Bolivia crisis divides world amid accusations of coup, calls for elections
Bolivians walk in front of one of the blocked accesses to the Murillo Square, in La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 11, 2019. EPA-EFE/Martin Alipaz
A handout photo made available by ·evoespueblo, the official Twitter account of former Bolivian President Evo Morales, shows Evo Morales resting in a makeshift tent at an undeterminated location in Cochabamba province, Bolivia, Nov. 10, 2019 (issued Nov. 11, 2019). EPA-EFE/·EVOESPUEBLO / HANDOUT HANDOUT ONLY EDITORIAL USE/NO SALES BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
Young Bolivians stand at a barrier blocking access to the main square in La Paz on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. EFE-EPA/Martin Alipaz
Bolivians stand in a long line at a bank in La Paz on Monday, Nov. 11, a day after President Evo Morales stepped down under pressure from the army and police. EFE-EPA/Martin Alipaz
Bolivian riot police on the move in La Paz on Monday, Nov. 11. EFE-EPA/Martin Alipaz
The house of Evo Morales in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia 11 November 2019, where it was ransacked by protesters. EPA/JORGE ABREGO
Bolivians walk in front of one of the blocked accesses to the Murillo Square, in La Paz, Bolivia, 11 November 2019. EPA/Martin Alipaz
The Chancellor of Mexico Marcelo Ebrard offers statements to the media after a press conference, at the headquarters of the chancellery in Mexico City, Mexico, Nov. 11, 2019. EPA-EFE/Sashenka Gutierrez
Soldiers patrol the streets in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on Nov. 12, 2019, after police, soldiers agreed to carry out joint operations following longtime President Evo Morales' resignation. EPA-EFE/Juan Carlos Torrejón
Bangkok Desk, Nov 12 (efe-epa).- The crisis in Bolivia following the resignation of President Evo Morales after almost 14 years in office have divided the international community into those who are already analyzing the situation as a coup, and those who have been calling for a rapid new electoral process.
After weeks of protests, Morales, who on Monday night fled to Mexico to seek asylum, stepped down at the weekend on the recommendation of the military after an Organization of American States report was published denouncing serious irregularities in the Oct. 20 elections, in which he was re-elected for a fourth term.
Countries such as Russia, Mexico, Venezuela and Nicaragua immediately denounced a "coup" against Morales, while Spain raised questions over the intervention of the Armed Forces and the police.
"This intervention brings back bygone moments from Latin American history," the Spanish government underlined.
On the other hand, United States President Donald Trump said that Morales' departure "preserves democracy" in Bolivia and warned that these events were "a strong signal to the illegitimate regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua."
CALLS FOR FRESH ELECTIONS
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on all relevant actors to commit to a peaceful solution to the current crisis and to ensure "transparent and credible" elections.
Countries such as Germany also insisted on a peaceful solution, and others such as the US, Guatemala and Peru advocated a process of transition to convene fresh elections.
With his resignation, Morales has cleared the way for new elections, according to the spokesperson of the German government, Steffen Seibert.
In this regard, the OAS, which will discuss the issue on Tuesday, requested that the Bolivian parliament meet urgently to appoint new authorities to ensure a fresh electoral process.
The role of the OAS has been questioned by Mexico, which called for a meeting of the body and criticized its silence despite "the gravity of the events.”
The European Union also supported the holding of peaceful and credible polls that would allow the people of Bolivia to express their democratic will.
Paraguay's President Mario Abdo Benitez hoped for a peaceful solution through dialog, whereas the government of Chile expressed its concern over the "disruption of the electoral process to democratically elect the president.”
Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro was one of the first leaders to call the situation in Bolivia a "coup" and urged other governments, leaders and political movements to stand in solidarity with Morales, whose life he claimed was in danger.
Russia also claimed that the events in Bolivia followed the pattern of a coup d'état and urged the country's political forces to act sensibly to find a constitutional way out of the crisis.
