Mexico Offers Asylum To Bolivia’s Morales, Says Foreign Minister

(FILES) In this file picture taken on December 19, 2005 Bolivian presidential candidate Evo Morales Ayma waves to supporters in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Bolivian President Evo Morales resigned on November 10, 2019, caving in following three weeks of sometimes-violent protests over his disputed re-election after the army and police withdrew their backing. Aizar RALDES / AFP

 

Mexico on Sunday said it was offering asylum to Bolivia’s President Evo Morales after 20 government officials and lawmakers had sought refuge at its embassy in La Paz.

“Mexico, in accordance with its tradition of asylum and non intervention, has received 20 personalities from the Bolivian executive and legislature in the official residence in La Paz, so we would also offer asylum to Evo Morales,” Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter.

Bolivia’s Election Turmoil: A Timeline

 

Bolivian President Evo Morales has resigned after three weeks of turmoil stemming from a disputed October 20 election in which he was declared the winner, giving him a fourth straight term.

Here is a recap of the tensions leading to his dramatic move.

Morales seeks fourth term

On October 20, Bolivians go to the polls with Morales, Latin America’s longest serving leader, seeking a fourth straight term.

His only serious challenger is centrist Carlos Mesa, president between 2003 and 2005.

Second round?

Partial results released hours after polls close put Morales on 45 percent of the votes and Mesa 38 percent, with 84 percent of ballots counted.

A margin of 10 percentage points between candidates is required to avoid a second round runoff.

Morales has won all his previous elections in the first round.

Vote count stalls

The release of official results is inexplicably stalled overnight with 84 percent of votes counted.

On October 21, international observers ask for clarification and Mesa accuses Morales of cheating to avoid a runoff.

Opposition supporters protest outside key vote counting centers in the capital, La Paz, and in other cities.

Count change

Late October 21, the election authority releases more results showing Morales edging towards an outright victory with 95 percent of the votes counted.

Organization of American States (OAS) monitors express “deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change.” Mesa alleges fraud.

Violence breaks out at protests in several cities. Mobs torch electoral offices in the cities of Sucre and Potosi, while rival supporters clash in La Paz.

Opposition strike

On October 22, opposition groups call for a nationwide general strike from midnight “until democracy and the will of the citizens are respected.”

The vice president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal resigns, criticizing what he calls mismanagement of the election count.

There are new clashes between protesters and security forces in La Paz.

‘Coup’

On October 23, Morales likens the general strike to a right-wing coup.

Mesa urges his supporters to step up protests and insists a “second round must take place.”

He says he will not recognize the results tallied by the tribunal, which he accuses of manipulating the count to help Morales win.

Clashes break out between rival demonstrators in the opposition bastion of Santa Cruz, where offices housing the electoral authority are set on fire.

Security forces and demonstrators also clash elsewhere.

Morales declares victory

On October 24, Morales claims he has won outright.

In the evening, the election authority issues final results, giving Morales has 47.08 percent of votes and Mesa 36.52 percent.

The opposition, the EU, the US, OAS, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia urge a second round.

Fresh clashes take place between rival groups, along with road blocks and demonstrations.

On October 27, Morales says that there will be no “political negotiation” and accuses his rivals of preparing a “coup”.

Call for ‘de-escalation’

On October 28, protests deepen with around 30 wounded in clashes with security forces and between supporters of Morales and Mesa at La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.

On the 29, the government invites Mesa to take part in an audit of the election results by the OAS, a body that works to promote cooperation in the Americas.

The United Nations calls for an urgent “de-escalation” of tensions.

Outside audit

As outrage grows, the OAS begins to audit the election results.

On November 3, an opposition leader vows to oust Morales and appeals to the military for its support.

The death toll in the protests rises to three on November 6 with the death of a student.

On the 8th, police officers in at least three Bolivian cities join the opposition, in some cases marching in the street with them.

