expression, which was denounced by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations.
The regime has also failed to properly manage the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving many Bolivians starving and sick while state repression continues. And while understanding that they have no legitimate claim to power, Anez and her circle have capitalized on the pandemic in a continuing attempt to block the country’s elections that both Bolivia’s legislature and electoral court have upheld to take place on August 2 after her government suspended May’s elections.
Many suspect the primary purpose for this coup was to privatize Bolivia’s lithium deposits – the largest currently known in the world. Lithium is a key component for batteries – like those used in Tesla automobiles – and is growing to be one of the world’s most important natural resources. Upon taking power, the Anez regime expressed every intention of selling these vast deposits to multinational corporations. Foreign Minister Karen Longaric reportedly even sent a letter to Elon Musk himself, dated March 31, saying that “any corporation ['co-operation', according to other sources] that you or your company can provide to our country will be gratefully welcomed.”
American ruling class’ indifference to human suffering
Ousted President Evo Morales took notice of Musk’s tweet by calling it another piece of evidence “that the coup was due to Bolivian lithium” and that two massacres took place as a result. He reiterated his commitment to defending the country’s natural resources and people in Salar de Uyuni (where the lithium deposits are located) have also expressed the same sentiment.
But Musk has not relented in his solidarity with the Bolivian people – clearly his guiding principle in life. Replying to an account literally called “I like Teslas” and denouncing the ousted Morales government as fraudulent, Musk offered his congratulations to the Bolivian people for the regime that’s befallen them.
There is little in common between the way someone like Musk sees the world and the average person. This is well reflected in how people like Musk, through just having access to a platform at their fingertips, can seemingly turn into a James Bond supervillain with one tweet. It’s not that it’s a joke or a one-off – these people consistently come across as being incapable of basic humanity.
If sweeping repression, loss of sovereignty, growing racism, endemic hunger and increasing rates of morbidity are to be considered bad things – as any rational person would agree – then there is no doubt about the character of the unelected Bolivian regime. And nothing said in support of such a system is funny or ironic.