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“Bolivia Belongs to Christ”: The Christian Fundamentalist Beliefs of the New Bolivian Junta

Amidst the ongoing carnage of the Bolivian coup d’etat, including mass killings and widespread racist violence against the indigenous population, two separate narratives are now developing of the situation in the country. One, as promulgated through western media, would have you believe that brave protestors have overthrown the evil socialist Evo Morales and have had their cries and pleas for the wonders of western democratic capitalism answered. The other, however, is what is actually the truth.

That truth is that the democratically elected Bolivian government was overthrown in a U.S. backed coup that utilised the country’s far-right agitators, capitalist business establishment and Christian fundamentalists against the people of Bolivia. A coup that has left Bolivia’s indigenous population and socialist activists in immediate and profound danger.

How much danger the people of Bolivia are now in can be easily realised when the anti-indigenous and anti-socialist positions of the coup leaders become clear, with “President” Jeanine Añez believing the indigenous community to be “Satanic”.

Catholicism has played a historically important part in Bolivian life, with 75% of the public defining as Catholic and until 2009 the country was officially a Catholic country, with government officials swearing oaths on the Bible that committed them to God and country alike. However, Evo Morales’ new constitution that year created a secular Bolivia with no official religion in an attempt to quell the deep-rooted racism and inequality for indigenous communities and cultures.

‘I Think My Crime Is Being Indigenous’ – Evo Morales

Restoring Catholicism’s place in Bolivia became a cause of religious fervour for people like senator Jeanine Añez and the far-right leader of the Santa Cruz Civic Committee Luis Fernando Camacho who promised to “bring the Bible back to the palace of government” as he invoked God and the scriptures at numerous protests and rallies in recent months.

Camacho is a known Christian fundamentalist with extensive links to far-right paramilitaries, primarily in the Santa Cruz region of Bolivia. The son of a businessman from Santa Cruz and a millionaire, his family has significant investment in insurance, gas and real estate which is said to have created a long-term hatred of Morales and socialism

Camacho, who is constantly seen “brandishing a Bible and a rosary as the only sources of his legitimacy” has seemingly come from nowhere to take a leading role in the coup d’etat. He was not a candidate at the October 20 elections which resulted in weeks of violence against socialist candidates and activists.

Despite his non-existent political profile it was in the immediate aftermath of the coup against Morales that Comacho burst into the Presidential Palace in the company of paramilitaries and, brandishing the bible, declared that “Bolivia belongs to Christ”.

Comacho with his Bible at the Presidential Palace

“I’m not going with weapons, I’m going with my faith and my hope; with a Bible in my right hand and a resignation letter [for Morales] in my left hand.”

Luis Fernando Camacho

Of course, the paramilitaries were, in fact, heavily armed.

At the age of 23 the future coup leader joined the Cruceñista Civil Union, a group that is considered a far-right racist paramilitary organisation by the International Federation of Human Rights. Paramilitaries linked to Comacho have been responsible for previous racist and homophobic violence throughout the country alongside previous plots to assassinate Evo Morales.

In 2008, two members of the Comacho linked Santa Cruz Youth Union were arrested while in possession of a sniper rifle and scope in the vicinity of Evo Morales’ aircraft.

Also allegedly involved in these plots was Branko Marinkovic, a wealthy Christian fundamentalist oligarch with his money in the Oilseeds industry who spent six years at university in Texas.

Marinkovic, an opponent of Morales and prefect of the Civic Committee of the Santa Cruz Department, is a member of just one of a number of wealthy landowning families of Croatian origin in the Santa Cruz region who came to Bolivia after the Second World War and the ascension of communist leader Josip Tito in Yugoslavia. These families, amongst others, have been said to drive politics in the region and there have been repeated claims that Marinkovic was forming his own paramilitary militia.

It has been noted by a Bolivian documentary that Marinkovic is an admirer of the Croatian fascist Ustaše, an ultranationalist terrorist organisation active between 1929 and 1945 that were responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma and socialists.

In 2010 Marinkovic was alleged to have plotted alongside others to overthrow the democratically elected government and kill President Morales. He went into exile back in the United States.

