Today I have for you this exciting piece from Russian VESTI TV news, the reporter is Stas Natanzon. Stas is reporting right from the Bolivian streets where he is covering the coup and the counter-coup demonstrations. Not to worry: I’ll translate/summarize Stas cleanly without editorializing; but first I just have to insert a few comments of my own. I mentioned before that the Russian government (and press) appear to have a strangely pro-coup slant, and I have no idea if this is high politics at work; or if I am just imagining it. For starters, the Russian press is barely even covering the Bolivian coup at all; and maybe that’s normal, because it’s not Russia’s back yard. Not like, say, the Ukraine.
Secondly, when they do cover the coup, my sniffers detects a (slight) ideological slant in favor of the coup. Aside from mainstream American/European media, which one expects to be lying bastards, various other outlets, including American counter-mainstream sites such as the GrayZone are covering the coup from an anti-coup perspective; and reporting on the dozens (possibly hundreds) of anti-coup demonstrators who have been killed or disappeared by the junta. And yet the Russian outlets, when they do report on the coup, appear to take the side of the “law and order” junta military and police; whose actions are clearly counter to international law and human rights. I don’t know if this has anything to do with the fact that Russian President Putin almost tumbled over himself in his haste to “recognize” coup leader Jeanine Añez as the “legitimate” interim President of Bolivia when the coup was basically just a few minutes old. This despite the fact that Russia clearly supported President Maduro in Bolivia, when he was challenged by a very similar coup. Curioser and curioser…
On the other hand, the “slant” is not egregious, and one could argue that the Russian coverage is fair and balanced. For starters, the TV anchor introducing the segment points out the progress made under Morales on behalf of the poorest, indigenous population of Bolivia:
“Bolivia is descending ever further into chaos. After the hasty resignation of President Evo Morales, events began to unfold in the worst possible direction. For sure, the Liberal Opposition finally took over the government and are preparing for new elections, but already proponents of the ex-President, who escaped into Mexico, are pouring into the streets. The majority of these people are Indians, representing the poorest layers of the population. Under Morales, many of them were able to pull themselves out of poverty, but now the Indian population of Bolivia are fearful that the era of injustice, humiliation, and hunger, will return. In the meantime the police are applying force without any constraints. There are many casualties.”
After that introduction, the segment switches over to reporter Natanzon in the streets of Cochabamba. What he saw with his own eyes, and even participated in. I have no doubt his report is accurate and truthful. Just watch for slight ideological nuances, like calling the junta “the government”; and the fascist police “forces of law and order” — stuff like that. I don’t include in this Natanzon’s attempt to save a cop from being lynched by a mob; that’s just something that any “Mensch” would do, regardless which side they were on.
Police vs Demonstrators
At 1:00 minute into the video, we see reporter Stas in a gas mask, telling us his exciting story:
Tear gas cannisters – hurled right into the crowd. Tanks in the streets. But the police assault against the demonstrators quickly transforms into a counter-assault. The police have started to use tear gas. In response, demonstrators hurl rocks and rush into the breech.
This whole past week the authorities have been trying to win back control over the tiny town of Sacaba in Cochabamba. Sacaba has been completely taken over by the Morales supporters.
A local resident was standing on his roof taking pictures with his phone, when a bullet struck him. He died on the spot. The demonstrators are carrying the wounded and dead back to Sacaba.
This is the main scene of the clashes between demonstrators and police. Everything here has been destroyed. The demonstrators are standing their ground, even though the police might be only 100-150 meters away. Tree trunks and walls are pocked with bullet holes. Shells and cartridges lie everywhere. On one of the containers we can see holes made by large-calibre weapons.
Sacaba is not the only citadel of the resisters. There is one other city that was seized by the supporters of Evo Morales, this one a suburb of La Paz. It is a strategic city. Its gas factory supplies the whole capital of Bolivia. For several days this factory was held by demonstrators. The government literally had to take back by storm this strategic object. Since that time the situation has been strained to the max.
2:50 minutes in
Here are some shells picked up by demonstrators at the battle scene in the suburb of La Paz. There are a variety of bullets: 5.56 mm, 9mm, 7.62 mm. And here is a plastic cartridge chock full of pellets and plastic balls.
Funerals turn into demonstrations. Hanging on the bridge: a dummy bearing the name of Interim President Jeanine Añez. The local producers of coca — Morales supporters — presented her with an ultimatum to go away.
Stas Saves A Cop’s Life
3:25 minutes in: People are enraged beyond bounds. During the clashes in Sacaba, demonstrators capture a policeman [encircled in red] and take him hostage. Knowing what the enraged crowd is capable of, we try to work our way towards this keeper of law and order. His face already shows bruises. The crowd approaches him menacingly. [Video shows people sneaking in blows and bopping him over the head with objects. Stas objects: “Don’t do that, it’s not nice.”] We try to extract him. His name is Pablo. The demonstrators won’t let us through. Blows rain in from all sides.
They want to lynch this policeman. It’s clear that the mob is in a state of fury, because the police were shooting at them from real weapons. We figure that the only way to avert the horrific act, is to interview the cop. At least they will stop beating him while he is being interviewed, maybe he will even get a chance to tell his side of the story; maybe the mob will have time to calm down.
“I was on leave, and had to report back to my unit,” Pablo tells us. “If I don’t report back for work, how am I supposed to survive? It’s easy for you young people to find work, but I’m old, I’m 62.”
While this interview is going on, we try to find a way to extract Pablo out of the crowd. But they grab him again. We are pushed back. We try to save him. But it seems that is impossible. There is nobody in charge here, nobody to explain to, how it is necessary to let this man go. And it’s impossible to fight against this mob. In the life of a journalist this is the most horrible thing that can happen: to witness some terrible thing, but not be able to help. Misfortune awaits this man.
Meanwhile, [the soliders] are storming Sacaba again, and also buzzing from the air. With great difficulty we make our way — and this is no exagerration — across the front lines. From here to the demonstrators it is several meters. The military have brought a tank up to the front line and are preparing to storm it.
The battle lasts until deep into the night. Civilians have come as well, to help the police; these are supporters of the new government. Meanwhile, across the entire nation demonstrators are taking the counter-offensive. La Paz, the unofficial capital of Bolivia, is under siege. Morales supporters are not allowing trucks to deliver supplies. Store shelves are empty.
5:50 minutes in: People stand in line for 5-6 hours to buy food. Here a woman is showing us her ticket number: 1634. And she’s by means the last in line, either. The little cross drawn on a person’s hand, is a sign that one received one’s (rationed) chicken. The very strict ration is just one carcass per person.
The line to fill up one’s tank starts 5-6 km from here. Drivers wait for several hours, and without any guarantee they will actually get benzyne.
During a period of rare quiet during the storm of Sacaba, we review our video taken of that policeman, Pablo, and show it to his colleagues. Maybe they can rescue him. We learn that they freed him [from his captives]. Stas smiles with joy and breathes a sigh of relief.