On November 10, the OAS announces that it found many irregularities in its analysis of the election.

Morales calls a new election, but it is too late. Two ministers and the speaker of congress resign after their homes are attacked by opposition supporters.

The commanders of the armed forces and the police add their voices to the calls for Morales to step down.

On the evening of November 10, from his native coca growing region in central Bolivia, Morales announces his resignation after nearly 14 years in power.

Morales: Latin America’s Longest-Serving Leader Collapses Under Protests

Handout photo released by the Bolivian Presidency of Bolivian President Evo Morales speaking during a press conference in El Alto, on November 9, 2019. Police in three Bolivian cities joined anti-government protests Friday, in one case marching with demonstrators in La Paz, in the first sign security forces are withdrawing support from President Evo Morales after a disputed election that has triggered riots. HO / Bolivian Presidency / AFP

 

Evo Morales was Latin America’s longest-serving president until he resigned in ignominy Sunday, after weeks of opposition protests over an election ultimately said to have been riddled with irregularities.

A member of the Aymara people, he grew up in poverty on Bolivia’s high plains and was a llama herder, coca farmer and leftist union leader before rising to take office as his country’s first indigenous president in January 2006.

His victory in October 20 elections — verified by the heavily-criticized Supreme Electoral Tribunal — had been set to extend his mandate until 2025 and give him 19 consecutive years in power.

But election monitors from the Organization of American States who carried out an audit of the controversial polls said they had found many irregularities in their analysis of the election.

Morales called new elections, but resigned within hours of that announcement after army and police chiefs joined calls for him to quit.

Recently turned 60, Morales was one of the last of the wave of leftist leaders who swept to power in the region in the early 2000s.

Those leftist governments have since fallen away, torn down by a conservative backlash in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Ecuador — though Argentina’s Peronist left bucked the trend to win last month’s elections amid an economic crisis there.

Landmark gains

Under Morales’ leadership, Bolivia made landmark gains against hunger and poverty.

Sitting on the region’s second-largest gas reserves, after Venezuela, and the world’s largest reserves of lithium, Bolivia’s economy has more than tripled in size during his 13 years in office.

However, long before the social unrest of recent weeks that heralded his resignation, opponents accused him of tolerating corruption and investing in flashy infrastructure projects at the expense of health and education.

A case in point is his decision last year to move the government headquarters into a luxurious skyscraper in La Paz.

While still among the poorest countries in Latin America, Bolivia’s poverty rate has decreased from 45 percent of the population in 2010 to 35 percent in 2018, according to the World Bank.

But environmentalists blame him for raging wildfires that destroyed more than four million hectares (10 million acres) of forest and grassland, saying legislation enacted under Morales encouraged wholesale deforestation in order to expand agricultural production.

It’s all a long way from his childhood herding llamas and helping his parents in the fields in a small, arid village in western Bolivia’s Oruro department.

“Until I was 14, I had no idea there was such a thing as underwear. I slept in my clothes… (which) my mother only removed for two reasons: to look for lice or to patch an elbow or a knee,” he wrote in a candid autobiography.

Four of his six brothers and sisters died of malnutrition and disease before the age of two.

Referendum defeat

Morales never went to college and has considerable difficulty reading speeches in public, instead preferring to improvise by repeating phrases about the economic strides made under his government.

Before his narrow but ultimately tainted victory in last month’s elections, Morales has been re-elected twice before with large majorities. His only defeat at the polls came in a 2016 referendum when he tried to amend Bolivia’s constitution to run for a fourth time.

Refusing to accept defeat, his party petitioned the country’s highest court, which analysts say is packed with his allies and which backed his right to run again.

The move led to protests and allegations of corruption from the opposition, whose candidate, former president Carlos Mesa, provided Morales with his stiffest electoral test yet.

Morales had urged the electorate to give him “five more years to complete our great projects” and continue to expand one of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies.

