US: Bolivia Junta Takeover ‘Not a Coup’

White House 'applauds' military's takeover as step toward democracy

Bolivian President Evo Morales went from promising fresh elections to a forced resignation and exile in very short order this weekend. Though there were disputes about the last election, Bolivia’s military wasted no time in declaring themselves to be in control, and vowing to move against “vandals” who resist their rule.

There are suggestions some civilians may retain nominal authority within Bolivia, though the armed forces are very clear that they ultimately will be in charge. The White House, never fans of Evo Morales, has made it clear that’s fine with them.

A statement Monday from President Trump declared Morales’ ouster in favor of the military to preserve democracy. The statement also applauded the Bolivian military for showing that “democracy and the will of the people will always prevail.” The US is not going to consider this military takeover a coup d’etat, but rather a democracy with less pretense of the military not ultimately being in charge.

Trump’s statement also took shots at Venezuela and Nicaragua, declaring them “illegitimate regimes.” This once again points to the US being perfectly comfortable with military coups, and pretending not to notice them, so long as people they don’t like are being forced from power.

The US not wanting to recognize a coup as a coup is not just about superficial appearances. Rather, US law forbids the US from providing military aid to a nation under military rule. The US has often used a failure to recognize to dodge that requirement, with Egypt a major recent example of a nation where an overt, violent military takeover went unrecognized by the US, in no small reason because the US preferred the junta to the elected government.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of