Bolivia’s Evo Morales called Monday on the opposition that ousted him to “pacify the country” after he resigned Sunday under pressure from the military and right-wing protesters.
Morales, who was Bolivia’s first indigenous president, said his opposition rivals, Carlos Mesa and Luis Fernando Camacho, “discriminators and conspirators, will go down in history as racists and coup plotters.”
The ousting of Morales came three weeks after he won reelection in polls that were marred by disputed, unsubstantiated allegations of fraud.
The final vote count showed Morales had won 47.1 percent of the vote to Mesa’s 36.5 percent. Because Morales had won by more than 10 points, he was declared the winner without an additional runoff being scheduled, as outlined in the Bolivian constitution.
But Mesa and the opposition claimed that Morales only cleared the 10-point margin after a suspicious pause in vote reporting, after which Morales’ lead increased, implying the results had been tampered with.
The government offered a benign explanation, saying it took longer for votes in rural areas, where Morales’ popularity is stronger, to be counted and reported. Officials also said that they stopped posting preliminary “quick count” results later in the day because they wanted to avoid having two sets of results at the same time.
But the Organization of American States, an ostensibly neutral intergovernmental body that oversaw the election, released a statement the day after the election expressing “deep concern” over supposed irregularities in the final result.
The OAS statement was followed by similar statements from the White House and Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, an outspoken critic of left-wing governments in Latin American including that of Morales’ Movement Toward Socialism party.
Weeks of Violence
The election controversy sparked three weeks of protests and violent clashes between opponents and supporters of the government. Last week, a 20-year-old student was killed in the clashes and an indigenous, left-wing female mayor from a small town was terrorized by a right-wing mob, who cut her hair off and doused her with red paint.
Protesters kidnapped the mayor of a small town in central Bolivia, forcibly cut her hair, drenched her with red paint, made her sign an improvised resignation letter, then marched her through the streets barefoot, witnesses said https://t.co/uEZcXCGdx5
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 8, 2019
The chaos came to a head Sunday after police forces began to join the anti-government protests and the military “suggested” that Morales resign.
Following the announcement, opposition protesters ransacked Morales’ house, painting graffiti and destroying the president’s property.
Despite the widespread allegations of tampering, the OAS, the opposition, nor Washington have yet to produce conclusive evidence of fraud in the October 20 election.
Reports indicated Sunday that Morales is likely to flee the country and is looking for a country that will grant him asylum.
A raft of ministerial resignations followed Morales’ announcement, with some officials some seeking refuge in the Mexican ambassador’s residence over fears of violence or arrest by forces loyal to the opposition.
Police announced on Sunday night that they had detained Maria Eugenia Choque, the head of the country’s electoral court, and
The mass wave of resignations raised the question over who was in charge, given that vice president Alvaro Garcia Linera also resigned.
Under the constitution, power then passes to the president of the Senate and the speaker of the lower house of Congress, in that order. But they have resigned, too.
An opposition senator, Jeanine Anez, said on Sunday she would assume the interim presidency of Bolivia. But Congress will first have to be convened for a vote to take place.
With the situation in Bolivia unclear following the fast-moving events, the right-wing government of Colombia called for an urgent meeting of the OAS permanent council to look for solutions.
Allies Denounce Coup
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 Sunday, which includes landmark gains against hunger and poverty and tripling the country’s economy during his nearly 14 years in office.
Latin American leftist allies rallied to denounce what they called a coup against one of their own.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said Morales and Bolivia’s indigenous communities were “victims of racism.”
Hooded demonstrators overran Venezuela’s embassy in La Paz on Sunday, the country’s ambassador, Crisbeylee Gonzalez, told state news agency ABI.
Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez described Morales as “a protagonist and a symbol of the rights of the indigenous peoples of our Americas.”
Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the coup that removed Morales was evidence of “an economic elite in Latin America that did not know how to share democracy with poor people.”
Argentina’s president-elect Alberto Fernandez said a coup had been carried out “by the joint actions of violent civilians, police personnel who confined themselves to their barracks, and the passivity of the army.”
On Monday, the Russian government, also an ally of Morales, said violent action by the opposition had forced Morales out, while UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres called for “restraint” from all sides.
The Globe Post’s Bryan Bowman contributed reporting to this article.