We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Natacha Pisarenko

Future interim Bolivian president promises new elections amidst pro-Morales protests

It follows weeks of protests against the re-election of the 60-year-old.

LAST UPDATE | 11 Nov 2019

BOLIVIA’S DEPUTY SPEAKER, Jeanine Anez – constitutionally in line to become interim president following Evo Morales’ resignation – pledged today to call fresh elections in the troubled South American country.

“We are going to call elections,” Anez told reporters in La Paz, saying that there will be “an electoral process that reflects the wants of all Bolivians”.

Lawmakers are due to meet tomorrow to begin the process of electing an interim president after the resignations of Morales and his ministers left a power vacuum in the country. It came following three weeks of protests over his disputed re-election.

The army and police withdrew their backing for the beleaguered 60-year-old, and sparked wild celebrations in the country’s capital La Paz.

“I resign my post as president,” Latin America’s longest-serving president said in a televised address yesterday, ending a day of drama when ministers and senior officials quit as support Morales crumbled.

bolivia-la-paz-morales-resignation Image taken from the official state channel Bolivia TV, shows Bolivian President Evo Morales speaking during a press conference announcing his resignation. Xinhua News Agency / PA Images Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images

US President Donald Trump hailed the resignation of Bolivia’s leftist leader as a sign to “illegitimate” regimes and praised the role of the country’s military.

“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,” Trump said, referring to two other leftist Latin American nations targeted by his administration.

Trump said that the resignation of Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous leader who was seeking a fourth term despite a constitutional prohibition, was a “significant moment for democracy in the western hemisphere”.

After nearly 14 years and his recent attempt to override the Bolivian constitution and the will of the people, Morales’ departure preserves democracy and paves the way for the Bolivian people to have their voices heard.

Morales, a member of the Aymara indigenous community, is a former coca farmer who became Bolivia’s first indigenous president in 2006.

During his resignation speech, 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 20 October 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.

bolivia-election-protests Police fire tear gas at demonstrators during a protest against Evo Morales' reelection, in La Paz, Bolivia Juan Karita / PA Images Juan Karita / PA Images / PA Images

The Organisation of American States subsequently carried out an audit of the election and reported irregularities in almost every aspect that it examined including the technology used, the chain of custody of ballots, the integrity of the count, and statistical projections.

Pro Evo Morales demonstrators have also taken to the streets, with some chanting that this is the beginning of a Civil War. 

The main opposition candidate in the election, former president Carlos Mesa, hailed the resignation when it came, and said that Bolivia would become a “new country”.

‘Not an escape’

To make the announcement that he was stepping down, Morales travelled by plane to the coca-growing Chimore region of central Bolivia, the cradle of his career in politics.

It was there in the 1980s that he made his name as a combative union leader defending farmers who grow coca. This time, he insisted he was not running away from his responsibilities.

“I do not have to escape. I have not stolen anything,” he said. “My sin is being indigenous. To be a coca grower.”

Life does not end here. The struggle continues.

“I am resigning so that they (the opposition leaders) do not continue to kick our brothers,” Morales said, referring to pro-government protesters who repeatedly clashed with opposition demonstrators.

bolivia-elections A broken portrait of Evo Morales is on the floor of his private home in Cochabamba, Bolivia AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

In the immediate aftermath of the shock announcement, Latin American allies rallied to denounce a coup against one of their own.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro called for a mobilisation of political and social movements “to demand the preservation of the life of the Bolivian native peoples, victims of racism.”

Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez described Morales as “a protagonist and a symbol of the rights of the indigenous peoples of our Americas”.

And Brazil’s Lula insisted “my friend Morales” had been removed in a coup, evidence of “an economic elite in Latin America that did not know how to share democracy with poor people”.

The UN meanwhile said that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “deeply concerned” about the developments.

Guterres “urges all concerned to refrain from violence, reduce tension and exercise maximum restraint”, his spokesman said in a statement.

- © AFP 2019

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel