Home / World / Bolivian President Evo Morales resigns: Democratic popular will or coup?

Bolivian President Evo Morales resigns: Democratic popular will or coup?

An extended period without a legal head of state, some feared, could deepen the violence and stop attempts to hold new elections.

All four officials in the constitutional succession line – the president, the vice president and the heads of the Senate and the alternate, all the socialists – resigned on Sunday. There remained the remaining legislators who were circling to connect a quorum to appoint a new leader – something they didn't seem to be able to do on Monday. Opposition leaders tried to assure their socialist counterparts of their safety should they return to chambers.

Senior US State Department officials said they expected a new interim leader to be appointed by Tuesday. vice president of the senate, said she would accept a caretaker presidency if offered, and some opposition representatives gathered around her. My "only goal would be to call elections," she told reporters.

As South America's poorest nation processed the rapid events, its citizens faced a key question: Did democracy fail or win?

Morales, who transformed Bolivia during his nearly 1

4 years in office, described the pressure that forced him out on Sunday as a "coup." Opening hours before his departure, the American States Organization said it had found "clear manipulation" of the October 20 election in which he claimed he won a fourth term. Violence that had dropped since the vote escalated. The chiefs of the armed forces and the police withdrew their support, and the opposition released a wave of attacks against Morale's socialist allies.

Carlos Mesa, the former president who quit second to Morales last month, rejected the word "coup." Speaking to reporters Monday, he called the events of the previous day a "democratic popular act" to stop a government that had committed electoral fraud to install itself as an authoritarian power.

Mesa said no one from the Morales Movement for Socialism (MAS) would be elected interim leader, but he insisted that MAS members should not be afraid of persecution.

"The clear will of the democratic opposition is to build a new democratic government with respect for the constitution," he said.

The US government paid tribute to Morale's departure. Officials said there had been no "coup," but an expression of "democratic will." They cited the OAS assessment of fraud, noting that Morales had sought a fourth term despite losing the 2016 referendum to extend the term limits (he later won a court decision that allowed him to run).

"The United States applauds the Bolivian people for demanding freedom and the Bolivian military for following its oath to protect not just a single person, but Bolivia's constitution," President Trump said in a statement. “These events send a strong signal to the illegitimate regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua that democracy and the will of the people will always prevail. We are now one step closer to a fully democratic, prosperous and free western hemisphere. "

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico's foreign minister, said Morales had accepted the country's asylum offer.

"A few minutes ago, we got a call from President Evo Morales," he told a news conference. "He answered our invitation and asked for oral and formal asylum in our country."

Ebrard said that Mexico had offered asylum "for humanitarian reasons and because of the urgent situation in Bolivia where his life is in danger."

Ebrard said that Mexico had informed Bolivia about Morale's visa request so that his safe passage could be guaranteed. He did not say when Morales would arrive in Mexico. He described the decision as part of Mexico's long-standing tradition of providing safe haven to the politically oppressed.

Bolivia remained without a clear leader. OAS, a UN-like body made up of countries in the Western Hemisphere, said it would reject "any unconstitutional solution to the situation."

"The General Secretariat demands peace and respect for the rule of law," the organization said in a statement. It urged the Bolivian legislature to install new electoral functions and "guarantee a new electoral process." It also required legal action against those responsible for electoral fraud.

Bolivia faced deep divisions and continued violence – with the strong possibility of more. On Sunday evening, opposition protests plundered and burned homes of socialist politicians including Morales. At least 20 MAS officials sought asylum at the Mexican embassy. La Paz Mayor Luis Revilla Herrero, a Morales critic, said 64 city buses were burning. Schools and businesses were closed on Monday, and transportation was closed.

The home of moral critics – including a journalist and academic – was also allowed to dry.

Morales invited doctors, nurses and teachers to “go back to providing services to the population. "But he continued to condemn his ostrich as illegal and expressed sympathy to his supporters who set up roadblocks, attacked police stations and protesters in La Paz, El Alto and elsewhere. He claimed that some of his followers had been killed.

"A day after the coup d'état that the National Police Police suppresses the police with bullets and causes deaths and injuries in El Alto," tweeted Morales. "My solidarity with the innocent victims, one of them a young girl, and the people of El Alto, who are defending democracy." Luis Fernando Camacho on Sunday night called for another two days of protests, saying he would put forward proposals for prosecution for Morales, former vice president Alvaro Garcia Linares and MAS legislator.

"Let's start judgments of government party criminals, put them in jail," Camacho said in a video statement.

Two members of the electoral group – its former president María Eugenia Choque and former vice president Antonio Costas – had already been detained An elected Santa Cruz official, Sandra Kettels, was arrested Monday morning, the prosecutor's office has issued warrants against all officials in the courts.

An important issue was whether the right-wing opposition, which now clearly has control over the country, would allow socialists to sit a candidate in new elections after the OAS found evidence of electoral fraud Morales demanded a 10 percent profit margin in the October 20 vote – enough to avoid a second round, where his chances of losing would have been high.

Morales, who won earlier elections in landslides, had worn out his Welcome. He ran for a fourth term despite he lost a national referendum on term limits. But the socialists still command significant support in Bolivia, and a decision to prevent them would risk more conflict.

While the United States and the opposition celebrated Morale's oust, observers warned that his departure could create more chaos. Before his arrival on the political scene, Bolivia experienced a period of political instability that led to six presidents over a decade. The anti-Morales protesters on the streets do not stand for a political line and do not respond to a champion.

The dizzying sequence of events on Sunday reflected across Latin America. In Venezuela, analysts say, the left-wing authoritarian government may take the attacks on Bolivian socialists as proof that voluntarily shutting down power would be dangerous.

"In Venezuela, you have statements from the opposition saying that they want to work with [the left] that there will be no revenge," says Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington. "I think it will become more skeptical of it after seeing what is happening in Bolivia. "

Debate on democracy had been restored or raged across the region. Morale's socialists were accused of stealing an election. But critics said the military's decision to withdraw his support and the crowd-control that forced him out was anything but constitutional.

Views fell largely in ideological lines, revealing the political divisions between and within Latin American countries, and also the sensitivity to a word – coup – invoking images of 1900 military intervention in the region, many of them supported by the United States.

But the word can also be used by elected leaders as a shield against civic movements designed to hold authoritarian leaders accountable

"It has become increasingly difficult to define what constitutes a coup," said Nicolas Saldías, senior Latin America researcher at The Wilson Center. “Evo Morales engaged in cheating. You could argue that the constitutional order was broken, which is a basic institution of democracy. What are the armed forces, which swear loyalty to the Constitution, intended to do then? "

Some countries criticized the OAS for largely remaining while Morales was forced from his Monday on Sunday.

"We will quickly request a meeting of the Organization of American States, because yesterday there was silence," Ebrard said Monday. "How can silence be maintained before an event of this seriousness?"

He reiterated that Mexico believes that what happened on Sunday constitutes a coup.

"What we cannot tolerate is when a military tells a president that he has to leave his office," he said. "What happened yesterday is a setback for the entire continent."

Argentina, driven by outgoing Center-Right President Mauricio Macri, took a different view.

"There was no coup for our government," Normando Alvarez García, told the Argentine ambassador to Bolivia to a local radio station. "There is a break in the constitutional order that is building on social concern. "

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