Letter to The New York Times Editorial Board regarding its support of the coup d’etat in Bolivia

(Para leer en español, haz clic aquí.)

To The New York Times Editorial Board:

We write in response to a troubling editorial from your Editorial Board, “Evo Morales Is Gone. Bolivia’s Problems Aren’t,” which supports a military coup d’état against Bolivia’s democratically elected government.

The editorial states:

…when a leader resorts to brazenly abusing the power and institutions put in his care by the electorate, as President Evo Morales did in Bolivia, it is he who sheds his legitimacy, and forcing him out often becomes the only remaining option. That is what the Bolivians have done…

No one should ever support a military coup against a democratically elected government. The military coup in Bolivia is a crime, and a serious one. It has already led to considerable repression and violence, and could possibly even lead to civil war.

And while a crime is still a crime even if there are mitigating circumstances, there were no mitigating circumstances here. In fact, Evo Morales had already accepted the demands of his political opposition and to the Organization of American States (OAS), agreeing to hold new elections under new electoral authorities. But the perpetrators of the coup did not accept these concessions and chose instead to overthrow the government.


This coup is an attempt by the rich, non-indigenous elite to take by force what they could not win at the ballot box; to overthrow Bolivia’s first indigenous president in a country that has the largest percentage of indigenous population in the hemisphere.

When the Times editorial writers refer to what “the Bolivians have done,” perhaps they are referring to the Bolivian military. It was the head of the Bolivian armed forces who called on Morales and his vice president, Alvaro Garcia Linera, to resign, which they did immediately following this demand. It was certainly not the 47 percent plurality who voted for Morales in the October 20th elections.

This military coup toppled a president who not only received the most votes of any candidate in an election just weeks ago, but whose current term of office was not due to end until January 2020. And no one has suggested that he was not fairly and democratically elected to his current term of office. Events since Morales’ coerced resignation make the nature of the coup even clearer. Riot police prevented legislators from Morales’ MAS party from entering Congress. Even the head of the senate, Adriana Salvatierra, was forbidden from entering Congress on the day Senator Jeanine Áñez declared herself as president. Morales supporters are being violently attacked by police, with reports of multiple deaths. These events should come as no surprise. The Editorial Board’s opinion piece is an affront to Bolivia’s fragile democracy and offers Bolivia’s new unelected de facto rulers much sought-after international public support.


The editorial states:

After the Organization of American States declared on Sunday that there was ‘clear manipulation’ of the voting in October, Mr. Morales was left with no choice but to resign.


The statements of the OAS compelled no such action; in fact, the OAS’s own behavior in this episode was a major part of the problem. Without providing any evidence whatsoever, it cast aspersions on the validity of the election results just hours after the polls had closed, and while the official results were still be being tabulated. In doing so, the OAS played a central role in constructing a narrative that suggested the elections lacked validity because of some kind of fraud. They pointed to an alleged suspicious halt in the results, after which the OAS statement claimed, falsely, that there was a “drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results.” The OAS offered no evidence to support this statement, and still has not, because there is no such evidence. In fact, the vote tally sheets, which Bolivia’s electoral authority posted online for anyone to access, show a consistent, clear and gradual trend of Morales’ lead increasing as more votes were reported. The reason is simple and obvious from the publicly available data: areas that reported later — in particular those that are more rural and/or poorer — are on average much more pro-Morales than the general electorate.

To imply strongly and repeatedly that there is something wrong with the Bolivian vote count because Evo Morales’ lead increased as later reporting votes came in, is a serious misrepresentation. In fact, the data show that this is exactly what would be expected to happen. The New York Times Editorial Board should look at this publicly available data before accepting such demonstrably false claims. The fact that the OAS, which like everyone else, has access to the election results, demonstrably misrepresented the vote count in this way, raises serious questions about its role as a neutral election monitor. (The OAS, under US pressure, has abused its authority as an election monitor in the past).

Elections aside, Morales is the sitting president until January 2020. An interruption of his current elected term, the validity of which has never been disputed, is a constitutional interruption and a damaging blow to Bolivian democracy. Furthermore, this blow arrives at a crucial moment, as Morales represented a highwater mark in Bolivia’s tortured struggle for democracy. There is no legal, ethical, or political basis for cutting Morales’ term short.


Morales’ ouster represents a rolling back of a democratic advance, which allowed indigenous Bolivians to increase their income and the political participation from which they were previously excluded. Indeed, the coup has been accompanied by, and emboldened by hate crimes against indigenous Bolivians and racist rhetoric against Morales. Burnings of the indigenous Wiphala flag have sadly become emblematic of the current conflict. Morales’ watershed election, and the reforms he implemented, including to expand democratic inclusion, are in important ways reminiscent of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid in South Africa.