Under Morales, Bolivia has increased foreign investment, particularly from China, to help it exploit its rich natural resources and is on track to become the world’s fourth-largest producer of lithium by 2021.

A fierce critic of the United States, Morales was a staunch ally of leftist governments in Cuba and Venezuela.

Bolivian President Evo Morales Resigns

Handout photo released by the Bolivian Presidency of Bolivian President Evo Morales speaking during a press conference in El Alto, on November 9, 2019.
HO / Bolivian Presidency / AFP

 

Bolivian President Evo Morales announced his resignation Sunday, caving in following three weeks of sometimes-violent protests over his disputed re-election after the army and police withdrew their backing.

“I resign my post as president,” the leftist Morales said in a televised address, capping a day of fast-moving events in which several ministers and senior officials quit as support for Latin America’s longest-serving president crumbled.

The streets of La Paz immediately exploded in celebration, as jubilant Bolivians set off firecrackers and waved the country’s red, yellow and green flag.

Morales, 60 and in power since 2006, was declared the winner of the October 20 presidential election a narrow margin, giving him a controversial fourth term.

But the opposition said there was fraud in the vote count and three weeks of street protests ensued, during which three people died and hundreds were injured.

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The Organization of American States carried out an audit of the election and on Sunday reported irregularities in just about every aspect that it examined: the technology used, the chain of custody of ballots, the integrity of the count, and statistical projections.

As chanting Bolivians kept up demonstrations in the street, Morales called new elections, but this was apparently not enough to calm the uproar, and the commanders of the armed forces and the police joined the calls for the president’s resignation.

Violence continued Sunday as a caravan of buses taking opposition supporters to La Paz was attacked, leaving three people injured, including one by gunfire.

To make the announcement that he was stepping down, Morales traveled by plane to the coca-growing Chimore region of central Bolivia, the cradle of his career in politics.

It was there in the 1980s that Bolivia’s first indigenous president made his name as a combative union leader defending farmers who grow coca, which in the Bolivian countryside is used for medicinal and other purposes. It is also the raw material for making cocaine.

He was accompanied by vice president Alvaro Garcia Linera, who also resigned.

On social media, Bolivians speculated that Morales might leave the country, perhaps going to Argentina, which just elected a center-left government.

AFP

Bolivia’s President Morales To Call New Elections After OAS Audit

Handout photo released by the Bolivian Presidency of Bolivian President Evo Morales speaking during a press conference in El Alto, on November 9, 2019. 
HO / Bolivian Presidency / AFP

 

Bolivian President Evo Morales called new elections Sunday, bowing to demands to do so after an OAS audit found serious “irregularities” in elections last month that gave the leftist leader a fourth term but set off deadly protests.

In a television address, Morales said he would “call for new national elections, which, by voting, allow the Bolivian people to democratically elect new authorities.”

The country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal would be replaced, he said, meeting a key demand of opposition leaders who had accused its members of rigging the count in the October 20 elections in Morales’ favor.

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Morales, Bolivia’s first president of indigenous descent, did not say whether he would run again.

Carlos Mesa, the centrist candidate who came in second in the disputed elections, said Morales should resign “if he has a speck of patriotism left.”

The leader of a protest movement, Luis Fernando Camacho, said Morales “has fractured the constitutional order and must resign.”

In Washington, the top diplomat for Latin America, Michael Kozak, urged the OAS to send a full mission to Bolivia “to ensure new elections are free and fair and reflect the will of the Bolivian people.”

Irregularities Found

The head of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, said the results giving the leftist leader a first-round victory and a fourth term in office “must be annulled and the electoral process must begin again.”

An OAS expert team found “irregularities that range from serious to indicative,” in virtually every area they reviewed — in the technology used, the chain of custody of ballots, the integrity of the count, and statistical projections.

“This leads the technical auditing team to question the integrity of the election results,” the report on their preliminary findings said.

The October 20 results showed Morales, in office since 2006, defeating Mesa by slightly over 10 points, just enough to ensure an outright first-round victory.

