This research paper attempts to understand to what extent and for what reasons Evo Morales´s Movement for Socialism (MAS) government has shifted from progressive agrarian populism to authoritarian populism as illustrated by the conflict between the government and coca growers´ organization of Yungas (ADEPCOCA). The research is framed in the field of critical agrarian studies and the flourishing literature on populism politics, including its relationship with the dynamics of agrarian change. The analytical approach combines elements of the Gramscian methodology of analysis of historical situations with the political theory of populism and its relations with authoritarianism. The inquiry is grounded in a short fieldwork carried out in La Paz and the Yungas (Bolivia) in which open-ended interviews and ethnographic observations were carried out. The paper argues that regardless of the progressive origins of MAS when it led a counter-hegemonic bloc against neoliberalism and traditional political parties in Bolivia, the government started to deploy coercion tactics against the political and social dissent of the social movements. In the case of ADEPCOCA, the adoption without socialization and active consent of the new Coca Law (907/2017) started to undermine the MAS legitimacy in the Yungas. To retrieve it, the MAS government has deployed coercion, co-optation, clientelism, and judicial persecution against coca growers’ leaders. In the conclusion, the paper calls for the importance of going beyond the notion of authoritarian populism as a solely right-wing phenomenon and explores cases showing how progressive populism can lead to the path of authoritarianism.

Additional Metadata
Keywords populism, authoritarianism, Bolivia, coca growers, MAS, Evo Morales
Thesis Advisor Arsel, Murat
Persistent URL
Series Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies (AFES)
Ortiz Gallego, Daniel. (2019, December 20). From progressive agrarian populism to authoritarian populism? The conflict between the Movement for Socialism (MAS) government and coca growers organizations of the Bolivian Yungas. Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies (AFES). Retrieved from