The rise of the militant religious right in Latin America

The recent coup d’état in Bolivia that overthrew President Evo Morales was not merely a standard right-wing putsch aided and abetted by the US Central Intelligence Agency but also placed into power politicians affiliated with a rising fundamentalist Protestant movement in Latin America that can be termed “Christo-fascist.” Many of the far-right and out-of-the-mainstream Protestant sects that have gained power in Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, and, now, Bolivia have decried traditional Roman Catholicism in Latin America as heretical to their religious ideology and even pro-Communist. As for mainstream Protestant religions, the fundamentalist sects view them as hopelessly liberal, as well as heretical.

The recent military coup in Bolivia that ousted democratically-elected President Evo Morales from office involved senior active duty and retired high-ranking officers of the Bolivian armed forces, some of whom were trained and indoctrinated at the infamous US “School of the Americas,” known since 2001 as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), located in Fort Benning, Georgia. One of the School of the Americas trainees is General Williams Kaliman, the now-former commander of the Bolivian armed forces who ordered Morales to step down as president. Kaliman’s service to the coup was not very appreciated by its ringmasters, the fundamentalist Christians, among whom is the current acting president of Bolivia, Jeanine Áñez Chávez. One of Áñez’s first moves after she seized power was to dismiss Kaliman as the head of the armed forces and replace him with General Carlos Orellana. Áñez was the second vice president of the Senate and assumed the Bolivian presidency after Morales and the senior members in the line of succession in the governing Movement for Socialism (MAS) party were forced to resign by the military.

In keeping with the tenets of Christo-fascism in Latin America, Áñez not only rejects Roman Catholicism but also the traditional beliefs of the indigenous Aymara people of Bolivia as “satanic.” Morales was the first native Aymara to be elected president. During his tenure, Morales improved the living conditions of the Aymara and other poor people in Bolivia who had historically been treated as second-class citizens by the country’s wealthy white European population. Under the direction of the Christo-fascist coup leaders, the homes of Morales and other MAS officials were ransacked by rioters and pro-Morales government and media officials were physically attacked. Bolivia TV, Nueva Patria Radio, and newspapers supporting Morales were shut down by the putschists. Bolivia’s Wiphala flag, which served as Bolivia’s second official flag and represents the 36 indigenous tribes of the country, was burned by the coup-supporting rioters.

The planning for the coup in Bolivia was reportedly backed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump’s first director of the Central Intelligence Agency and a Christo-fascist member of the right-wing breakaway from the Presbyterian Church, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Other School of the Americas alumni were identified among the key Bolivian coup plotters. These include Manfred Reyes Villa, a former military officer, presidential candidate, mayor of Cochabamba, and governor of the Cochabamba Department, as well as General Remberto Siles Vasquez, Colonel Julio César Maldonado Leoni, Colonel Oscar Pacello Aguirre, and Colonel Teobaldo Cardozo Guevara.

One of the major Christo-fascist politicians who supported the coup against Morales is Luis Fernando Camacho, the head of a dubious “civic association” in Santa Cruz. The Bolivian media has described Camacho as “extremely right-wing” and a “Christian fascist.” Camacho has also been linked to Croatian-Bolivian Branko Marinko, who fled to the United States in 2009 after he and other plotters attempted to overthrow the MAS government and assassinate Morales. Camacho’s questionable business activities was exposed in the release of the “Panama Papers,” which showed that he owned an offshore Panamanian company called Navi International Holding S.A.

Bolivian government officials who remain loyal to Evo Morales, who was forced to seek political asylum in Mexico, claim the coup was also supported by several foreign far-right and right-wing politicians, including Colombian President Ivan Duque; his political puppet master, former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe; Brazilian neo-fascist President Jair Bolsonaro, and US Senators Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida), Rick Scott (Republican-Florida), Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas), and Robert Menendez (Democrat-New Jersey). All the senators are closely linked to right-wing Cuban expatriate oligarchs who, for the most part, live in south Florida.

The putsch against Morales began within the Policía Nacional de Bolivia (PNB) ranks. The commander of the police who ordered the police revolt is Colonel Vladimir Calderón, who has strong ties to a CIA-influenced group based in Washington, Police Attachés of Latin America in the United States of America (APALA). Just prior to the launch of the coup, Trump spoke to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Annual Conference and Exposition in Chicago, another CIA liaison and recruiting ground for police assets, including those in Latin America. In 2018, the IACP welcomed Colonel Calderon, the initial coup leader, to its membership. It is also noteworthy that one of the financiers of the IACP is 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Foundation.

