Letters to the Editor


Changes in Bolivia

I write regarding the Dec. 13 commentary “Changes in Bolivia are Good for the Jews.” I have researched and lived in Bolivia on and off for over 25 years. The writer misrepresents president Evo Morales and events that led to his ouster. 

Morales did not refer to a former U.S. ambassador as “the Jew.” Morales never “blocked Israeli tourism” (the government required visas for U.S. and Israeli citizens). Iran did invest in a milk factory in Bolivia (not in the “middle of the jungle”), but there is no evidence of Hezbollah. There is no evidence that Morales is “a natural ally of the drug cartels.” Morales was elected fairly three times. He did not “coerce a majority” to change the constitution. It was written with broad support in 2008. 

The Oct. 20 elections were flawed, but nobody doubts that Morales polled higher than all other candidates. The events that led to his ouster were not “beautiful” and “nonviolent.” Armed right-wing gangs were in the streets. Morales resigned under military pressure. Serious scholars regard it to be a coup. The new self-declared president is a senator whose party only got 4 percent of the vote. 

After Morales left, the coup government sent the military into the streets and killed at least 18 unarmed civilians and wounded many more. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights deemed these “massacres.” 

Whatever one may think of Morales, poverty dropped significantly under his presidency and there was no violence like this. It shocks both reason and the senses to think that a military coup followed by the killing of innocents could somehow be “good for the Jews.”

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Bret Gustafson, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis

I was appalled to see the Dec. 13 commentary by Norma Rubin in the Jewish Light that characterizes the recent coup against Bolivia’s first indigenous president as “good for the Jews.” 

It contains numerous factual errors (such as the year of U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg’s expulsion) and highly dubious claims, such as the statements that President Evo Morales used an anti-Semitic slur against Goldberg and that Morales recently left Bolivia with planeloads of cash — neither of which can be found in any news source. The characterization of all anti-Morales protests as peaceful and all pro-Morales protests as violent is especially absurd.

To cite another example: Rubin claims that Morales blocked all Israeli tourism. That is false. He did reinstate a visa requirement (just as Bolivians must get a visa to visit Israel) but Israelis continued to visit – in fact, a recent article in the Light reported on an Israeli tourist who died in Bolivia in a cycling accident.

I used to live in Bolivia. Last summer I visited for the first time in 20 years. I felt like Rip Van Winkle — I was happy to witness the results of tremendous economic growth, a large decrease in poverty and the higher status for indigenous people that occurred under Morales’ leadership. I talked to people who supported Morales’ reelection. I also talked with people who did not want Morales to seek another term – most of these people had the attitude that his past leadership had helped the country enormously but that it was time for him to move on.

The present situation in Bolivia is complex. Many actions of the present Bolivian leadership are very troubling. 

Rubin’s simplistic commentary full of misinformation is a disservice to your readers.

Michael Berg, St. Louis