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DOJ Threatened MIT Researchers With Subpoena in Collaboration With Bolivian Coup Regime

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A Justice Department trial attorney repeatedly contacted Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers asking, eventually under threat of subpoena, about research they had conducted on the 2019 Bolivian presidential election, according to emails obtained by The Intercept. Sent between October 2020 and January 2021, the emails point to the existence of the Justice Department inquiry and add new evidence to support Bolivian allegations that the United States was implicated in its 2019 coup.

The emails reveal the Justice Department’s involvement in the Bolivian coup regime’s criminal investigation into alleged voter fraud, which has not previously been reported. The inquiry targeted a pair of respected MIT researchers about their work for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in which they broadly refuted suspicions that Bolivia’s socialist party had rigged the election.

The short-lived coup regime reached power following a clear script: In the weeks leading up to the Bolivian presidential election in October 2019, the opposition pumped endless propaganda through social media and television networks, warning that incumbent President Evo Morales would exploit widespread fraud to win reelection. Morales had become the first Indigenous president elected in Bolivia in 2005, at the head of his party Movement Toward Socialism, or MAS, and by 2019, he was running for his fourth term. He faced intense opposition, often framed in explicitly racist terms, from a Frankenstein coalition of right-wing Bolivians of European descent and supporters of former President Carlos Mesa, once a member of Bolivia’s left revolutionary party who had become hostile to Morales’s social democratic government.

As the votes were counted on election night, Morales was ahead as expected. The question was whether he would win by enough to avoid a runoff, which in Bolivia is triggered when a candidate wins by a margin of fewer than 10 points. In an unofficial tally, Morales led Mesa by 7.9 points, giving the opposition hope for a second round. But when the official count was released, Morales had won by 10.6 points. There would be no runoff.

Without evidence, the opposition immediately leveled fraud charges. It was backed up the next day by the Organization of American States, the powerful hemispheric cooperation organization based in Washington, D.C.

“The OAS Mission expresses its deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results revealed after the closing of the polls,” read the OAS’s incendiary statement. Protesters took to the streets; the military called for Morales to step down; and the opposition installed a new leader, Jeanine Áñez, after three weeks of unrest. Far to Mesa’s right, Áñez assumed office and swiftly attempted to eliminate the sense of enfranchisement for Indigenous people that the Morales government had brought. While 14 out of 16 members of Morales’ first Cabinet were Indigenous, Áñez did not appoint a single Indigenous person to her first Cabinet. In the two months before assuming office, she had tweeted that Morales was a “poor Indian” and implied that Indigenous people cannot wear shoes. When she reached the presidency, she declared that “the Bible has returned to the palace.”

Former interim Bolivian President Jeanine Áñez is escorted by members of the Special Force to Fight Against Crime after being arrested in La Paz, Bolivia, on March 13, 2021.

Photo: Aizar Raldes/AFP via Getty Images

The coup, roughly the same play President Donald Trump would attempt a year later,........

© The Intercept

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