The coup in Bolivia followed the template of the initial presidential actions of Bolsonaro in Brazil. Bolsonaro is another fundamentalist Christo-fascist, who, since his inauguration, has worked to oust Morales from power. The first steps of the new Bolivian foreign minister, Karen Longaric, was to sever diplomatic relations with Venezuela, expel the Venezuelan embassy staff, recognize the CIA-backed opposition Venezuelan government of Juan Guaido, and expel several Cuban diplomats and arrest Cuban doctors. The actions taken against Cuban doctors mirrors that of Bolsonaro in Brazil and President Lenin Moreno in Ecuador, the latter having turned his country away from progressive policies to become a lapdog for the CIA and Pentagon.

The coup in Bolivia had an uncanny resemblance to the 2010 attempted putsch by the Ecuadorian National Police against President Rafael Correa, an ally of Bolivia’s Morales. Correa was held as a virtual hostage at the Police Hospital in Quito for the greater part of a day prior to his being freed by loyal Ecuadorian military personnel.

There is little doubt that the Bolivian coup involved disciples of the Virginia-based Brazilian Christo-fascist “guru” Olavo de Carvalho. Among Carvalho’s disciples are Bolsonaro, Brazilian foreign minister Ernesto Araújo, and Brazilian Education Minister Abraham Weintraub. Carvalho has identified himself as a fundamentalist Christian and an astrologer and not only doubts the Earth revolves around the sun but harbors a belief that the Earth is actually flat. Carvalho’s teachings about climate change being a “Marxist conspiracy” have directly influenced Bolsonaro’s policies on further destruction of the Amazon rainforest through unbridled industrial exploitation. Carvalho demonized Brazil’s two Workers’ Party presidents, Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached and removed from office on phony charges, and Rouseff’s popular predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was recently released from prison after he was convicted on trumped up charges by right-wing prosecutor Sergio Moro, who now served as Bolsonaro’s Justice Minister.

One of the first and most notorious Christo-fascist leaders in Latin America was Guatemala’s dictator, Efraín Ríos Montt, also known as “Brother Efraín,” who was a member of the Guatemalan chapter of the Gospel Outreach Church of Eureka, California. Montt and the church had close ties to US Christo-fascist leaders, including Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Montt, who was militarily backed by the Ronald Reagan administration and Israel, carried out a genocidal scorched-earth war against Guatemala’s indigenous Mayan population. A favorite extermination target of Christo-fascists is the native indigenous population of the Western Hemisphere, who, as charged by Bolivia’s interim president Áñez, are “Satanists” because they continue to practice their traditional religious rituals.

As was the case in Bolivia, Christo-fascist fundamentalists have been mobilized against the progressive governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba.

There is something else that binds the Christo-fascists that has little to do with religion and everything to do with making quick profits: narcotics smuggling. Rios Montt’s paramilitary death squads financed their operations by smuggling drugs, particularly cocaine. During Montt’s rule, Guatemala was a link in the chain of CIA drug smuggling operations that involved the Nicaraguan contras, Colombian narco-terrorist cartels, and Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.

The narco-traffickers have been buoyed by the Christo-fascist takeover of Bolivia. Interim President Áñez is married to Héctor Hernando Hincapié Carvajal of the Colombian Conservative Party, an ally of the narco-terrorist-backed Duque administration and its political puppet masters, former President Uribe and his financiers in the Medellin-based Ochoa clan drug cartel. Ever since Morales legalized in Bolivia the production of coca leaves, used in traditional Aymara medicines and as a tea refreshment, Latin American drug cartels have seen their profits go into a tailspin. Bolivia was competing with the Colombian cartels as a source for legally grown coca leaves. The Christo-fascists may believe in the Bible, but they also understand that their religious movements can be supported by cash from the narco-trade.

A proper symbol for Latin America’s Christo-fascists would be the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro wearing a pair of ammunition bandoliers while standing on a couple of bricks of cocaine.

This article originally appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal.

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).

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