Time To Confess to the Bolivian Coup

To live with the belief that your government is benign while experiencing each day its malignancy requires, Orwell argued, a constant act of double think. Double think is the act of holding "simultaneously two opinions which canceled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them. . .. to forget whatever it [is] necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it is needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself." Readers of 1984 often question whether doublethink can ever actually be done, which is ironic, because the questioning of double think is, itself, an act of double think. Americans each day have to perform the acrobatics of double think to maintain the faith of American identity and believe the U.S. is the chief exporter and supporter of democracy while knowing that it consistently conducts coups that remove inconvenient democratically thriving governments.

To be American is to believe that the US is a benign actor that never does wrong on the international stage and that Iran is a malignant actor that never does right. And yet, in June 2009, President Obama told the world that, in 1953, "the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government." Two months later, the admission that "The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government” would appear in CIA documents that had been declassified for the first time.

Half a century later, Venezuela would inherit Iran’s role as a government that resists its role as natural resources supplier to the United States and who is brazen enough to attempt to share the wealth from its natural resources with its own people instead. Once again, the US would soon admit that instead of exporting and supporting democracy, it found democracy inconvenient and removed it.

In 2002, the democratically elected Hugo Chávez was briefly removed from office in a coup before the people and the military restored the popular leader to power. Never included in American history is that as early as April 17, 2002, it had already been revealed that “Bush administration officials acknowledged . . . that they had discussed the removal of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for months with military and civilian leaders from Venezuela.”

Just days after that revelation, it was reported that the Bush administration’s backing of the coup did not begin with its endorsement of the coup government. Officials of the Organization of American States (OAS) confirmed that the Bush administration “was not only aware the coup was about to take place, but had sanctioned it.” Washington’s meetings with Venezuelan plotters included “a number of meetings” with coup leader Pedro Carmona himself. The meetings began several months before the coup. Another coup plotter who met with Washington, Vice Admiral Carlos Molina, said “We felt we were acting with U.S. support”. Details right down to the timing of the coup were discussed. The State Department would eventually admit that the Bush administration “provided training, institution building, and other support to individuals and organizations understood to be actively involved in the military coup.”

In both cases, America confessed to being the villain in the story of its dealings with the arch villain of the day. On June 7, 2020, The New York Times published the debunking of the OAS analysis that the US used to justify the reversal of the certified Bolivian election and the removal of the Evo Morales regime. The majority US funded OAS declared that there were irregularities sufficient to reverse the election because of a pattern of reporting that showed a "drastic and hard-to-explain change" in the voting trend in Morales’ favor between the termination of the preliminary count and the reporting of the official count.

But the change in trend, it turns out, was neither "drastic" nor "hard-to-explain." Instead, the new study reverses the charge, concluding that the OAS "statistical analysis was itself flawed." The study, conducted by three US university researchers, economist Francisco Rodríguez, Latin American politics expert Dorothy Kronick and advanced statistical analysis expert Nicolás Idrobo, accuses the OAS of relying on "incorrect data and inappropriate statistical techniques." They report that as soon as they corrected the methodological problems of the OAS analysis of the election, "O.A.S.’s results go away, leaving no statistical evidence of fraud."

The new study found that the "change in the trend appeared only when they excluded results from the manually processed, late-reporting polling booths." Those late-reporting polling booths are in the rural areas whose poorer and more indigenous populations form an important base of Morales’ support. So, of course Morales support trended up when their votes came in. It is only when those late arriving polling booths were excluded by the researchers that the sudden change in the results trend appeared. The researchers call that significant: the 1,500 excluded late-reporting booths account for the bulk of the final votes that the OAS statistical analysis claims are suspicious. When you include Morales’ supporters, his support is not suspicious at all.

And this new study is no where near the first to arrive at this conclusion. The winning hand now has three of a kind. The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) had already demonstrated, and Mark Weisbrot had already clearly explained, that the change was the result of geography and demographics, not fraud. 

And a second study by two specialists in election integrity, John Curiel and Jack R. Williams, both of MIT, had also arrived at, and reported, the same conclusion. To avoid a runoff, Morales had to win by 40% and be ahead of his closest competitor by 10% at the end of the first round. Morales had 47.1%, so the contested question was whether he was really ahead by 10%. Curiel and Williams answer the question clearly: “Our results were straightforward. There does not seem to be a statistically significant difference in the margin before and after the halt of the preliminary vote. Instead, it is highly likely that Morales surpassed the 10-percentage-point margin in the first round.”

Curiel and Williams add the statistical support that “We didn’t find any evidence of any of these anomalies. . .. We find a 0.946 correlation between Morales’s margin between results before and after the cutoff in precincts counted before and after the cutoff. There is little observable difference between precincts in the results before and after the count halt, suggesting that there weren’t any significant irregularities.” Their simulations predict a 10.49 point lead: more than the necessary 10 points.

Curiel and Williams conclude that “There is not any statistical evidence of fraud that we can find – the trends in the preliminary count, the lack of any big jump in support for Morales after the halt, and the size of Morales’s margin all appear legitimate. All in all, the OAS’s statistical analysis and conclusions would appear deeply flawed.”

Like the study reported in The New York Times, the MIT researchers also criticized the OAS analysis’ methodology, not to mention its sincerity: "The OAS’s report has basic methodological and statistical errors that make it difficult to see the OAS as an impartial election observer.”

Since the US relied on the OAS condemnation of the election that returned Morales to power, and since that condemnation has now been thoroughly discredited, isn’t it time to reverse the election reversal, admit, as they had to in Iran and Venezuela, that it was a US coup and allow the Bolivian people to decide if Evo Morales should be returned to power?

Ted Snider has a graduate degree in philosophy and writes on analyzing patterns in US foreign policy and history.