In this regard, the Russian government said that President Vladimir Putin will discuss the issue with his Brazilian counterpart, Jair Bolsonaro, at the BRICS leaders' summit this week in Brasilia.
Following in Cuba's footsteps on Sunday, Nicaragua expressed its "rejection and repudiation" of the "fascist practices that ignore the Constitution, laws and institutionality that govern the democratic life of the people."
Meanwhile, former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya compared Morales' departure to the coup he suffered in 2009, when he was overthrown and expelled from the country.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, whose offer of political asylum was accepted by Morales, considered the situation a coup because the army asked the president to resign "and this violates constitutional order."
Similar sentiments were expressed by organizations such as Puebla Group and the Permanent Conference of Political Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean, which claimed Morales' exit was being planned even before the elections.
US Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a tweet said, "What’s happening right now in Bolivia isn’t democracy, it’s a coup," a position supported by former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica (2010-2015).
Argentina's President-elect Alberto Fernandez condemned the institutional rupture in Bolivia and urged their people to "choose their next government as soon as possible, in free and informed elections."
OTHERS BELIEVE THERE WAS NO COUP
However, Argentina's outgoing government, led by conservative Mauricio Macri, said that there were no "elements" to describe what happened in Bolivia as a "coup d'état."
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom more than 50 countries recognize as interim president, also held similar views claiming Morales' resignation was "the natural demand" of Bolivians for a transparent electoral process.
On Sunday, Brazil's Bolsonaro had taken a similar stand saying that the word coup was widely used when the left lost, but when they won, it was legitimate.
Protests in Bolivia have left at least three dead and more than 400 wounded in clashes between Morales' supporters and detractors, who feared the president would remain in power indefinitely.
Even after the resignation, riots and looting have continued, prompting the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to call for ensuring that human rights are respected in the country. EFE-EPA
Uncertainty reigns in Bolivia after Morales flees to Mexico
La Paz, Nov 11 (efe-epa).- Bolivia’s military and police took to the streets across the country on Monday after they announced they would join forces to stop the riots unleashed in recent days, as Evo Morales fled to Mexico.
About an hour after the commander-in-chief of the Bolivian Armed Forces, Williams Kaliman, announced that the military would carry out "joint operations" with the Bolivian Police, military aircraft was heard flying over La Paz.
Police officers riding around on motorcycles were also seen, while residents shared on social networks videos of military vehicles moving around areas such as Ciudad Satelite, in El Alto, a neighboring city of La Paz.
In the central city of Cochabamba, where police units were burnt Monday, a helicopter was reported flying over various areas of the city.
The Mexican government confirmed Monday that Evo Morales, who resigned at the weekend as Bolivian president after nearly 14 years in power, was aboard a plane it had sent to the South American country after it had granted him asylum for "humanitarian reasons.”
Kaliman had said in his announcement with several military chiefs, that "in compliance with the constitutional mission, the military command has prepared the Armed Forces to conduct joint operations with the Bolivian Police in order to avoid bloodshed and mourning of the Bolivian family, using proportionally force against groups of vandals' acts that cause terror in the city.”
"The Armed Forces will never open fire" against the people, he added and reiterated his call "to the sanity and peace of our beloved Bolivia."
The Bolivian Police earlier Monday had demanded that the army be deployed on the streets, calling the current situation in the country "unsustainable" and saying that they are "overwhelmed" with trying to contain the violence in the wake of President Evo Morales' resignation on the weekend.
A top police official told the media in La Paz that the force is not ready to carry "the dead on our shoulders," given that they contend they are facing violent groups outfitted with firearms and with the "intention to kill."
The police commander for La Paz, Antonio Barrenechea, said that the force has been mobilized for the past 21 days amid the ongoing political crisis since the Oct. 20 national elections and have been "handling" the situation but adding that "it's not possible" to contain the situation any longer.
