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Home / World / Ethnic rifts in Bolivia burst in sight with the fall of Evo Morales

Ethnic rifts in Bolivia burst in sight with the fall of Evo Morales

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia – In the days since the fall of Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia, deep ethnic tensions have broken out that have long divided the country, making efforts to bring Bolivia out of the political crisis.

Mr. Morales, an aboriginal advocate, has now been replaced by an incumbent president of European descent, and resentments have surfaced. Policemen have torn the indigenous insignia off their uniforms. Protesters have burned the flag of the natives. And the incumbent president, who wrote tweets that many consider racist, initially appointed a cabinet without a single indigenous member.

"We feel threatened," said Juan Acume, a farmer from Quechua, an indigenous group, near a protest barricade of mounds and trunks over Bolivia's main street on Wednesday night. "They do not represent us, they reject us, the natives."

Mr. Morales's nearly 14 years of rule were a breakthrough for three quarters of Bolivians who are either of indigenous descent or identify themselves as members of indigenous groups But he also strengthened his base of support through explicit appeals to racial identity, which many Bolivians found threatening and polarizing.After Mr. Morales took asylum in Mexico, his followers fear the loss of their hard-won political and economic gains.

In recent years, Ms. Añez published provocative posts on Twitter mocking the culture of indigenous peoples calling their religious rites "satanic" and Mr. Morales a "Poor Indian."

Since then, she has deleted the tweets he does not before they have spread widely in social media. They were supplemented by a cascade of fake racist offices attributed to Mrs. Añez and distributed by the followers of Mr. Morales, a media surveillance group Bolivia Verifies Observatory

. At a press conference on Friday, Mrs. Añe z denounced the fake tweets and said that her enemies were spreading disinformation. When asked if any of the attributed racist tweets was real, she did not answer.

"This rhetoric of racism and discrimination," she said, "is not real and we reject it." have since been cooked below the surface.

Diego of Vacano, a Bolivian political scientist at Texas A & M University, compared traditional racial relations in Bolivia to the "apartheid system in South Africa, where the indigenous people are second-class citizens."

He said, "The importance of Evo he grew up and has achieved many positive things for the Indians. "

But when Mr. Morales lost power in the last three years, Mr. von Vacano added," He collected his indigenous base through the rhetoric of racial differences that has now polarized much of the country.

During Morales's term of office, the number of indigenous representatives in ministries and congresses grew, including women wearing traditional skirts called polleras. that were once despised in public space.

Mr. Morales also distributed the country's natural gas wealth to indigenous communities and introduced a renaissance of traditional cuisine, music and clothing.

He introduced a multicolored flag, the Whipala, which represents the various indigenous groups of the country, and made them an official flag bearer next to the country's traditional flag of independence in red, green and yellow.

This policy has made him a role model for many indigenous major communities in Bolivia, Quechua and Aymara, which make up about a third of the country's adult population. after the last census.

They have also provoked resentment on many Bolivians of mixed or European descent, as well as the country's smaller indigenous groups, who accused Mr Morales of ethnic preference and exploited racial differences for political purposes.

Mr. Morales & # 39; s critics say his government's fixation on one particular brand of Bolivia's diverse indigenous culture – the highland subsistence farming communities – masks the country's growing cosmopolitanism. The percentage of Bolivians identified as members of indigenous peoples decreased from 62 percent a decade ago to 41 percent in 2012, according to the latest census.

"Bolivia has racism; it existed before Evo and it will never go away, "said Michelle Kieffer, an insurance broker, when she drank a cappuccino in a middle-class district of the country's administrative capital, La Paz.

"While Evo started an important discussion," she added, "he also manipulated the race problem, and that has led to disunity, and now people of different races are looking at each other with suspicion."

Bolivia's political fault lines are complex Race often associates with regional and ideological divisions, there are indigenous leaders who have broken with Mr Morales because of allegations of corruption, and some non-indigenous Bolivians supported his socialist policies, but the racial differences were evident last week when comparing the masses who marched for and against Mr Morales.

These divisions are rocking cities like Cochabamba, a diverse regional capital of about 700,000 people in a high Andean valley surrounded by the predominantly Quechua-speaking landscape a decision of the local police command of the past Fri One day later, to join protesters protesting against the re-election of Mr Morales, a nationwide raid by the security forces.

The mutiny unleashed the deathblow on Mr Morales's embattled government. Pressured by the armed forces, Morales announced on Sunday his resignation from his stronghold in the coca growing region of Cochabamba province and flew into exile the next day.

After taking control of the city of Cochabamba, the rebellious police officers stepped off the Whipala insignia from their uniforms and threw them to the ground, a scene taken on one of one local newspaper recorded video. Minutes later, anti-government demonstrators seized the Whipala standard from the police headquarters and burned him in the city's main square.

For the rebels, the dual use of national flags was a symbol of disunity promoted by Mr Morales.

"They made us believe there were two Bolivia, and we always thought there was one," Colonel Miguel Mercado, police commander of the neighboring province of Santa Cruz, said in a television interview. " It has to protect us all."

For many indigenous peoples of Bolivia, the Whipala profanation was a grave insult symbolizing the end of equality they had enjoyed under Mr. Morales. On Thursday, thousands of Cochabambas chiefly Quechua coca leaf farmers descended on the edge of the regional capital and waved the two flags of the country, to demand the return of Morales the city, a reminder of many coca growers to the brutal repression, which they had suffered during the pro-American predecessor governments of Mr. Morales.

It was the biggest protest in Bolivia that day, but there was not a single local journalist present in a city that was present with several local television channels and newspapers. For the demonstrators, this was another sign of cultural discrimination. The entertainment programs and commercials on Bolivian television are almost entirely staffed by white actors and presenters.

"They have been giving orders for 500 years and now want to take our 13 years away," said Herlinda Cruz, a coca breeder in Pollera and a traditional melon. "They will take my pollera away. They will take my vote, "she added, bursting into tears.

The ethnic divide is partly religious. Mr. Morales had a tense relationship with the Roman Catholic Church, in part because he had promoted traditional Aymara ceremonies in the Presidential Palace, a practice that was used in a country where Catholicism was central to the conquest of Indians in the 16th century Century was when pagan was considered.

wife. Añez vowed to hold an oversized bible, which she solemnly placed in the presidential palace. Although the overwhelming majority of Bolivians consider themselves Christians, for some, the conservative Catholicism of Mrs. Añez signaled the return of European rule over Bolivian culture. When Ms. Añez performs in public, she is often assisted by an adjutant with a cross.

Mr. Morales has fueled the growing cultural and racial tensions of his Mexican exile. In frequent press conferences and Twitter posts, he has called his opponents "racists and putschists".

His message was almost literally repeated at a protest in Cochabamba on Thursday by his followers . Many wore homemade weapons and shields to protect themselves from what they expected as an impending police attack. At least one person died the day before in clashes between indigenous demonstrators and the police in a nearby province.

"They burned our flag; They laughed at our culture. That's racism; That's discrimination, "said Alfonso Coque, a coca breeder. "We will give our lives for our rights."

Anatoly Kurmanaev reported from Cochabamba and Clifford Krauss from La Paz. Cesar del Castillo contributed to the La Paz coverage.

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