The United States historically has been eager to meddle with Latin American affairs. From the Monroe Doctrine to the overthrowing of the democratically elected Salvador Allende in Chile, American imperialism has a long and storied history. Our penchant for interfering didn’t stop when we entered the 21st century, with Venezuela and Bolivia as the newest targets. Just recently, former President Evo Morales’s Movement for Socialism Party won an election with a wide margin of victory. This is following a U.S.-backed coup in the country that brought a right-leaning leader, Jeanine Áñez, in power. Her party’s loss is a victory for the people of Bolivia and is an example of a spectacular failure of the U.S.’s meddling in Latin America. But to understand why and what it means, we must look at Morales and his party.

Morales is a deeply popular figure in Bolivia, not only for the good work he’s done but also for what he represents. Morales was Bolivia’s first-ever ndigenous president. He started his political career as a leader of a coca-growing union and has kept that as a point of pride during his tenure as president. As president, he established infrastructure and instituted regulations that prioritized native farmers in the rural area for economic stability. Last year, in the rural province of Chapare, Morales received 90% of the vote. He rewrote the Bolivian constitution to enfranchise more people and to solidify the rights of indigenous peoples all over the country. The average annual GDP increase under Morales was nearly 5% per year, and he halved poverty from 36% to 17%. Morales nationalized the oil and gas industry and redistributed millions of acres of land. Through the nationalized industry, he built more than 4,500 schools in rural and impoverished areas. Other socialist policies he instituted included a pension for low-income people aged 60 and above and welfare policies for uninsured young mothers. Morales changed Bolivia for the better.

Why would the U.S. want to overthrow someone who brought stability and prosperity to their country? One of the main motives was the aforementioned eagerness to nationalize industry. Bolivia holds one of the most abundant deposits of lithium in the world, an element necessary to create products like batteries and solar panels. In 2019, Morales reportedly won the election with a 10.1-percentage-point lead in votes, just barely a tenth of a percent higher than the lead needed to prevent a runoff election. The Organization of American States led an investigation shortly after accusations of electoral fraud were slung around, and concluded that they found “serious irregularities.” 

The problem with the OAS is that it has historically been used as a tool for the U.S. to advance their own goals, especially throughout the Cold War. The OAS was notably complicit with the U.S.’s infringement on the national sovereignty of Guatemala when they tried to nationalize the fruit companies. Banana republics were assets to the U.S. given the revenue they generated. Another notable example was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the OAS collectively agreed to impose a quarantine on Cuba, preventing anything or anyone from crossing the country’s borders. They are historically a political tool for the U.S. and didn’t prove themselves any different here. In the end, the discrepancies were easy to refute but Evo was forcibly removed in another instance of American imperialism. Elon Musk, apparently an anti-democratic human being and user of lithium as the CEO of Tesla, said “We will coup whoever we want!” on Twitter in the aftermath.

And so, the interim president Jeanine Áñez assumed power and led for a year. Her tenure was marked by corruption, COVID-19 negligence and violence against the indigenous population and her political opponents. The new election, which Áñez was supposed to hasten, was delayed twice under the excuse of COVID-19. On Oct.18, Luis Arce, leader of Morales’s MAS party, won the election with a decisive lead. With his victory, the image of a divided and turbulent Bolivia is crushed and destroyed. The people wanted a return to Morales’ policies and showed it in their electoral process.

What are you supposed to make of all this? It’s mostly a show of the American imperialistic process. We’ve used Latin America as a tool for our gain too often, from banana republics to the wealth of lithium in Bolivia. It’s a despicable stain on our country’s history, and it shows itself in insidious ways. The trend of American imperialism hasn’t died in the 21st century, and I don’t expect it to anytime soon. It’s an abhorrent practice and a disgusting way to assert our power. It makes the people of the afflicted country suffer and will overthrow a government that has done nothing but help its people to meet the ends of American capital. When this happens again, don’t let our government get away with it. It’s an undemocratic and hypocritical act of violence that serves nobody but the wealthy and their benefactors.


Sam Fogel can be reached at

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