Why Americans Have a Moral Responsibility to Call Out Coups by their Name

Todd Tucker
Nov 19 · 2 min read

Here is a short thread on why it’s important for an American — if you’re going to choose to talk about Bolivia — to call it a coup.

First, as @MPaarlberg writes here, “Let’s not mince words. It’s a coup. When an elected president is forced to resign by the head of the armed forces, after weeks of escalating street violence and a police mutiny, the word “coup” fits.”” (washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/1…)

Second, even if you’re on the fence about whether the things that have already happened will constitute in the authoritative histories a “coup,” calling it a “coup” anyway is part of legitimation politics that help shape how dystopian things get. For more on that point, see @Max_Fisher and @naunihalpublic here:

Saying it’s a “coup” does not mean that you like everything Evo Morales did or that it was smart of him to ignore a referendum barring fourth terms. That was bad, and Evo’s former climate ambassador @pablosolon gives the history here @democracynow. (democracynow.org/2019/11/13/bol…)

But removing a still popular president before the end of his term is worse, and the human costs yet to come will be worse still. Here’s @ZeeshanAleem on why Evo still has the largest base in Bolivia. (thenation.com/article/econom…)

We as Americans have a special moral responsibility to support democracy and the rule of law (the good kind, not the business kind) in Latin America, because we’ve subverted it for so long. Saying that doesn’t mean you think the CIA did the Bolivia coup. (amazon.com/Empires-Worksh…)

The lack of a fulsome and inclusive democracy for most of Latin America’s history had horrible economic and social consequences, as @MarkWeisbrot @ViscidKonrad and @ceprdc have long documented (cepr.net/publications/r…)

So foreign policy is important for moral and practical reasons. And it’s an area where the US president has enormous and largely unconstrained power, as I’ve spent the last few years writing. (politico.com/magazine/story…)

As @GaneshSitaraman @Econ_Marshall and I write here, a new president can put in or remove monopoly protections from trade agreements, for instance: (qz.com/1424817/trumps…)

And progressive foreign policy is especially important now, as there’s a non-zero chance that there will be progressive European governments to work together with to make big structural change. (time.com/5475791/2020-b…)

Not to mention the left winning numerous elections across Latin America. These leaders will be looking to the US to see who is drawing the bright lines that need drawing, so they know who they can work with on labor, environment, and other matters. (reuters.com/article/us-mex…)

The time is ripe for the US to be a Good Neighbor, improving on and correcting the shortcoming of FDR’s original Good Neighbor policy. (fdrfoundation.org/good-neighbor-…)

And, as Berta Caceres’ murder in 2016 (and Clinton’s silence) reminds us, bad US foreign policy has a way of finding its way into US domestic politics as well. END (remezcla.com/culture/berta-…)

Todd Tucker

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I write about democracy, political economy, and trade. Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and Roosevelt Forward.