“[Comacho] legitimizes his authoritarian stance with Bolsonaro-style religious discourse… [It is] an expression of the Bolivian protofascist right”

Julio Cordova, Bolivian sociologist

The far-right Comacho has been compared by many to the likes of Britain’s Tommy Robinson, Venezuela’s Juan Gaido and Brazil’s Jair Bolsanaro, the Bolivian coup leader having been called a racist and misogynist by both social and feminist activists.

“In line with other representatives of the new regional right, such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Camacho handles a speech with a very strong religious anchor. [He has a method of] speech that, although it tries to associate it with ‘the peace and unity of the Bolivian people’, ends up fraught with racism, class hatred and provocation.”

Mariela Franzosi, journalist

The aims of Anez and Comacho are no less than the complete removal of socialists and the indigenous community from Bolivian political life, ending the secular state and the reinstallation of a program of neoliberalism that will allow the United States to control the valuable lithium industry as the world moves toward a green automobile industry.

Marcelo Arequipa, a political science professor at the Catholic University of Bolivia says that the entire political agenda of the coup government is based on the agenda of Luis Fernando Camacho.

“He’s managed to build a radical movement, entirely around opposition to Evo—anti-Evismo. Everything that’s being done right now, the whole political agenda [the government] is pushing right now is the agenda of Camacho.”

Marcelo Arequipa, political science professor

While Comacho is easily identifiable as a Christian fanatic, the so-called “interim President” Jeanine Añez has managed to remain much more lowkey in her fundamentalism as she enjoys the support and patronage of the likes of the United States, European Union and the neoliberal and far-right international press.

Despite now being “President” the Democrat Social Movement of Añez has a mere 4 seats from 130 in the Chamber of Deputies and 1 Senator in the Senate, betraying the lack of any legitimacy or mandate from the Bolivian people for her far-right policies.

Añez is married to Colombian politician Héctor Hernando Hincapié Carvajal of the Colombian Conservative Party and was nominated several times to various legislative bodies by the Social Party of National Unity. He is a known ally of Alvaro Uribe who was particularly close to the United States and responsible for the mass killings of thousands of civilians who were killed by death squads as part of the war against the left-wing FARC and ELN. The program of terror enacted on the Colombian people also resulted in the displacement of millions more.

An internal American DoD document and leaked diplomatic cables describe Uribe as a collaborator and financier of the Medellín Cartel and intimate friend of Pablo Escobar, the DoD document listing the former President as number 82 on a list of the most important drug dealers in Colombia.

Añez, whose own nephew was arrested for drug running in Brazil, has given her full backing to Comacho and stated her pleasure at God “allow[ing]” the overthrow of the elected Bolivian government.

“God has allowed the Bible to come back into the palace. May he bless us.”

Jeanine Añez, Bolivian usurper

You don’t have to go very deep to find yet more evidence of the fanaticism of Añez, with her deep-seated racism and Christian fundamentalist rhetoric on full display over many years on social media, describing the religious practices of indigenous Bolivians as “Satanic”.

“I dream of a Bolivia free of satanic indigenous rituals, the city is not for the Indians, they should go to the high plains or the Chaco!!”

Jeanine Añez, 2013

When Jeanine Añez declared her first cabinet after appointing herself President, she ensured that there wasn’t a single member of the indigenous community among them. She also ensured that the military and police would preemptively face no charges for any deaths or injuries that resulted from future actions against protesters in the country, the “conservative” President also beginning moves to detain socialist members of parliament.

Government of Añez issues decree to exempt military from criminal responsibilities in the repression (all within the framework of the CPE, obviously). It was a requirement of the Armed Forces

The diktat means that there are unlikely to be any charges brought for the killings of 23 protesters by security forces in the country, with 715 more injured and over 1000 arrested. The highest loss of life during protests against the coup regime came at the Cochabamba massacre last Thursday with nine protestors now confirmed to have been killed by security forces during the atrocity. The massacre began when coca growers tried to enter Cochabamba and the army and police forces opened fire on the crowds. The funerals of victims took place this past weekend.

While the Christian fundamentalist and white supremacist beliefs of the new Bolivian junta are being ignored by western media and governments alike, the crimes of the new state are multiplying. The danger that we are seeing the beginnings of a new racist and oppressive fundamentalism in Bolivia is real as is the immediate danger to millions of innocent Bolivian citizens.

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