The OAS report said, “the manipulations of the informatic system are of such magnitude that they should be thoroughly investigated by the Bolivian state to get to the bottom of them and determine responsibilities in this serious case.”

It is possible that Morales came in first place in the first round but is “statistically improbable” that he obtained the 10 percent margin of victory needed to avoid a second round, it said.

Police Rebellion

The dramatic turnabout came two days after police in three cities joined anti-government protests and a day after the opposition rejected Morales’ appeal for urgent, open-ended dialogue.

Three people have died and more than 250 have been injured in often violent protests since Morales claimed to have won a fourth consecutive term in last month’s poll.

Morales said that in the new elections “the Bolivian people will be able to democratically elect new authorities, incorporating new political actors.”

That begged the question of whether Morales would stand again for re-election, a source of controversy because Bolivia’s constitution, which he promulgated himself a decade ago, limits presidents to two terms.

The civic committees that helped propel the protests had called on both Morales and Mesa to step aside in new elections.

Morales said Bolivia’s bicameral legislature, which his party controls, would meet in the coming hours for the parties to work out procedures for changing out the electoral tribunal.

“After this decision, I want to lower the tension. Everyone has an obligation to bring peace to Bolivia,” he said.

In the Vatican, Pope Francis on Sunday exhorted Bolivians to await the full results of the OAS audit with “peace and serenity.”

Cuba called on the international community to condemn the protests against its close ally Morales as an attempted coup by “imperialism and the oligarchy.”

The protests against Morales erupted the day after he was declared the first-round winner of the elections, beginning in the opposition stronghold of Santa Cruz and spreading to La Paz and other cities.

On Saturday, opposition demonstrators overran two state-run media outlets and forced them off the air, while some police stopped guarding the square where Morales’ presidential palace is located.

An elite police tactical operations unit called UTOP rebelled Friday in the central city of Cochabamba. The rebellion then spread to units in Sucre, the constitutional capital, and Santa Cruz, a bastion of opposition strength in the east.

That night the rebellion reached other cities but mostly spared La Paz, the country’s administrative capital, local media reported.

AFP

Bolivian Opposition Leader Calls On President Morales To Resign

The opposition runner-up in Bolivia’s recent polls, Carlos Mesa, speaks to the press at Avaroa de La Paz square in La Paz on November 10, 2019. 
Aizar RALDES / AFP

 

Opposition candidate Carlos Mesa called Sunday on President Evo Morales to resign after an OAS audit found numerous “irregularities” in Bolivia’s October 20 election.

“If he has a speck of patriotism left, he should step aside,” said Mesa, the second-place finisher in the presidential election.

RELATED: OAS Recommends Fresh Bolivia Elections

Morales, in office since 2006, claimed a first-round victory in the poll and a mandate for a fourth consecutive term.

But he announced Sunday he was calling new elections after an audit by experts from the Organization of American States found serious irregularities that put in question the integrity of the vote.

AFP

OAS Recommends Fresh Bolivia Elections

Map of Bolivia

 

The Organization of American States recommended Sunday canceling the first round of the Bolivian elections, held three weeks ago and claimed by the opposition as fraudulent, and holding new elections.

“The first round of the elections held last October 20 must be annulled and the electoral process must begin again, the first round taking place as soon as there are new conditions that give new guarantees for it to take place, including a newly composed electoral body,” the organization said in a press release, as thousands of Bolivians are preparing to enter a fourth week of protests demanding the annulment of the elections and the resignation of President Evo Morales.

More details later.

Chile Suspends Bolivia Friendly Amid Violent Social Unrest

Riot police are reached by a petrol bomb during clashes with demonstrators protesting against the economic policies of the government of President Sebastian Pinera, in Santiago, on November 4, 2019. CLAUDIO REYES / AFP

 

Chile has cancelled a friendly match with Bolivia scheduled for later this month after weeks of violent social unrest, the South American country’s football association announced on Tuesday.

