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Bolivia crisis: Ex-President Morales offered asylum in Mexico

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Mexico has offered asylum to former Bolivian President Evo Morales, a day after he resigned following weeks of protest over a disputed election.

Mexico says the decision was taken for "humanitarian reasons" after a request from Mr Morales.

Mr Morales has not yet commented. He earlier urged his supporters to resist the "dark powers" that had forced him to step down.

Some 20 people were reported injured as his supporters clashed with police.

Mr Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous leader, stepped down after the head of the army publicly called on him to leave his post.

The deputy head of the Senate said she would take over as interim president until new elections were held.

Mr Morales, a former coca farmer, was first elected in 2006. He has won plaudits for fighting poverty and improving Bolivia's economy but drew controversy by defying constitutional term limits to run for a fourth term in October's election, which is alleged to have been rife with irregularities.

Power vacuum

The biggest criticism of Evo Morales was his lack of respect for Bolivia's democracy – accused of overstaying his welcome and refusing to step down.

But the fact that the military has called the shots on the president standing down does not do much for Bolivia's democracy either.

Now Evo Morales has gone, there is a power vacuum. Increasing numbers of his Mas party are resigning, and it feels like there is a need for retribution – for Evo Morales and his people to pay the price for the mistakes they made while in power.

His supporters have called this a coup – his detractors the end of tyranny. The priority now is to choose an interim leader, call new elections and bring a polarised Bolivia together or face yet more unrest and violence in the coming weeks.

What did Mexico say?

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard announced the decision to grant Mr Morales asylum at a press conference.

"Several minutes ago I received a phone call from [former] President Evo Morales to verbally and formally request political asylum in our country," he told reporters.

"Interior Minister Olga Sánchez Cordero made the decision to grant him asylum."

Mexico has a left-leaning government and has supported Mr Morales.

Mr Ebrard earlier described events in Bolivia as a "coup", citing the military's involvement in Mr Morales' resignation.

Why did he quit?

Pressure had been growing on Mr Morales since his narrow victory in last month's presidential election.

On Sunday, events moved swiftly. First, the Organization of American States, a regional body, announced its audit of the election had found "clear manipulation" and called for the result to be annulled.

In response, Mr Morales agreed to hold fresh elections. But his main rival, Carlos Mesa – who came second in the vote – said Mr Morales should not stand in any new vote.

Evo Morales at the  United Nations in New York on 24 September, 2019.

EPA

Evo Morales

  • 38 yearsleading the coca growers' union

  • 54%of the votes won in 2005 election

  • 64%of the votes won in 2009 election

  • 61%of votes won in 2014 election

Source: BBC Monitoring

What really seemed to tip the balance was the intervention of the chief of the armed forces, General Williams Kaliman, who urged Mr Morales to step down in the interests of peace and stability.

Announcing his resignation, Mr Morales said he had taken the decision in order to stop fellow socialist leaders from being "harassed, persecuted and threatened". He also called his removal a "coup".

Reports say Mr Morales made the announcement of his resignation from El Chapare, a coca-growing rural area of Cochabamba and a bastion of support for him and his Mas party.

What has the reaction been?

Opponents of Mr Morales have been celebrating across Bolivia, setting off fireworks and waving national flags, while his supporters clashed with police in the cities of La Paz and El Alto, according to local meRead More – Source

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