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Warren criticized for conciliatory remarks on post-coup Bolivia

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Top-tier 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren is under fire from progressives and Indigenous activists for her comments Monday about the recent coup in Bolivia—remarks her critics called too conciliatory to the right-wing un-elected government that seized power after President Evo Morales was forced to resign and flee the country.

“The Bolivian people deserve free and fair elections, as soon as possible,” Warren tweeted Monday afternoon. “Bolivia’s interim leadership must limit itself to preparing for an early, legitimate election. Bolivia’s security forces must protect demonstrators, not commit violence against them.”

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“Sometimes silence is better,” replied journalist Katie Halper.

“Please get a better foreign policy advisor and condemn the coup,” said attorney Eva Golinger.

The coup on November 10 resulted in the democratically-elected Morales being forced to resign from office. Morales fled Bolivia for Mexico days later after Sen. Jeanine Añez, a right-wing Christian extremist, unilaterally declared herself president.

Jacobin‘s Luke Savage pointed out that Warren’s statement appeared to be an attempt to downplay the violence of the coup and reframe the conflict as a purely political conflict.

“This isn’t an issue of process,” said Savage. “A right wing military coup deposed Bolivia’s sitting president and the U.S.A. supported it.”

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Chief among progressive criticiques of Warren’s statement were the Massachusetts’ senator’s apparent endorsement of the legitimacy of the coup government.

“Maybe it’s just me, but if you’re going to call yourself a progressive who stands up for the little guy you might want to start calling a right wing coup that’s resulted in the curbing of democratic freedoms and onslaught of violence… well, a right wing coup,” tweeted Al Jazeera host Sana Saeed. “And condemn it.”

Protests against Añez’s government have spread across Boliva over the past week. On Friday, as Common Dreams reported, police and military forces killed nine Indigenous protesters in the city of Sacaba, near Cochabamba.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a fellow frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, on Monday evening tweeted once again his condemnation of what he has consistently called a coup and shared a video of the violence in Cochabamba.

“I oppose the intervention of Bolivia’s security forces in the democratic process and their repression of Indigenous protesters,” said Sanders. “When the military intervened and asked President Evo Morales to leave, in my view, that’s called a coup.”

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“Bolivia highlights another stark contrast with Sanders that can’t be obscured with semantics,” tweeted journalist and media critic Adam Johnson. “Sanders firmly calls what happened a coup, Warren gives us process handwringing.”

In response to Warren’s statement, civil rights activist Kade Crockford tweeted: “This has me seriously reconsidering my support for Warren over Sanders.”

The Intercept‘s Ryan Grim, in a tweet, called out Warren’s refusal to call Añez’s seizure of power a coup.

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“The ‘interim leadership’ has already threatened to arrest elected lawmakers in Morales’ party for sedition,” said Grim, “while killing people in the streets.”

Texas Democrat Sema Hernandez, who is Indigenous, said on Twitter that she found Warren’s statements on the coup and the violence unaccetable.

“I condemn Elizabeth Warren for taking this position on the Bolivia coup,” said Hernandez. “The interim leadership is ethnically cleansing Bolivia’s indigenous population and declaring Bolivia a Christian nation.”

In the Now journalist Rania Khalek, in a withering criticism of Warren’s position, referred to the Massachusetts senator’s longstanding controversial claim of Cherokee heritage.

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“This is a pathetic statement in light of a U.S. backed coup,” said Khalek. “And it’s coming from a person who claimed to be Indigenous. But now she says nothing in defense of actual Indigenous people.”


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