Spending time with the union members of Chapare, who run society in a collective fashion, offers special insights into the resistance to the coup. They succeeded in expelling the police, but now fear a bloodbath in retaliation.
By Ollie Vargas
Cochabamba, Bolivia — Known as Bolivia’s Chapare region, the Tropico of Cochabamba is a sanctuary for elected President Evo Morales’ most dedicated base of support. Since the November 10 coup, it has effectively become a self-governing territory where the military junta is absent.
The police and military were sent in full retreat from this area the coup began and were told they would only be welcomed back if the they “get on their knees and apologize” to the community.
In this 12,000 square kilometer swath of land, hundreds of unions have flourished over the years. I spent several days with the union rank and file, witnessing how they run society in a collective fashion, and how they have organized ferocious resistance to a right-wing coup government that threatens to destroy them.
Despite the resilience on display here, there is also a sense of dread. Union leaders told me that if the state decides to militarize the region, as it has threatened, a bloodbath is practically inevitable. If the violent crackdown arrives, it could unravel a social structure they have been steadily constructing for decades.