Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has resigned, shortly after the country’s military urged him to do so. The development leaves the country, which has endured weeks of political turmoil, in a situation of even greater uncertainty.
“I resign from my position as president so that (Carlos) Mesa and (Luis Fernando) Camacho do not continue to persecute socialist leaders,” Morales said during a televised address naming the leaders of the opposition.
Morales said that he decided to leave the post in hopes that his departure would stop the spate of violent attacks against officials and indigenous people, “so that they [protesters] do not continue burning the houses [of public officials]” and “kidnapping and mistreating” families of indigenous leaders.
“It is my obligation, as the first indigenous president and president of all Bolivians, to seek this pacification,” he said, adding that he hopes opposition would “understand the message.”
Shortly after the announcement his Vice-President Alvaro Marcelo García Linera also submitted his resignation.
Earlier on Sunday Morales announced snap elections, giving in to the mounting pressure over the disputed results of the October 20 polls. The decision followed the release of a preliminary report from the Organization of American States (OAS) mission on the elections, that was unable to validate them, saying it is “statistically unlikely” that Morales secured a 10-per cent lead, required to avoid a runoff vote. Moreover, the auditors claimed they had found signs of “clear manipulation” and irregularities during the polls.
Bolivian opposition urged Morales to resign altogether despite his promise of the new elections. While he briefly resisted such calls, branding them “unconstitutional” and an “attempted coup,” the President eventually gave in after the military joined that chorus.
Shortly before Morales announced his resignation, Bolivian TV channels aired footage of what they say was a presidential plane departing from El Alto International airport.
It was reported that the plane took Morales to his political stronghold of Chimoré in the Department of Cochabamba, 300 kilometres (186 miles) east of La Paz, a city where he launched his reelection bid back in May.
Videos from La Paz, the site of many recent anti-Morales protests, show crowds cheering after the resignation announcement.
Ruling Bolivia since 2006, Morales has gained a reputation as a staunch defender of socialism and an ardent critic of US foreign policy. The country’s highest court ruled in 2018 that he could run for the fourth time.
Bolivia’s right-wing opposition coup leaders like Luis Fernando Camacho have been conspiring with the US-appointed Venezuelan coup leaders.
After the contested October elections there were rival rallies of Morales’ opponents and supporters throughout the country. While some anti-government protests have remained peaceful, others have led to rioting in major cities, clashes with police, and attacks on pro-government politicians. On Saturday, protesters burned the house of Oruro city governor Víctor Hugo Vásquez, who stood by the president as tensions flared up.
Morales stressed that his resignation does not mean that the socialist cause is defeated.
“It is no betrayal. The struggle continues. We are a people,” he said.
Arrest Warrant on Evo Morales’ back
Police and military have been on the lookout for Evo Morales, shortly after his resignation on Sunday afternoon.
Morales dubbed the arrest warrant “illegal,” and said that his house was raided.
“I denounce in front of the world and the Bolivian people that a police official publicly announced that he was instructed to execute an illegal arrest warrant against me; in addition, violent groups assaulted my home. The coup destroys the rule of law,” Morales, who resigned earlier on Sunday after military and police demanded he leaves the post, stated on Twitter.
Earlier, Bolivian protest leader Luis Fernando Camacho has confirmed that an outstanding arrest exists for the socialist leader’s arrest.
“Confirmed!! An arrest warrant for Evo Morales !! The police and the military are looking for him in Chapare [rural province in the northern region of Cochabamba], a place where he hid,” Camacho wrote, adding that the military seized the presidential plane Morales used to get to his political stronghold of Chimoré in the Department of Cochabamba, 300 kilometres (186 miles) east of La Paz, from where he announced his resignation.