Human Rights Watch supports US-backed far-right coup in Bolivia, whitewashes massacre of indigenous protesters

Human Rights Watch refused to called the US-backed military overthrow of Bolviva’s President Evo Morales a coup, and director Ken Roth praised the “transitional moment” against the elected “strongman”

By Alan MacLeod / MintPress News

Bolivia is in turmoil after President Evo Morales was deposed in a U.S.-supported coup d’état on November 10.

The new coup government forced Morales into exile, arrested left-wing politicians and journalists, and then pre-exonerated security services of all crimes committed during the “re-establishment of order,” effectively giving soldiers a license to kill all resistance to the military junta’s rule.

Dozens have been killed. Indigenous protesters were massacred in the city of Cochabamba and the small town of Senkata.

In confusing and alarming situations such as these, millions of people around the world look to international human rights organizations for leadership and guidance.

However, far from standing up for the oppressed, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has effectively endorsed the events. In its official communiqué, HRW refrained from using the word coup, insisting Morales “resigned.”

HRW Americas director José Miguel Vivanco claimed President Morales stepped down “after weeks of civil unrest and violent clashes,” and did not even mention opposition violence against his party or the role of the military in demanding, at gunpoint, that he resign.

Therefore, Morales mysteriously “traveled to Mexico,” in the organization’s words, rather than fleeing there to escape arrest. HRW tacitly endorsed the coup government, advising it to “prioritize rights.”

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth went further, presenting the elected head of state fleeing the country at gunpoint as a refreshing step forward for democracy.

Roth wrote that Morales was “the casualty of a counter-revolution aimed at defending democracy… against electoral fraud and his own illegal candidacy,” claiming that Morales had ordered the army to shoot protesters.

Roth also described the coup approvingly as an “uprising” and a “transitional moment” for Bolivia, while presenting President Morales as an out-of-touch “strongman.”

New self-declared President Jeanine Añez, whose party received just 4 percent of the vote share in the October elections, has already expelled hundreds of Cuban doctors, broken off ties with Venezuela, and pulled Bolivia out of multiple international and intercontinental organizations and treaties.

Añez describes the indigenous majority of Bolivians as “satanic” and insists they should not be allowed to live in cities, instead, being sent to the desert or the sparsely populated highlands.

Añez also declared that she is “committed to taking all measures necessary to pacify” the population.

Human Rights Watch described the law giving Bolivian security forces complete impunity to kill dissenters as a “problematic decree,” as if Añez had used racially insensitive language, rather than ordering a massacre.

In its statement, HRW noted that “nine people died and 122 were wounded” during the Cochabamba demonstration, leaving its readers completely in the dark about who died and who was responsible for the killing.

A long history of ‘human rights’ double standards

Human Rights Watch was originally established in 1978 as Helsinki Watch, an American organization dedicated to exposing the crimes of socialist Eastern Bloc countries and monitoring their compliance with the Helsinki Accords.

Since its establishment, HRW has consistently been criticized for acting as a de facto vehicle for U.S. foreign policy, employing former U.S. government officials in key positions, and displaying bias against leftist governments unfriendly to the United States.

A 2008 report on human rights violations in Venezuela authored by Jose Vivanco, for example, was immediately panned by hundreds of academics and Latin American scholars, who said the “grossly flawed” document “did not meet even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility.”

Indeed, Vivanco openly stated his biases, revealing that he wrote the report “because we wanted to demonstrate to the world that Venezuela is not a model for anyone.”

In contrast, Human Rights Watch was relatively silent on the Honduran coup d’état that deposed leftist President Manuel Zelaya, and the repression that came after, effectively carrying water for U.S.-backed regime change.

As writer Keane Bhatt, who now works as Bernie Sanders’ communications director, argued in 2013, “Human Rights Watch’s deep ties to U.S. corporate and state sectors should disqualify the institution from any public pretense of independence.”

Likewise, Amnesty International’s image as a defender of human rights hides a dark past of being effectively a front organization for Western governments.

As MintPress News revealed earlier this year, a co-founder of the organization, Peter Benenson, was an avowed anti-communist with deep ties to the British Foreign and Colonial Offices, propping up the apartheid regime of South Africa at the UK government’s request.

Another Amnesty International co-founder, Luis Kutner, was an FBI asset who was linked to the U.S. government’s assassination of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. Kutner went on to form an organization called “Friends of the FBI”, dedicated to countering and combating criticism of the bureau.

While some may be surprised by Human Rights Watch’s response to the Bolivia crisis, the organization’s applause for the U.S.-backed right-wing coup against a democratically elected socialist head of state is not an aberration or a mistake.

HRW is performing its duty in reinforcing U.S. hegemony by condemning any leftist challengers in America’s “backyard.”


This article was first published at Mintpress News.