FA president Sebastian Moreno told reporters that the match, set for November 15, has been cancelled but added that the team’s game with Peru in Lima would go ahead.

A wave of anti-government anger has swept Chile, one of Latin America’s most prosperous countries, and protests entered their third week on Monday as people vent their frustrations over cost of living and pensions.

They are demanding the resignation of billionaire President Sebastian Pinera, who said in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday that he will not step down.

Protesters clashed with police and looted stores Monday at the close of a huge rally in Chile’s capital Santiago that saw demonstrators try to march on the presidential palace.

Fights broke out with police trying to contain them, with officers firing water cannons and tear gas. One officer was hit in the face with a Molotov cocktail.

Last week Chile pulled out of hosting the November 16-17 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, and the December 2-13 COP 25 climate convention.

The unrest has also led to CONMEBOL, the South American football authority, to wonder whether capital city Santiago — the epicentre of the protests — is capable of hosting the Copa Libertadores final on November 23.

Helicopter Carrying Bolivian President Makes Emergency Landing

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales delivers a press conference in La Paz on October 31, 2019.
JORGE BERNAL / AFP

 

An helicopter carrying Bolivia’s President Evo Morales made an emergency landing Monday due to a mechanical problem, the military said, raising suspicions among his supporters after opponents vowed to oust him.

No one was hurt, the air force said, but the incident fuelled tensions in the country where protesters have been rallying against the leftist president for two weeks following his disputed re-election.

The mechanical glitch happened as the helicopter was taking off from a village in the Andes where Morales had been inaugurating a new road, it said. Video of the incident circulated on social media.

“Brothers, today, after opening the road in Colquiri, we had an incident with the helicopter that will be properly investigated,” Morales tweeted later after resuming work at government headquarters.

The air force said it was investigating the causes of the fault.

The EC-145 helicopter “had a mechanical fault in the tail rotor during take-off, which prompted an emergency landing,” the Bolivian Air Force said in a statement.

On Saturday, a conservative opposition leader in the eastern Santa Cruz region, Luis Fernando Camacho, threatened to “take decisive action” on Monday night to drive Morales from power.

Former interior minister Hugo Moldiz in a Twitter message branded the helicopter incident “a criminal attack.”

Morales has accused his opponents of plotting a coup against him.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a staunch ally of Morales, tweeted his “deep solidarity and support for our Indian chief of the south, who has emerged unscathed from an air crash.

“The immortal spirit of our ancestors and liberators protect you. A hug, Brother President!”

Foreign Minister Diego Pary condemned what he said was an ongoing coup d’etat in the country in a speech to an extraordinary session of the Organization of American States’ (OAS) permanent council in Washington.

“The selective aggression of citizens and the security forces, the call on the Armed Forces and the National Police to rise up, and finally the call under threat to President Evo Morales to leave the government in 48 hours, are clear evidence that there is a coup d’etat on the way that aims to break Bolivia’s democratic life leading to chaos and confrontation between Bolivians,” Pary said.

Deadly unrest has gripped the South American country since Morales was named the winner of an election on October 20 for a fourth term.

His opponents have branded the result a fraud, citing alleged irregularities in the vote count.

Morales’s rival in the polls, Carlos Mesa, has called for a new vote to be held.

Demonstrators returned to block roads in the capital La Paz on Monday in fresh protests.

In his address to supporters on Saturday, Camacho called on the military to “be on the side of the people.”

Morales responded by accusing his opponents of seeking bloodshed.

Interior Minister Carlos Romero said Monday the government had “absolute trust” in the armed forces.

Romero alleged on Sunday that “a violent confrontation is being prepared” for Monday night near the presidential palace in La Paz.

AFP

Bolivian Election: Audit Chief Makes Surprise Resignation

People attend a rally summoned by the National Committee in Defense of Democracy (CONADE) on the second week of a civic strike against the result of the October 20 election in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on November 2, 2019. DANIEL WALKER / AFP

 

 

The head of an international body auditing Bolivia’s disputed election results resigned unexpectedly on Friday, casting further uncertainty over a vote that sparked deadly riots and delivered President Evo Morales a fourth term.

The chief of the technical mission from the Organisation of American States (OAS), Mexican Arturo Espinosa, announced he is stepping down from the role just a day after beginning the review of the controversial poll.

“I have decided to withdraw from the audit so as not to compromise its impartiality. I should have informed the OAS about previous public statements (declarations) about the electoral process in Bolivia,” he wrote in a tweet.

An OAS spokeswoman later confirmed his resignation to AFP.

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Espinosa wrote two articles related to Bolivia’s elections for a Mexican news website in the past two weeks, including one — published after the election — which raised doubts over the poll’s transparency.

The 20 October election result, ratified on Friday by Bolivia’s own Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), saw Morales narrowly secure the 10-point gap needed to win outright — but only after an abrupt and unexplained shift in the vote count in his favor.

Opposition candidate Carlos Mesa criticised the TSE’s latest result calculations, saying that they show Morales committed a “fraud” and “an aggression against the good faith of the international community.”

The 66 year-old former president has also refused to take part in the OAS audit, calling instead for the results given by the electoral court (TSE) to be annulled as a precondition of his co-operation.

– Poll violence –

Riots broke out almost as soon as the election ended and Espinosa’s resignation now threatens to heighten tensions.

Protests erupted in various cities in Bolivia on Friday, especially in the south of the administrative capital La Paz, where roads were cut off and riot police guarded vital crossings.

The extended clashes have seen 191 people detained and 60 police officers injured, said police chief Julio Cordero said on Friday.

But some opposition groups protesting the election now support neither Morales nor Mesa.

Popular assemblies or “Cabildos” held on Thursday in La Paz and the eastern city of Santa Cruz have rejected the OAS audit and demanded new elections.

The council of La Paz has even proclaimed “Neither Mesa, nor Evo Morales!”, in favour of holding new elections without either of the two main candidates who stood on 20 October.

The president said on Friday that Bolivians should wait for the OAS audit report, which should be ready in two weeks.

Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Morales has been in power since 2006.

Already Latin America’s longest-serving leader, Morales is looking to remain in power until 2025 with a fourth term.

The country’s constitution limits a president to two successive terms, and a 2016 referendum rejected a bid by Morales to remove term limits.

But Bolivia’s constitutional court authorised him to stand for a fourth mandate.

The court, like the election tribunal, is made up of members appointed by Morales’s Movement for Socialism.

AFP

Bolivia’s Morales Seeks Fourth Term, Wins First Round In Presidential Election

Bolivian President and presidential candidate for the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) Evo Morales speaks next to his Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera during a press conference after knowing the partial results of the general elections at Quemado presidential palace in La Paz on October 20, 2019. PHOTO: JORGE BERNAL / AFP

 

Evo Morales, seeking a controversial fourth term, led Bolivia’s presidential election race Sunday but faces a historic second-round run-off against opposition rival Carlos Mesa, partial results showed.

Morales had 45 percent of the vote to Mesa’s 38 percent, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced, with most of the votes counted.

Elected Bolivia’s first indigenous president in 2005, Morales has won his previous elections in the first round, never having to contest a run-off.

The former coca farmer and leftist union leader has led the poor but resource-rich Latin American country for the past 13 years, though his popularity has waned amid allegations of corruption and authoritarianism.

He will face a stiff challenge from Mesa, a 66-year-old former president who led Bolivia from 2001-2005.

Mesa celebrated “an unquestionable triumph” in getting to the second round, amid cheers from his supporters at his La Paz headquarters.

Morales welcomed his first-round win, telling cheering crowds “we have won again, really, it is something historical, unforgettable”.

South Korean-born evangelical pastor, Chi Hyun Chung, was the surprise package of the election, polling strongly to finish in third place with 8.7 percent.

His support is likely to be influential during campaigning for the second round on December 15.

Controversial fourth term

Morales obtained Constitutional Court permission in 2017 to run again for president even though the constitution allows only two consecutive terms.

A new mandate would keep him in power until 2025.

“Any party, no matter how good it is, if it stays in place for too long, it is corrupt, that’s what we’re going through,” said 22-year-old student Tania Villaroel Lopez as she joined a line of voters near the presidential palace in La Paz.

Roberto Fernandez, 32, came with his wife Denise and their two-year-old daughter to vote at the same place. They said they feared the result of the elections would be manipulated.

“We hope the end result will be respected,” Fernandez said.

Milton Quispe, a student, said he would vote for “Evo, because he has taken care of the poor. He has known how to give us dignity.”

Bolivia’s seven million eligible voters also cast ballots to choose members of the 166-seat congress — 36 senators and 130 deputies.

After voting in his coca-growing district of Chapare, Morales, a member of the Aymara indigenous community, said he was optimistic about his chances and confident in Bolivia’s democracy.

 Opposition distrust

Mesa said he feared a rigged election after he voted in La Paz.

“I don’t trust in the transparency of the process, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal has demonstrated that it’s an operative arm of the government. We have a very high level of distrust,” he told reporters.

Mesa lambasted what he said was Morales’ powerful grip on key organs of state in a meeting with observers from the Organization of American States last week.

As leader of his Movement for Socialism Party (MAS), Morales points to a decade of economic stability and considerable industrialization as his achievements, while insisting he has brought “dignity” to Bolivia’s indigenous population, the largest in Latin America.

But he stands accused of corruption, and many voters are enraged at his refusal to step aside even though the South American country’s constitution bars him from running again.

“Power has replaced policies aimed at the whole population by others that only serve the interests of certain sectors,” political commentator Maria Teresa Zegada told AFP.

“Opposition leaders have been persecuted, all of which has caused citizens unease and given the impression that democracy was in danger.”

Bolivia’s 2009 constitution, promulgated by Morales himself, limits a president to two consecutive terms of office.

In a 2016 referendum, voters defeated Morales’ bid to secure public support to remove term limits, but his government rejected the result.

The constitutional court, stacked with Morales loyalists, ruled it was his right to seek re-election.

He has come under severe criticism this year as wildfires in August and September ravaged Bolivia’s forests and grasslands, with activists saying his policies encouraged the use of blazes to clear farmland.

AFP

14 Killed, 21 Injured In Bolivia Bus Crash

Map of Bolivia

 

A bus carrying volunteer doctors from La Paz towards the north of Bolivia crashed leaving 14 dead and 21 injured, the La Paz local government said on Monday.

The doctors were part of the MedFund foundation based in La Paz and were heading to five villages in the region around Apolo to the north of La Paz.

According to reports, the bus fell into a ravine on Sunday night close to Charazani, around 250 kilometers (150 miles) to the north of La Paz.

Amongst the dead were 11 woman, according to Daniel Quelca, the health service co-ordinator for the Apolobamba region.

Bolivia has a sorry record when it comes to highway safety, and crashes involving buses travelling at night are common.

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The worst accident this year came in April when 25 people died when a head-on collision between two vehicles sent a bus crashing into a ravine to the north of La Paz.

In February, 24 people died in an accident between a bus and a truck in Oruro.

And in January, 34 people died over a weekend in two separate incidents, the first a collision between two buses on the road between the southern regions of Oruro and Potosi, and the second when a bus careered over a cliff edge near the capital Sucre, in the center-south of the country.

Bolivia’s authorities have shown little appetite to tackle the problem, with President Evo Morales writing on Twitter after the April accident: “To our brother drivers we ask you to always be very careful.”

AFP