Cables leaked by U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning reveal an apparent plot by the U.S. government to assassinate Bolivian President Evo Morales and overthrow his administration.
The cables in question were published in August in “The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to US Empire,” a book in which multiple journalists along with Julian Assange analyze the contents of the treasure trove of cables Manning provided to WikiLeaks in 2010.
The book devotes a section to what “The WikiLeaks Files” contributors Alexander Main and Dan Beeton call “the day-to-day mechanics of Washington’s political intervention in Latin America.”
According to the cables, the plot to orchestrate a coup or carry out an assassination against Morales came after years of resistance by the Morales government to the United States’ Latin American agenda.
TeleSUR, a Latin American TV network, reported last week that the Bolivian government is continuing a formal investigation into the allegations, despite denials by U.S. government officials:
“In a strongly worded statement the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia said, ‘The government of the United States was not involved in any conspiracy, attempt to overthrow the government of Bolivia or assassinate President Morales. This kind of unfounded allegations does not contribute to improving bilateral relations.’”
These allegations of a U.S. plot mirror recent revelations that the DEA is targeting the Morales government with secret drug indictments after his administration kicked the U.S. agency out of Bolivia to pursue their own, locally-oriented and highly successful cocaine-reduction strategies.
Contrary to the official denials, the WikiLeaks cables show how the U.S. escalated attempts to put pressure on Morales and his government over several years. According to Main and Beeton’s analysis of the cables, pressure on Morales began soon after his 2005 election as part of a wave of left-leaning candidates winning elections in Latin America. But Morales resisted U.S. directives and continued with his plans to nationalize the fossil fuels industry and move away from dependence on foreign aid and international loans.
The cables suggest that starting from 2007 the U.S. government began providing aid to the “Media Luna” region of Bolivia, which is controlled by Morales’ opposition:
“A USAID report from 2007 stated that its Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) ‘ha[d] approved 101 grants for $4,066,131 to help departmental governments operate more strategically.’ Funds also went to local indigenous groups that were ‘opposed to Evo Morales’ vision for indigenous communities.’”
A year later, the residents of Media Luna were rebelling against the Morales government in clashes that led to 20 deaths. A coup seemed imminent, and the opposition had the support of U.S. officials:
“[T]he United States was in regular communication with the leaders of the separatist opposition movement, even as they spoke openly of ‘blow[ing] up gas lines’ and ‘violence as a probability to force the government to . . . take seriously any dialogue.’”
While officially supporting the Morales administration in public statements, the cables show the U.S. government preparing “a plan for immediate response in the event of a sudden emergency, i.e. a coup attempt or President Morales’ death.”
Tensions only eased as other South American governments declared their support for Bolivia’s democratically-elected government.
Juan Ramon Quintana, Bolivia’s minister of the presidency, emphasized the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia’s direct role in the plot, according to teleSUR:
“In 2007, the embassy of the United States installed a Center of Operations in order to execute a civil-prefectural coup to apply plan A, which was the coup, and plan B, which was the assassination.”
TeleSUR noted that, “Relations between the U.S. and Bolivia have been strained since 2009, when President Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador from the country for supporting [an] opposition-led conspiracy against him,” a move that led then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to accuse the president of “fear-mongering.”