Morales urges end to violence in Bolivia

World Today

Bolivia’s interim president is promising to hold new elections as soon as possible.

Senate leader Jeanine Anez claimed the office after former president Evo Morales resigned and took refuge in Mexico.

Anez is appealing for violent protests to end, a call echoed by Morales.

CGTN’s Dan Collyns reports.

Sitting alone at a packed press conference in Mexico City, Evo Morales called on all groups in Bolivia to help pacify the country. Morales flew into exile in Mexico on Monday after resigning as Bolivia’s president on Sunday under pressure from the army after a fiercely disputed election.

“We resigned precisely so there would be an end to violence, but it hasn’t ended,” he said. “I thought that the day after my resignation there would be peace and tranquility, but the next day there were four people dead. Imagine, members of the press, I negotiated with the commanders, negotiated with the armed forces to leave the country, to not use bullets against the people. I resigned and the next day there were more people shot dead. That hurts. If the people ask for it, we will return as quickly as possible to pacify Bolivia which is what the Bolivian people are asking for.”

Morales repeated that he had been the victim of a coup orchestrated by right-wing opponents. In La Paz, his supporters protested his legacy as police launched teargas.

“Our President Evo has left; we don’t have any rights anymore,” said supporter Doris Juayhua. “Even the police won’t defend us. They’re our enemies, they’ve gassed us. Where are our rights?”

They gathered to march on congress to protest their leader’s replacement with an interim president. In a tremendous show of force, protesters have marched down here from El Alto just as congress is debating the swearing in of the new interim president. They chanted, “Evo, you are not alone,” and called the new leader a usurper and a racist.

“While our president and leader Evo Morales is alive, our party will carry on,” said supporter Alejandro Martinez. “It doesn’t matter who our party’s next candidate is. What matters is that Evo is still alive.”

But they were too late to stop the change of power. Bolivian Senator Jeanine Añuz declared herself the country’s interim president, even though lawmakers from his Morales’ party boycotted the session.

“As president of the senate, I immediately assume the presidency as part of the constitutional order and I commit to taking all measures necessary to pacify the country,” Anez declared.

Bolivia’s constitutional court said she was next in line to take the presidency after the resignations of Morales, his deputy and the presidents of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. A religious conservative, Añez cuts a contrasting figure with Morales, but analysts say her role is transitory.

“The interim president has one mandate and that is to call new elections as soon as possible,” said political expert Yerko Ihlik. “The constitution allows 90 days, but the country’s situation demands that they be sooner.”

As the turmoil continues, many Bolivians are pinning their hopes for peace on fresh elections.