Bolivian opposition carries out racist, misogynist attacks against government supporters

Violent opposition groups kidnapped and humiliated the mayor of Vinto Patricia Arce on the left and forced Feliciano Vegamonte to kneel down and beg for his life.

By Tanya Wadhwa

Frustrated by its defeat in the presidential elections held in the country on October 20 and emboldened by U.S. support, the Bolivian opposition has scaled up its attacks on supporters of the process of change led by President Evo Morales and the Movement Towards Socialism. On November 6, a series of atrocious aggressions against MAS supporters and elected officials were registered in the Cochabamba department.

In the Vinto municipality, one of the most disturbing attacks took place. An opposition mob, armed with sticks and stones and explosives, attacked the mayor’s office in Vinto in the Cochabamba department. The attackers set fire to the city hall and assaulted mayor Patricia Arce, of the MAS party.

Arce was dragged down the street and forced to walk barefoot several kilometers. The attackers cut her hair and sprayed red paint on her body. They also abused and insulted her and forced her to say that she would leave office.

While being held by her neck, Arce declared that she was willing to give her life for the project of transformation led by Morales’ government. “I am not afraid to tell my truth. I am in a free country. And I will not shut up. If they want to kill me, they can kill me. For this process of change, I will give my life,” she said.

The same day, in the morning, over 200,000 rural women hailing from the 16 provinces of the Cochabamba department peacefully marched through the streets of the capital towards the September 14 Plaza. The women mobilized to reject the hatred and racism faced by the Indigenous peasant communities by right-wing opposition groups. These groups have been carrying out violent protests and roadblocks in the country in rejection of the election results and disregarding the votes from rural regions that supported MAS and led to the victory of Morales in the general elections.

However, before reaching the plaza the women’s mobilization was attacked by the same violent opposition groups. A group of men armed with sticks and sharp objects took three women as hostage and forced them to walk in an unknown direction. The whereabouts of these three women are still not known.

The former leader of the Unified Trade Union Confederation of Peasant Workers of Bolivia (CSUTCB) Feliciano Vegamonte was also kidnapped in Quillacollo municipality. Later, a video circulated on social media, where he was seen sitting on his knees, with his hands joined, begging for his life. Over 15 people with sticks in their hands were forcing him to kneel down and apologize.

In addition, an opposition group called ‘Resistencia Cochala’ mobilized throughout the city and in areas near Cochabamba on motorbikes, threatening and attacking people that were thought to be supporters of the MAS.

The socio-political situation has been tense in Bolivia following the elections held on October 20. The shift from the tendency of the preliminary results, which indicated that a run-off would be necessary, was the justification for the Bolivian right-wing to refuse to recognize the results which declared Morales as the official winner, defeating Carlos Mesa of the CC with a lead of 10.56% of the votes. Since October 21, opponents of Morales have been mobilizing alleging that electoral fraud was committed.

In order to calm the growing tensions in the country, the Bolivian government invited the Organization of American States (OAS) to carry out an audit of the vote counting process and verify its validity and legitimacy. However, the ‘united’ opposition rejected the audit and insisted on annulling the results and holding fresh elections.

President Morales condemned the recent incidents of violence and attacks against women, Indigenous and poor people, that have been constant since the opposition’s mobilizations began.

On November 5, during a massive rally in defense of democracy in La Paz, Morales questioned the right-wing leaders for ignoring the popular vote and promoting acts of destabilization of his government. He claimed that the allegations of alleged fraud by the opposition were only a pretext for executing a coup.

The same day, the Radio Education Network of Bolivia (Erbol) leaked 16 audio files involving opposition leaders who are calling for a regime change in the country with the help of the US. The audios mention the US senators Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez and Ted Cruz. The audios also mention calls from opposition leaders to burn government buildings and carry out a general strike across the country, which has been happening in the country.

The protests, blockades and seizures of state institutions by Morales’ opponents continue in the country. The supporters of the MAS have also been carrying out massive peaceful mobilizations in defense of Evo Morales and his victory in the latest elections, and to denounce the ongoing coup effort.

Source: Peoples Dispatch