U.S. interventionists busy in Bolivia as political crisis looms
Luis Alberto Arce Catacora (Lucho Arce)/X

Division within Bolivia’s Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) Party is good news for the U.S. government and it is getting plenty of that “good” news these days.

It had opposed MAS political power from the beginning of former President Evo Morales’ progressive rule in 2006 until a U.S.-backed coup ousted him in 2019. Morales was the country’s first-ever Indigenous president.

Delegates loyal to current President Luis Arce dominated the 10th Congress of Bolivia’s Movement toward Socialism (MAS) Party held in El Alto in early May. They selected Grover García, chief of a governmental agency and formerly of a farmworkers’ union, to be MAS’s new leader, replacing former president Evo Morales in that capacity.

Another gathering planned

Another MAS gathering on June 10 takes place in Cochabamba to elect other Party leaders. One more, a “unity congress,” happens there on July 10, in a territory friendly to Morales. He conditions his participation on the MAS Party and his own presidential candidacy for 2025 not being eliminated.

Morales retained popular support throughout his tenure. His government overcame repeated attacks from oligarchic, racist, separatist, and U.S.-allied political forces based largely in Bolivia’s eastern departments, notable for rich oil and gas deposits and industrial-scale agriculture.

MAS governments, with Luis Arce as minister of economy and public finance, achieved social advances, reduced poverty, nationalized oil and gas extraction and production, carried out land reform, and elevated the status of Bolivia’s majority indigenous population.

The U.S. government has eyed immense lithium deposits in Bolivia and expressed concern about Chinese economic inroads; a commentator notes that, as of 2017, “China has become the principal contractor and financing source for Bolivia’s state-led national development project.”

That President Luis Arce secured a 55% majority vote on October 19, 2020, to restore the MAS Party to power is also worrisome to Washington officials. His government in October 2022 mobilized popular support to defeat an opposition uprising led by reactionary politicians in Santa Cruz and other eastern departments. The victory elevated Arce’s appeal to government officials and MAS activists alike.

The division between the Party’s two wings, widening over two years, is highly visible. Highway blockades, strikes, and demonstrations carried out by “radical factions of the MAS movement led by former President Evo Morales” played out between January and March. Rising inflation, reduced gas and oil production, falling currency reserves, and shortages of fuel and food add to MAS’s vulnerability.

One goal of the 10th MAS Party Congress was to meet constitutional requirements of orderly party function. Observers were on hand whose reports to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE in Spanish) would allow the Tribunal to certify the “resolutions of the Arcista conclave.” But an adverse ruling now and two more in the future would deprive the MAS Party of its “judicial personhood,” and rule out future election participation.

Democracy is at risk. Journalist Tatiana Castro claims social movements, “pillars that sustain the MAS in power,” are “fundamental for guaranteeing governability … [and] part of the democratic dynamics.”  Within the MAS Party itself, social movements are divided.

Those made up of urban residents and indigenous Aymara people of Bolivia’s high plateau region lean towards President Arce. Others supportive of Morales consist of federations of indigenous peoples in Bolivia’s tropical regions. Castro sees the two factions competing within the state apparatus not about ideology but over “perks, advantages, benefits, and nominations.”

President Luis Arce on May 18 warned that “the right is sharpening up for next year’s elections.” He denounced as “economic blockade” the Bolivian Senate’s recent refusal to authorize foreign loans. Meeting recently in the United States, extreme right-wing opposition politicians were “unifying against MAS,” he claims.

Morales warned that TSE recognition of the Arce-inclined El Alto Congress would signify “genocide against the indigenous movement.” He urged followers to “have patience,” to no longer resort to blocking highways and to expect legal struggles.

Interviewed, Morales referred to an audio recording of statements of U.S. chargé d’affaires in Bolivia, Debra Hevia. Her remarks, supposedly leaked on April 27, may be heard here. They include mention that, “We have been working for a long time to achieve change in Bolivia, time is vital for us, but for it to be a real change, Evo and Arce have to leave power and close that chapter.”  A subsequent report attributes Hevia’s voice to artificial intelligence.

Earlier inflammatory article

Weeks earlier, an inflammatory article from the same leaking platform, El Radar, had already reverberated across Latin America. It explains that, “Information leaked from the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia, systematized… by the Center for Multidisciplinary Geopolitical Studies (CEGM) reveals a new U.S. plan.” The article includes a document titled: “Latin America in the Eye of the Storm. Possible Victory of the United States and Recolonization of Latin America (Plan Simón Bolívar).”

The origin of the Plan is unclear. Our Internet search for the CEGM provided no information. The article and document cite serious threats to U.S. worldwide hegemony posed by China, India, the BRICS alliance itself, and by “economic power [for Latin America] through trade with the two Asiatic giants, China and India.”

As regards the article’s recommendations for Bolivia: “the strategy would be focused on its natural resources and on consolidation of a servile, rightwing government,” and on the break-up of the MAS political movement. It mentions “Debra Hevia, the new U.S. chargé d’affaires, who has been meeting with different parties and organizations throughout the country.”

A report elsewhere on the supposed Simón Bolívar Plan accuses Hevia of “having initiated a new phase of hybrid war whose politics are those of ‘regime change’ within the framework of the presidential elections of 2025.” Diplomat Hevia serves in place of a U.S. ambassador, absent in Bolivia since 2008. Evo Morales expelled the last ambassador Philip Goldberg, alleging interventionist activities.

Among revealing aspects of Hevia’s work and history are these:

  • She worked at the State Department Operations Center that handles intelligence and counter-insurgency work.
  • Stationed in Nicaragua, she helped arrange for opposition groups to join the failed coup attempt against the Daniel Ortega government in 2018.
  • During an earlier stay in Bolivia she “sought to reconstruct the armed wing of the [fascist-inclined] Santa Cruz Youth organization” and arranged for funding the activities of Svonko Matkovik, “formerly jailed for anti-Morales terrorist activities.”
  • Hevia’s husband, a Bolivian, is a former DEA agent. He must have “reunited with his contacts and old acquaintances” on return to Bolivia, speculates reporter Martin Agüero. Morales expelled the DEA from Bolivia for interventionist activities in 2008.

Uncertainties prevail. The origin of revealing leaks attributed to the U.S. Embassy is obscure. With elections approaching, the two wings of the MAS Party are far apart.

Declaring the recently completed MAS Congress to be invalid, the TSE on May 23 rejected the election of Grover García as party leader, leaving Morales in charge. The TSE had previously invalidated the Congress held by the Morales faction in October 2023.

García told a reporter that Evo Morales afterwards had been urged to join the more recent Congress. Morales reiterates that the gathering set for July 10 in Cochabamba will be a “unity congress,” although the TSE is unlikely to rule in its favor. Understating the matter, La Razón news service sees the MAS as “caught up in a vicious cycle.”


W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.