Bolivia Crisis Shows the Blurry Line Between Coup and Uprising
Often, they are one and the same: mass public uprisings alongside military defections that compel the resignation or removal of a country’s leader.
But the overlapping terms often carry moral connotations that could not be more divergent: Coups, in today’s understanding, are to be condemned; revolts are to be championed.
“People who get hung up on whether or not something is a coup or a revolution are missing the point,” said Naunihal Singh, a leading scholar of power transitions and coups. “The question is what happens next.”
That has opened space for a kind of linguistic warfare, in which a political takeover can be portrayed as legitimate by labeling it a revolt, or illegitimate by terming it a coup.
The narrative-building “has consequences” for what kind of government comes next, Mr. Singh said. Transitions like Bolivia’s tend to be fluid and unpredictable. The perception of legitimacy, or a lack thereof, can be decisive.