The Morales administration had also been successful in terms of poverty reduction, land redistribution, public investment, and social inclusion. Under Morales, Bolivia’s poverty rate was reduced by over 40 percent, and extreme poverty by over 60 percent. Public spending was greatly expanded for health, education, pensions, and the minimum wage significantly boosted. In a country where some 70 percent of land was owned by just 400 families in 2006 when Morales took office (some of the same families who would later support a violent secessionist movement in 2008), under Morales 935,000 new land titles were issued. If the right-wing forces that led this coup consolidate power, we can expect many of these gains to be lost.

It is understandable that the Trump administration would support this coup, since it has supported other right-wing, anti-democratic, and racist movements and governments throughout the world. But these are not the values nor ethics of The New York Times or its journalists. The Editorial Board should retract this declaration of support for the coup, and instead support democracy, the rule of law, and civil and human rights in Bolivia. The voice of the Times will be important in the coming days, weeks, and months as the coup regime attempts to consolidate itself, as political persecution continues, and violent and racist reprisals are carried out against the Bolivian population.


(name, affiliation for identification purposes)

Greg Grandin, Yale University

Forrest Hylton, Universidad Nacional de Colombia-Medellín

Jeffery Webber, Goldsmiths, University of London

Kathryn Ledebur, Andean Information Network

Nicole Fabricant, Towson University

Bret Gustafson, Washington University in St Louis

Sinclair Thomson, New York University

Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Israel Solare, Harvard University

Ann Pellegrini , New York University

Edward E. Baptist, Cornell University

Gilbert Joseph, Yale University

Kevan Aguilar, University of California, San Diego

Robert Albro, American University

Sarah D'Adamo, Johns Hopkins University

Anna McCarthy, New York University

Marisol de la Cadena University of California, Davis

Clara Lida, The College of México

Derek Stein, Brown University

Emil Keme, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

William A. Booth, University of Oxford

Guillermo Delgado-P., University of California, Santa Cruz

Ivonne del Valle, University of California, Berkeley

Steve Striffler, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Deborah T. Levenson, Boston College

Clifford A Welch, Federal University of São Paulo

Gerardo Otero, Simon Fraser University

Anne Eller, Yale University

Robin D. G. Kelley, University of California, Los Angeles

Victoria Stone-Cadena, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York

Ray Jackendoff, Tufts University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology

William I. Robinson , University of California, Santa Barbara

Nara Milanich, Barnard College and Columbia University

William Stark, University of Rhode Island

Miguel Tinker Salas, Pomona College

Marcus Rediker, University of Pittsburgh

Joel Beinin, Stanford University

Luis Duno, Rice University

Victor Silverman, Pomona College

Victor M Rodriguez, California State University, Long Beach

William Armaline, San Jose State University

Amy Cooper, Saint Louis University

James Cohen, University of California, Los Angeles

Jorge Cuéllar, Dartmouth College

John M. Archer, New York University

Jon Jonakin, Tennessee Technological University

Elizabeth Monasterios , University of Pittsburgh

Tim Gill , University of North Carolina, Wilmington

Daniel Kovalik, University of Pittsburgh School of Law

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, California State University

Barbara Weinstein, New York University

Ana Lara, University of Oregon

Tom Angotti, Hunter College, City University of New York

Gaston Gordillo, University of British Columbia

Steve Jordan, McGill University

Robert Austin , University of Sydney

John Stolle-McAllister, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Immanuel Ness, Brooklyn College, City University of New York

María José Punte, Universidad Católica Argentina

Allen Wells, Bowdoin College

Anthony Andersson, DePauw University

Alexandre Da Costa, University of Alberta

Alejandra Ruiz Tarrés, Universidad de Santiago de Chile

Margarita Huayhua, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

M. Emilia Barbosa, Missouri University of Science and Technology

Anthony Paré, University of British Columbia

Tom G. Griffiths, OsloMet University, Norway

Charles Bergquist, University of Washington

William Aviles, University of Nebraska Kearney

David M. Kotz, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Richard Drayton, King's College London

Dwayne Dixon, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Daniel Cohen, University of California, Santa Cruz

John Soluri, Carnegie Mellon University

Diego Pulido Esteva, The College of México

Caroline Yezer, Clark University

Estelle Tarica, University of California, Berkeley

John Weeks, School of Oriental and African Studies

Patricia Pinho, University of California, Santa Cruz

Leonidas Oikonomakis, Durham University and University of Crete

Joshua Frens-String, University of Texas at Austin

Maylei Blackwell, University of California, Los Angeles

Guadalupe Bacio, Pomona College

Amy C. Offner, University of Pennsylvania

William Clare Roberts, McGill University

John Mill Ackerman, National Autonomous University of Mexico

Freya Schiwy, University of California, Riverside

Elyse Crystall, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Brian McDougall, Carleton University

