Bolivia’s Evo Morales Resigns Amid Fraud Allegations, Growing Protests

November 11, 2019by Jim Wyss
President of Bolivia Evo Morales speaks during a news conference on October 24, 2019, in La Paz, Bolivia. (Javier Mamani/Getty Images/TNS)

Evo Morales — the man who rose from being a community organizer and coca farmer to one of Bolivia’s most enduring and powerful presidents — resigned Sunday amid a growing backlash sparked by a troubled Oct. 20 presidential election.

In a short televised address, Morales, 60, said he was stepping down for the good of the South American nation and blamed the opposition for pushing a coup and fueling the violence that has swept the country for the last three weeks.

But even as he stepped down, he remained defiant.

“The fight is not over. The humble and poor … will continue this fight for equality and peace,” he said. “The oligarchy is conspiring against our democracy.”

Morales’ resignation came just a few hours after he tried to appease the nation by calling for new elections. But the offer fell on deaf ears and his fate seemed sealed when the military joined demands that he step down.

Things began falling apart for Morales over the weekend, as police units rebelled and the armed forces said they would not suppress growing demonstrations. On Saturday protesters burned the homes of Morales’ sister and two ruling party governors.

Then, on Sunday morning, the Organization of American States released the results of an audit of last month’s presidential election that had purportedly handed Morales an unprecedented fourth term. The damning report found the electoral process was “seriously” flawed and said the election should be annulled and held again.

Morales responded by asking congress to appoint new members of the national electoral board and said he would push ahead with a new vote.

“By calling for new national elections, we guarantee that the people will have a free, democratic and peaceful vote to choose their new officials and new political actors,” he said.

The announcement marked an abrupt change for Morales, who had maintained that he won last month’s election outright and had been accusing protesters and his critics of being “fascist coup mongers.”

As his chief rival and the U.S. State Department asked him to step down Sunday, he insisted he would serve out his term through Jan. 20.

Later in the day, however, the head of the Armed Forces, Gen. Williams Kaliman, said Morales should step down in the name of “peace” and “stability,” and “for the good of our Bolivia.”

Shortly afterward, Morales boarded the presidential aircraft and announced his resignation. Regional media reported late Sunday that he was planning on traveling to Argentina.

In addition to Morales, Vice President Alvaro García Linera stepped down, as did the heads of the Senate and the House, the next in line of succession.

As of late Sunday it was unclear who was in charge, and many were waiting for the Senate to convene in coming hours.

“It’s pretty unclear as to who is in charge right now, but the police and the military have sided with us for the last four days already and we trust that they will keep it as peaceful as we want it to be,” said Jhanisse Vaca Daza, the co-founder of Rios de Pie, an activist group that has been promoting nonviolent anti-government protests.

She said that after Morales resigned, celebrations broke out on the streets of La Paz. But she said there are rumors and threats that pro-government groups may be seeking revenge late Sunday.

“This is pretty historic what has happened in Bolivia,” Vaca Daza said, saying that the 20 days of protests had been largely nonviolent with only three reported deaths.

Colombia late Sunday called for an emergency meeting of the OAS Permanent Council to address the crisis.

Analysts said Sunday’s OAS report was critical to dismantling Morales’ claims that he had won last month vote. The 13-page document outlined serious flaws in the entire process.

“In the four categories that were reviewed (technology, chain of custody, integrity of the ballots and statistical projections) we have found irregularities that run from very serious to suspicious,” the OAS said.

The OAS general secretary’s office went further, saying the vote was irredeemably flawed and that “the first round of elections should be held again as soon as there are enough guarantees in place.”

One of the core problems was the online system that tallied and reported votes. On election night, with 83% of the vote counted, the system showed Morales was in the lead but not by enough to avoid a runoff against his nearest rival Carlos Mesa. However, the vote-counting platform went off line for 23 hours, and when it was restored, Morales’ lead had grown enough to give him a first-round victory.

The OAS said electoral authorities couldn’t explain the interruption. In addition, auditors found that a previously unreported computer server, named B020, began processing the results when the system came back online.

“The server was not registered on any of the reports given to us by the (electoral) tribunal and all of the actors omitted its existence until it was detected by OAS auditors,” the report found.

Winning in the first round was critical for Morales, as analysts had said that he would likely lose a runoff facing an opposition united behind Mesa.

Morales, a charismatic indigenous leader, rose to power last decade along with the likes of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Rafael Correa in Ecuador and was considered one of the leading proponents of South America’s unique brand of populism and socialism. Unlike his counterparts, however, Bolivia saw strong growth on the back of Morales’ business-friendly policies.

But he was also accused of adopting increasingly authoritarian tactics and trampling the constitution in order to dismantle term limits and stay in power.

“We categorically condemn this coup d’etat against our brother president,” Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro said in a statement. Mexico and Cuba also decried what they called a military coup.

It’s unclear what will happen next in Bolivia or if and when new presidential elections will be held.

On Sunday, Morales said he hoped his resignation would calm the nation.

“Our great desire,” he said, “is for peace to return.”

———

©2019 Miami Herald

Visit Miami Herald at www.miamiherald.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

In The News

Kentucky's New Governor Restores Voting Rights to 140,000 Nonviolent Felons State News
Kentucky's New Governor Restores Voting Rights to 140,000 Nonviolent Felons
December 13, 2019
by Dan McCue

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on Thursday restored the voting rights of more than 140,000 people with nonviolent felony convictions, making good on an inaugural promise he made after being sworn in recently. The order signed by Beshear applies to Kentuckians who have committed nonviolent offenses and... Read More

Amid the Wasteland of the Salton Sea, a Miraculous but Challenging Oasis Is Born Environment
Amid the Wasteland of the Salton Sea, a Miraculous but Challenging Oasis Is Born

LOS ANGELES — It came as a bittersweet surprise to biologists and government agencies monitoring the steadily shrinking Salton Sea’s slide toward death by choking dust storms and salt. Thousands of acres of exposed lake bed have become, of all things, the unintended beneficiaries of lush... Read More

Thousands of Lawful California Gun Owners Are Being Denied Ammunition Purchases. Here’s Why Guns
Thousands of Lawful California Gun Owners Are Being Denied Ammunition Purchases. Here’s Why

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Zachary Berg usually buys guns and ammunition with relative ease. After all, he’s a Sutter County sheriff’s deputy and needs them for his job. California’s stringent gun laws usually don’t apply to him. But Berg couldn’t buy shotgun shells at his local hardware... Read More

Flu Season Is Here, and It’s Coming for Your Kids In The News
Flu Season Is Here, and It’s Coming for Your Kids

NEW YORK — The flu is out in force. And so far this season, it’s been hitting children the hardest. Influenza is a wily virus — it’s almost impossible to predict where and how it will strike as it circumnavigates the globe. There are, however, some... Read More

Where the Real Battle for Votes Lies 2020 Elections
Where the Real Battle for Votes Lies

WASHINGTON — Call it President Donald Trump’s Guadalcanal: Like the tiny island U.S. Marines invaded in World War II to break Japan’s Asia-Pacific chokehold, little Juneau County, Wis., is where Trump needs to halt the Democrats’ advance. The struggle for 2020 hearts and minds is more... Read More

Some States Move Toward Financial Aid Based on Need Rather Than Merit Education
Some States Move Toward Financial Aid Based on Need Rather Than Merit

State-funded merit scholarships are politically popular. But as college tuition rises, policymakers in some states are starting to rethink financial aid that disproportionately benefits white, wealthy students and often duplicates scholarships awarded by public universities. Lawmakers in Georgia added a need-based grant last year, as did... Read More

Straight From The Well
scroll top