Evo Morales

Bolivian president Evo Morales resigns after protests over disputed election

MNA International Desk: Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Sunday (local time) he was resigning to ease violence that has gripped the South American nation since a disputed election, but he stoked fears of more unrest by saying he was the victim of a “coup” and faced arrest.

Video footage showed clashes on the streets of La Paz and some buildings on fire Sunday night after the military called on Morales to step down and allies deserted him following weeks of protests since the October 20 election.

Morales, in power for nearly 14 years, said in televised comments earlier that he would submit his resignation letter to help restore stability, though he aimed barbs at what he called a “civic coup” and later said police planned to arrest him.

“I am resigning, sending my letter of resignation to the Legislative Assembly,” Morales said, adding that it was his “obligation as indigenous president and president of all Bolivians to seek peace.”

However, underscoring the ongoing tensions, Morales later said on Twitter that the police had an “illegal” warrant for his arrest and that “violent groups” had attacked his home.

The commander of Bolivia’s police force said in a television interview that there was no warrant for Morales’ arrest.

The departure of Morales, a leftist icon and the last survivor of Latin America’s “pink tide” of two decades ago, is likely to send shockwaves across the region at a time when left-leaning leaders have returned to power in Mexico and Argentina.

Vice President Álvaro García Linera also resigned.

Some of Morales’ leftist allies in Latin America decried the turn of events as a “coup,” including Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Argentine President-elect Alberto Fernandez.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said his country would offer Morales asylum if he sought it.

Nicaragua’s government also came to Morales’ defense, issuing a statement that decried the situation as a coup and a display of “fascist practices.”

Bolivia under Morales had one of the region’s strongest economic growth rates and its poverty rate was cut in half, though his determination to cling to power and seek a fourth term alienated many allies, even among indigenous communities.

Pressure had been ramping up on Morales since he was declared the winner of the Oct. 20 election.

General Williams Kaliman, the head of Bolivia’s armed forces, on Sunday said the military had asked Morales to step down to help restore peace and stability after weeks of protests over the vote.

Kaliman added that the military was calling on the Bolivian people to refrain from violence and disorder.

Earlier on Sunday, Morales had agreed to hold new elections after a report from the Organization of American States (OAS), which conducted an audit of the Oct. 20 vote, revealed serious irregularities.

The OAS report said that election should be annulled after it had found “clear manipulations” of the voting system that called into question Morales’ win, with a lead of just over 10 points over main rival Carlos Mesa.

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