Berranechea, who publicly appeared along with other top police leadership, called for military intervention so that "the rule of law prevails, to restore peace and calm."
"We're not going to allow there to be a single death on the part of the Bolivian Police. I cannot permit it. My responsibility is great," he warned.
He said that the armed groups they are facing "regrettably, I don't know what to call them, they have other intentions, they've been provided with firearms, with the intention of killing and we cannot allow that."
The police, he said, cannot confront these armed groups with just tear gas and other riot control measures.
"We have decided to ask for the support of the armed forces" to reestablish social peace and avoid more deaths, he emphasized.
Earlier on Monday, Morales' letter resigning as president was received Monday by the Bolivian Legislative Assembly, but the lack of a quorum forced the body to adjourn without taking any action.
"My responsibility as the indigenous president of all Bolivians is to avoid that the coup-makers continue persecuting my brother and sister labor leaders," Morales wrote.
Senate sources confirmed to EFE that the text was authentic.
The leftist announced Sunday that he was stepping down after the military high command publicly called on him to resign amid an escalating crisis stemming from accusations by the opposition that Morales' latest election victory was tainted by fraud.
Hours earlier, Morales had offered to call fresh elections, to be overseen by a new electoral court.
His resignation followed arson attacks on the homes of his sister and officials belonging to the governing MAS and in his video message, Morales, 60, said that family members of his political allies were being threatened and, in some cases, held hostage.
In the letter, the now-former president pointed to continuing harassment and violence directed at his supporters and at indigenous people in general, who constitute the majority in the Andean nation.
"Today is the moment of solidarity among us, tomorrow (Monday) will be the moment for reorganization and the move to the forefront of this struggle that does not end with these sad events," Morales wrote.
"Fatherland or Death!" Bolivia's first indigenous president concluded.
The letter was also signed by Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, who said that he and the president were forced out by a coup and by "dark forces that have destroyed democracy."
The next three people in the line of succession: lower house speaker Victor Borda, Senate head Adriana Salvatierra and the deputy speaker of the lower house, Ruben Medinaceli, likewise tendered their resignations.
Borda quit after his house was torched by a mob.
Under the constitution, the succession devolves on the second vice president, opposition lawmaker Jeannine Añez, who said she was ready to lead a transitional government pending new elections.
Añez added, however, that she would accept an alternative path forward which did not include her.
"If the conditions obtain, if I'm going to have the accompaniment of civil society, obviously I'm prepared to take on this challenge," the 52-year-old senator told reporters in her home town of Trinidad.
But Morales' main opponent in the Oct. 20 election, former President Carlos Mesa, called on MAS lawmakers to facilitate the election of a new Senate chief who could then become acting president.
Mesa appealed "to the sense of patriotism and responsibility" of MAS legislators to enable a quorum so congress can formally accept Morales' resignation and agree on a transition mechanism.
The MAS lawmakers need not fear for their safety if they return to congress, Mesa said.
Yet the person who appears to hold the reins of power in Bolivia at the moment, Luis Fernando Camacho, said Monday that he wants to see all of the members of the Morales government and the MAS legislators stand trial and go to prison.
Camacho, a right-wing Christian evangelical, said Sunday that the entire administration and legislature should step down to make way for a government of unspecified "notables" who would organize elections.
The president of the Civic Committee of the wealthy eastern province of Santa Cruz, Camacho is thought to have the support of the police, whose commander, Yuri Calderon, resigned early Monday, apparently as the result of a power struggle within the force.
And with the failure of the Legislative Assembly to achieve a quorum on Monday, Bolivia remains without an official head of state.
The Mexican government said that 20 former members of the MAS government have sought refuge at its embassy in La Paz. Mexico also made a public offer of asylum for Morales, which Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said that the former Bolivian leader had accepted.
Since the publication of the video, he has been communicating via social media.
