Bolivia’s president resigns after re-election triggered deadly protests
Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has resigned Sunday not long after the head of the nation’s electoral tribunal stepped down after allegations there were irregularities with the presidential vote held last month. “I resign my post as president,” he said in a televised speech.
Both Morales and Supreme Electoral Tribunal president María Eugenia Choque announced their resignations after a report cited a “heap of observed irregularities” in the disputed presidential election October 20, according to The Associated Press. His vice president, Álvaro García Linera, has also left office, BBC News reports.
Deadly protests broke out after Morales, a former coca farmer and Latin America’s longest serving leader, claimed a fourth term, which also triggered claims of fraud and a split among security forces. At least three people were killed and more than 100 injured during the clashes, which closed schools, businesses and public transportation.
“I ask you to stop attacking the brothers and sisters, stop burning and attacking,” Morales said Sunday.
Bolivia’s top military chief General Williams Kaliman had urged Morales to step down and pleaded with Bolivians to stop the violence.
With 99.99% of votes counted in late October, Morales had 47.07% to 36.51% for former President Carlos Mesa, who finished second in the nine-candidate field, according to AP. That gave Morales a 10.56-point lead, a little more than a half point over the threshold he needed to win an outright victory and avoid a second-round ballot in December probably against a united opposition.
Mobs torched electoral offices in Sucre and Potosi days after the election, while rival supporters clashed in the capital La Paz.
The Organization of American States issued a preliminary report Sunday that it found wide-scale data manipulation and could not verify the results of the presidential election.
Earlier on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted his support of the OAS report “recommending new elections in Bolivia to ensure a truly democratic process representative of the people’s will.”
Fully support the findings of the @OAS_official report recommending new elections in #Bolivia to ensure a truly democratic process representative of the people’s will. The credibility of the electoral system must be restored.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 10, 2019
Morales a native Aymara from Bolivia’s highlands, became the country’ first indigenous president in 2006 and easily won the two following elections. He paved roads, sent Bolivia’s first satellite to space and curbed inflation, according to AP.
The 60-year-old has faced growing dissatisfaction — especially over his refusal to accept the results of a 2016 referendum to keep limits on presidential terms. The country’s top court, considered by critics as friendly to the president, ruled that limits would violate Morales’ political rights as a citizen, AP pointed out.
Soon after news of Morales’ resignation, Bolivians took to the streets in celebration, waving flags and setting off fireworks. Car horns began sounding in La Paz and other cities, AP added.