Alexander Aviña, Arizona State University

Jules Boykoff, Pacific University

Jens Andermann, New York University

Alyosha Goldstein, University of New Mexico

Henry Stobart, Royal Holloway, University of London

Kasia Szremski, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Steven Topik, University of California, Irvine

Jennifer Adair, Fairfield University

Eric Blanc, New York University

Paige Andersson, DePauw University

Virginie Laurent, Universidad de los Andes

Chad Montrie, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, University of Connecticut

Neptalí Monterroso Salvatierra, Autonomous University of Mexico State

Holly Lewis, Texas State University

Bruna Cigaran da Rocha, Federal University of Western Pará

Aviva Chomsky, Salem State University

Victoria Basualdo, Latin American Social Sciences Institute

Ana Dopico, New York University

Renate Bridenthal, Brooklyn College, CUNY

Gabriel Giorgi, New York University

John Forte, Trenton Central High School

Gregory Kealey, University of New Brunswick

Alejandro Velasco, New York University

Francisco Dominguez, Middlesex University

Ximena Cordova, Zayed University

Peter Bohmer, The Evergreen State College

Sidney Lemelle, Pomona College

Timothy Wise, Tufts University and Small Planet Institute

Michael Fabricant , Hunter College

Edwin F. Ackerman, Syracuse University

Mattias Borg Rasmussen, University of Copenhagen

Brent Metz, University of Kansas

Richard Levy, Salem State University

Lucas Savino, Huron University College

Wendy Goldman, Carnegie Mellon University

Ajay Singh Chaudhary, Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Rosalind Bresnahan, California State University, San Bernardino

John Cameron, Dalhousie University

Brian Williams, Dartmouth College

Lucia Aramayo, University of Texas

Zachary Levenson, University of North Carolina, Greensboro

José A. Piqueras, Jaume I University

Carla Jaimes Betancourt, University of Bonn

Junyoung Verónica Kim, University of Pittsburgh

Ryan Isakson, University of Toronto

Matthew Peter Casey, Arizona State University

Fabio de Sa e Silva, University of Oklahoma

Alexander Liebman, Rutgers University

Daniel Hellinger, Webster University

Eric M. Fink, Elon University School of Law

Elizabeth Dore, University of Southampton, UK

James Loucky, Western Washington University

Jennifer Ponce de León, University of Pennsylvania

Clara Irazabal, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Katherine Maich, The Pennsylvania State University

Kanishka Jayasuriya , Murdoch University

Andrew Orta, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tracy Feldman, St. Andrews University, NC

Noel Healy, Salem State University

Javiera Barandiaran, University of California, Santa Barbara

Chris Helali, Dartmouth College

Aleena Janjua, Edmonds Community College

Pablo F. Luna, Sorbonne University

Andrew Ehrinpreis, Queens College, City University of New York

Dr. Kristi M Wilson, Soka University of America

Gordon Fellman, Brandeis University

Carlos Illades, Metropolitan Autonomous University

Guy Aronoff, Humboldt State University

Camila Vergara, Columbia Law School

Sibylle Fischer, New York University

Cornelia Butler Flora, Iowa State University

Carollee Bengelsdorf, Hampshire College

Clarice Kuhling, Wilfrid Laurier University

Kate Paarlberg-Kvam, Bennington College

Andrés Avellaneda, University of Florida

Molly Nolan, New York University

Pamela Voekel, Dartmouth College

Wendy Russell, Centre for Global Studies Huron University

Antonia Darder, Loyola Marymount University

Mary Baine Campbell , Brandeis University and Smith College

Brian Prager, City University of New York, Borough of Manhattan Community College

Ximena Málaga Sabogal, New York University

Jose Antonio Lucero, University of Washington

Michelle Bigenho, Colgate University

Sara Koopman, Kent State University

August Wimberger, Western Washington University

Tomás Crowder-Taraborrelli, Soka University of America

Katharina Blank, Columbia University

Joaquin M. Chavez , University of Illinois at Chicago

Tanalis Padilla, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Takeo Rivera, Harvard University

Sergio Serulnikov, University of San Andrés

Maarten Geeroms, Ghent University

Jennifer N. Collins, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Hugo Ceron-Anaya, Lehigh University

Javier Puente, Smith College

Flora Lu, University of California, Santa Cruz

Mateo Martínez Abarca, National Autonomous University of Mexico

Christine Mathias, King's College London

Cory Fischer-Hoffman, Lafayette College

Richard Lachmann, University at Albany, State University of New York

Diego Bustos, University of New Mexico

Jose Calderon, Pitzer College

Cindy Forster, Scripps College

Alicia Estrada, California State University, Northridge

Peter Hallward, Kingston University

Ronald Briggs, Barnard College

Margaret Power, Illinois Tech

Ben Dangl, University of Vermont

Suzanna Reiss, University of Hawai‘i Manoa

Robert Wilcox, Northern Kentucky University

Arif Jamal, University of Bristol

Hester Eisenstein, Queens College

Pedro Caban, University at Albany

Victoria Simmons, Mount Royal University

Sandra McGee Deutsch, University of Texas at El Paso

Bruce Mannheim, University of Michigan

Carlota McAllister, York University

Carmelo de los Santos, University of New Mexico

Fernando Herrera Calderón, University of Northern Iowa

Sergio Romero, University of Texas at Austin

Eva Willems, Ghent University

Matthew Vitz, University of California, San Diego

John Beverly, University of Pittsburgh

Bertell Ollman , New York Univerity

Micaela di Leonardo, Northwestern University

Paul Monsky, Brandeis University

Lourdes Gutierrez Najera, Western Washington University

George Ciccariello-Maher, The College of William and Mary

Jeff Goodwin, New York University

Alf Nilsen, University of Pretoria

James Hill, University of Pittsburgh

Robert Hannigan, Suffolk University

Hannah Gurman, New York University

Chris Tilly, University of California, Los Angeles

Gabriel Hetland, University of Albany, State University of New York

Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, New York University

Paul Khalid Alexander, San Diego City College

Scott Markley, University of Georgia

Zuzana Uhde, The Czech Academy of Sciences

Nicholas Copeland, Virginia Tech

Christian Parenti , John Jay College, City University of New York

Julie Gamble, Trinity College

Mark Driscoll, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Magalí Rabasa, Lewis and Clark College

Gilberto Rosas , University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Cristina Venegas, University of California, Santa Barbara

Helen Scott, University of Vermont

Norberto O. Ferreras, Fluminense Federal University

Carmen Valdivia, University of California, Davis

Adolph Reed Jr., University of Pennsylvania

Peter Winn, Tufts University

Amílcar Dávila, Universidad Rafael Landívar

Isaac Gabriel Salgado, University of Pennsylvania

Kathryn Lehman, The University of Auckland

Jeb Sprague, University of California, Riverside

Frederick Mills, Bowie State University

Julie Gibbings, University of Edinburgh

Kyle Bailey, York University, Toronto

Manuel Rosaldo, The Pennsylvania State University

Jeannette Graulau, Lehman College, City University of New York

Francisco Zapata, The College of México

Heath Cabot, University of Pittsburgh

Jill Lane, New York University

Marc Becker, Truman State University

Gavin Fridell, Saint Mary's University

John Harriss, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver

Paul Eiss, Carnegie Mellon University

Margaret Cerullo, Margaret Cerullo

Joseph Bertino , New York University

Robert Andolina, Seattle University

Susanna B. Hecht, University of California, Los Angeles

Rebecca Schreiber, University of New Mexico

Brooke Larson , Stony Brook University

Ann Zulawsksi, Smith College

Waskar T. Ari-Chachaki, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Fabio Resmini, University of British Columbia

Colin Vanderburg, New York University

James Sanders, Utah State University

Anasa Hicks , Florida State University

Olivia Arigho-stiles, University of Essex, UK

Joren Janssens, Catholic University of Leuven

Dylan Kerrigan, University of Leicester

Marcela Echeverri, Yale University

Martha Arguello, Scripps College

Leisa Kauffmann, Wayne State University

Maria-Anne Moore, University of Liverpool

Ira Allen, Northern Arizona University

Aneil Rallin, Soka University of America

Tony Wood, New York University

Michael Wilson, University of California, Santa Cruz

Edward Guimont, University of Connecticut

Julie Livingston, New York University

Emily Yates-Doerr, Oregon State University and University of Amsterdam

Mneesha Gellman, Emerson College

Marie Kennedy, University of Massachusetts Boston

Joan Hoffman, City University of New York

Lisa Rofel, University of California, Santa Cruz

Danny James, Indiana University

Gabriela Bacsan, Scripps College

Salvatore Poier, University of Pittsburgh

Dip Kapoor, University of Alberta

Amy Chazkel, Queens College, City University of New York

James Daria, Georgia College and State University

Werner Vasquez von Schoettler, Latin American Social Sciences Institute

Charles Briggs , University of California, Berkeley

Richard Stahler-Sholk, Eastern Michigan University

Daniel Chomsky, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Norma Chinchilla, California State University, Long Beach

Steven Volk, Oberlin College

Lucía Mayorga, Higher University of San Andrés

Arthur Binford, City University of New York, Staten Island

Judith Rodenbeck, University of California, Riverside