"May the Bolivian people know, I have no reason to run away, let them prove it if they say I stole something," Morales said on Twitter. "If they say we haven't worked, look at the thousands of public works built thanks to economic growth."
Residents of El Alto, a largely indigenous city near La Paz where support for MAS is strong, took to the streets late Sunday and mounted sometimes-violent protests.
The police said Monday that special operations units were suppressing the demonstrations in El Alto.
"After the first day of the civic-political-police coup, the mutinous police are repressing with bullets to cause deaths and injuries in El Alto. My solidarity with those innocent victims, among them a young girl, and with the heroic people of El Alto, defenders of democracy," Morales tweeted.
On Oct. 21, a day after the election, the Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) said the top two candidates - Morales and Mesa - had appeared to be headed for a December runoff before an "inexplicable change" in the trend of the vote count occurred.
A few days later, amid the opposition's unsubstantiated denunciations of fraud, the final tally gave Morales an outright win in the first round.
On Oct. 31, the OAS began conducting an audit of the elections under an agreement with the Bolivian government, though the opposition boycotted the process.
The OAS issued a report Sunday citing "irregularities" and advocating new elections, a recommendation Morales quickly accepted. EFE-EPA
Bolivia crisis: Coup d'etat or power vacuum?
By Laura Núñez Marín
La Paz, Nov 11 (efe-epa).- Evo Morales' announcement to leave the presidency of Bolivia, according to him to stop the violent protests after 20 October elections, is far from a solution to the crisis in the country, which is now facing a power vacuum and allegations of a coup d'etat.
Here are six key facts that led to the situation:
PROTESTS AFTER ELECTIONS
On 20 October, presidential elections were held with Morales and former president and opponent Carlos Mesa as the main candidates.
These elections were questioned from the moment they were called in different political and social sectors that Morales had presented his candidacy for a fourth term.
That situation arose after a referendum on 21 February 2016, when more than half of the country voted against his possible re-election.
However, the constitutional court and supreme electoral tribunal endorsed the candidacy of the indigenous leader.
Morales was re-elected in fraudulent elections, which sparked a wave of protests that have left three dead and more than 300 injured.
After pressures in the country, the government asked the Organization of American States (OAS) for an audit of the elections.
In its report, the OAS noted it detected “very serious” irregularities and a “clear manipulation” in the transmission of data.
“The audit team cannot validate the results, so another electoral process is recommended,” the report said.
Without citing the report, Morales announced new elections with a new electoral body on Sunday.
REPLACE POLICE AND MILITARY
Since Friday, several police officers revolted in several cities in solidarity with the Bolivian people, but that exacerbated the crisis in the more than 13 years of Morales government.
On Sunday afternoon, commander in chief of the armed forces Williams Kaliman and Bolivian Police commander Yuri Calderón read separate statements the first suggesting and the second asking for Morales's resignation.
Police denied that there was an arrest warrant against the resigning president and clarified that it is the prosecutor's office and not police that issue arrest warrants.
Law enforcement officers have played a fundamental role in the crisis because of their peaceful actions and, together with the armed forces, they have not expressed any interest in power, nor acting on behalf of any of the political forces.
WAIVER OF MORALES
“There has been a civic, political and police coup,” the president denounced in his television message in which he announced his resignation.
In his letter delivered to parliament on Monday, Morales said his decision seeks to “avoid” violence and expressed his desire for the return of “social peace”.
The president also announced a chain of resignations of legislators, ministers and regional authorities of the official MAS party.
NOBODY ASSUMED POWER
Article 169 of the Bolivian constitution establishes the line of succession in the event of the resignation of the president, vice president, of the president of the senate until that of the lower house.
“In the latter case, new elections will be called within a maximum period of ninety days,” it states.
The Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), which has a majority in the assembly, was called to convene the corresponding sessions to analyze Morales’ resignation and appoint an interim president.
Who will be responsible for this is uncertain, since those who would also be renounced their positions.
The resignations were Vice President Álvaro García Linera, President of the Senate Adriana Salvatierra and the President of Congress Víctor Borda.
The line of succession would follow the senator of the opposition and second vice president of the senate of Bolivia Jeanine Áñez.
ROLE OF THE OPPOSITION
Since the 2016 referendum, the opposition has considered the candidacy to be illegal, despite the constitutional and electoral court rulings, however, they participated in the 20 October elections, which they also criticized since they were called.
After the election results were announced, the opposition denounced them as fraud and demanded new elections and the resignation of Morales.
Former president Carlos Mesa called on MAS to facilitate the succession to Morales and said they could appoint a new president from the senate to interimly act as head of state and was emphatic that there is no coup d'etat.
Civic leader Luis Fernando Camacho called for the resignation of all high authorities to give way to a transitional government and calling for new elections.
Several analysts believe that it is not correct to speak of a civil or military coup d'etat, the current situation is very different from when in 2003 Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and in 2005 Carlos Mesa resigned before the legislature to Morales’ position as a president besieged by protests.
Experts consider it a power vacuum because no one has yet taken the executive by force, the police and armed forces at the moment are outside the political decisions taken in the crisis.
But there are some that consider Morales was forced to leave the presidency, although after the OAS report on the elections, the president announced new elections with a new electoral body. EFE
Low-flying military aircraft used in Bolivia operation to contain protests
La Paz, Nov 12 (efe-epa).- Military jets flew at low altitude on Tuesday in several areas of La Paz and the neighboring city of El Alto as part of operations aimed at containing disturbances in Bolivia, whose longtime president, Evo Morales, was forced to step down last weekend amid a crisis over a disputed recent election.
The low-flying planes contributed to the tension in those cities, where many commercial establishments remain closed and transportation is scarce.
Several social-media users have uploaded videos and photos showing these aircraft taking unusual flight paths.
A large contingent of police and soldiers also were deployed to downtown La Paz to protect the legislative palace, where lawmakers on Tuesday are holding a session to study Morales' resignation and address the existing power vacuum following his exit and that of his vice president, Alvaro Garcia Linera, and the top two legislators in Congress.
According to reports, a large number of protesters will be marching via highway from the largely indigenous Morales stronghold of El Alto to La Paz to express their support for Morales and their outrage over the burning of the wiphala, a square, rainbow-colored flag associated with indigenous peoples of the Andes region.
Looting and attacks on police stations have occurred in the city of El Alto, which is home to the international airport serving La Paz.
In response to the violence, which further escalated after Morales lost the support of the army and police and was forced to resign after more than 13 years in power, soldiers and police on Monday night began patrolling the streets in several Bolivian cities.
Joint army-law enforcement operations are being carried out after Bolivia's National Police told the military it needed backup to quell violent disturbances that have erupted in La Paz and El Alto since Sunday night.
Violent pro- and anti-Morales demonstrations erupted in this poor Andean nation after the Oct. 20 election amid allegations by the opposition that the president's narrow first-round victory over his main challenger, former President Carlos Mesa, was marred by fraud.
Those post-election disturbances left three dead and more than 400 injured.
In a statement on Oct. 21, a day after the election, the Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) said the top two candidates - Morales and former head of state Carlos Mesa - had appeared to be headed for a December runoff before an "inexplicable change" in the trend of the vote count occurred.
Morales, the first indigenous president of this majority indigenous Andean nation, maintains that his late surge in the balloting came after votes from remote rural areas were counted.
Amid pressure from violent protests Morales agreed to an audit of the votes by the OAS, which on Sunday found that there had been a "clear manipulation" of the process and said a new election should be held.
Morales agreed to a new vote but was forced to resign hours later; the opposition, meanwhile, initially said it would not accept the results of the OAS audit but then touted its findings.
Morales, who says he was forced out in a coup, arrived in Mexico on Tuesday after being granted political asylum there. EFE-EPA