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Video Shows Bolivian Soldiers, Tanks Joining Indigenous Protests Against Coup Regime

ELIAS MARAT

(TMU) — New video has emerged from Bolivia that appears to show large-scale defections from Bolivia’s Army and soldiers joining protests against the U.S.-backed coup government of Interim President Jeanine Áñez

The footage may be a sign of rapid change in the ongoing political unrest that has followed President Evo Morales’ resignation, which came after threats from the Andean country’s military leadership. Since then, the government has been taken by far-right political parties and Christian fundamentalist paramilitaries opposed to the indigenous socialist leader.

On Sunday, video began circulating that showed members of the Andean country’s military marching on foot alongside protesters from the Copacabana Workers’ Union on the Oruro-La Paz highway headed toward the nation’s capital, reportsKaosenlared.

In the video, the protesters shout “Armed Forces, join the fight!,” to which the soldiers respond “Long live Bolivia, long live the Wiphala!” The Wiphala flag is the multi-colored banner of the native peoples of the Andes that symbolizes the 36 indigenous groups who comprise a large portion of the country’s population. Under Morales, the indigenous flag became a national flag alongside the Bolivian tricolor.

Indigenous groups were outraged after footage circulated showing right-wing figures and anti-Morales figures burning the Wiphala flag, conveying what native groups saw as a deeply-rooted European—or Criollo (European-descended)—hatred of the country’s original people. In other videos, police officers who mutinied against then-President Morales could be seen cutting the flag from their uniforms.

Separate video shows the Wiphala flag adorning armored personnel carriers belonging to a Bolivian Army infantry unit as protesters greet the soldiers. As a loudspeaker on the armored vehicle declares “Long live the Wiphala flag,” indigenous marchers respond “Long live! Onward, armed forces!” The APC then responds “Jallala, jallalla!”–a Quechua Aymara indigenous word that expresses hope and satisfaction.

Any dissension in the ranks of Bolivia’s Armed Forces could spell grave trouble for the right-wing government that rapidly came to power after Evo Morales was driven from office on November 10 amid allegations of electoral fraud by his opponents and the Organization of American States.

Over the weekend, the death toll resulting from the spiraling unrest ticked up to at least 23. The number includes nine indigenous protesters who were killed on Friday in Cochabamba by the military and police. Bolivia’s security forces have used live ammunition, armored vehicles, and helicopters against those resisting the coup. However, the use of lethal force against the country’s large indigenous population risks a massive backlash by the largely poor and indigenous rank-and-file members of the Bolivian Armed Forces.

In the video of soldiers marching alongside protesters, the anti-coup resisters also chant “Mesa, Camacho—the same shit,” comparing anti-Morales presidential candidate Carlos Mesa to the hard-right opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho.

Camacho has been characterized by Grayzone as an “an ultra-conservative Christian fundamentalist groomed by a fascist paramilitary notorious for its racist violence”backed by the U.S. and right-wing governments in Colombia and Brazil. Earlier this month, he entered the presidential palace with his followers while holding up a Bible as a pastor declared, “the Bible has re-entered the palace [and] Pachamama will never return,” referring to the indigenous Earth deity.

Indigenous Bolivians gained increased official representation under the presidency of Morales, who officially renamed the country the Plurinational State of Bolivia and gave official status to the country’s 36 indigenous languages.

As Native American scholar Nick Estes wrote for the Guardian last week:

“The indigenous-socialist project accomplished what neoliberalism has repeatedly failed to do: redistribute wealth to society’s poorest sectors and uplift those most marginalized.”

Last Thursday, de facto head of state Áñez appointed a cabinet that was entirely comprised of Euro-descended figures and not a single indigenous person, while claiming that her government will “reconstruct democracy” and “pacify the country”gripped by increasing rumblings of all-out civil war.

In 2013, Áñez revealed her own hatred for the country’s native population when she tweeted, “I dream of a Bolivia free of satanic indigenous rites.” In a separate tweet, the then-senator said, “the city is not for the Indians who should stay in the highlands or the Chaco!!!”

Morales, who is now in exile in Mexico, continues to assert that he is innocent of any electoral fraud. Last Monday, the former president said:

“My sin was being indigenous, leftist and anti-imperialist.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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