LA PAZ: Bolivian President Evo Morales has resigned after three weeks of sometimes violent protests over his disputed re-election, as his allies denounced an alleged coup.
“I resign my post as president,” the leftist Morales said on Sunday in a televised address, capping a day of fast-moving events in which many ministers and senior officials quit as support for Latin America’s longest-serving president crumbled and created a temporary leadership vacuum in the country.
The streets of La Paz immediately exploded in celebration, with jubilant Bolivians waving the country’s flag, but violence and vandalism later erupted overnight and in the neighboring city of El Alto.
In the confusion, a group of 20 lawmakers and government officials took refuge at the Mexican ambassador’s residence, and Mexico announced it was offering asylum to Morales as well.
Morales later tweeted that there was a warrant for his arrest, but police commander Vladimir Yuri Calderon told local broadcaster Unitel that was not the case. Morales also wrote that “violent groups” had attacked his home.
Police announced on Sunday night that they had arrested Maria Eugenia Choque, the head of the country’s electoral court, an institution slammed by the opposition as biased.
Morales, a member of the Aymara indigenous community, is a former coca farmer who became Bolivia’s first indigenous president in 2006.
He defended his legacy, which includes landmark gains against hunger and poverty and tripling the country’s economy during his nearly 14 years in office.
He gained a controversial fourth term when he was declared the winner of the October 20 presidential election by a narrow margin.
But the opposition said there was fraud in the vote count and three weeks of street protests ensued, during which three people died and hundreds were injured.
The Organisation of American States carried out an audit of the election and on Sunday reported irregularities in just about every aspect that it examined: the technology used, the chain of custody of ballots, the integrity of the count, and statistical projections.
As chanting Bolivians kept up demonstrations in the street, the 60-year-old Morales called new elections, but this was not enough to calm the uproar. The commanders of the armed forces and the police joined the calls for the president’s resignation.
Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2019