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Accepted Paper:

Road-blocks and coup: symbolic politics in the re-emergence of the two Bolivias following Bolivia’s 2019 election  
Jonathan Alderman (University of St Andrews)

Paper short abstract:

Road-blocks in Bolivia are usually a protest form used by rural subaltern groups, but following Bolivia’s presidential election in 2019, were used by middle- and upper-class urban Bolivians to portray their protest against the re-election of Evo Morales as a popular insurrection.

Paper long abstract:

Road-blocks carry a weighty history in Bolivian politics. Since indigenous resistance leader Tupak Katari led a blockade which starved many people in the city of La Paz in 1781, road-blocks have been a weapon of the weak (Scott 1985): a tool used by otherwise powerless rural peasants against tyrannical, urban-centred government. Evo Morales came to power as Bolivia’s first indigenous president in 2005 after leading such protests against privatisation of Bolivia’s resources and the heavy-handed eradication of coca by neoliberal governments, which had left many people destitute. Following the 2019 Bolivian presidential election, road-blocks by urban, overwhelmingly middle- and upper-class, Bolivians therefore carried a heavy symbolism. Wealthy Bolivians led protests against Evo Morales after he ignored the result of a 2016 election referendum on whether he should be allowed to run for a fourth term, and the supposed fraud that allowed him to win the election outright. The road-blocks highlighted fault lines between protesters who could afford not to work, and those who lived hand to mouth, often leading to physical street confrontations between the two. However, when Evo Morales was deposed (after being strongly ‘advised’ to step down by the military), it was the road-blocks over more than two weeks that was used by many to argue that it was the result of an uprising by ‘the people’, rather than a coup. These road-blocks were used by a significant subsection of the population to claim legitimacy as ‘the people’ and to de-legitimise counter-protesters.

Panel Irre03
Blockades and the politics of ir/responsibility
  Session 1 Monday 29 March, 2021, -