Bolivia’s socialist President Evo Morales, in power for 13 years after forcing constitutional reforms through to stay in power, resigned on Sunday following the publication of evidence he rigged the October presidential race.
In a half-hour televised speech, Morales announced that he would step down to end the “harassment” of his protesters and blamed racism for his skyrocketing unpopularity since elbowing his way into a third presidential race by erasing constitutional term limits. The Organization of American States (OAS) published evidence this weekend of fraud in the October presidential election, pressuring Morales to step down.
Morales’ potential successors as per the Bolivian constitution have also resigned, leaving no one in charge of the country.
“My sin is to be indigenous, to be a syndicalist leader, a coca grower,” Morales said, highlighting his legacy of promoting the growth of coca leaf, used to produce cocaine, internationally. He insisted he hoped his resignation “pacified” the country and called for new elections after the fraudulent round that granted him victory on October 20. He did not specify if he wished to run in those elections again.
“I am resigning so that my brothers and sisters at MAS will no longer face harassment, persecution, or threats,” Morales added. “I lament this civic coup, with some sectors of the police, for uniting to attack democracy, social peace, with intimidation of the Bolivian people.”
Morales blamed Carlos Mesa, his opponent in the election, and Luis Fernando Camacho, a community leader organizing protests against Morales’ election fraud, for his resignation.
Mesa is a member of the Civic Community party, a “centrist coalition” created out of multiple parties, including the Leftist Revolutionary Front (FRI).
“I decided to resign so that Mesa and Camacho will stop persecuting my brothers, syndicalist leaders, so that Mesa and Camacho won’t continue to abduct and mistreat the relatives of our syndicalist leaders,” Morales said, “so that they stop hurting businessmen and transport professionals who haven’t stopped working in Santa Cruz.”
The head of state did not offer any evidence for his claim that the opposition leaders were “abducting” or attacking Morales supporters. For the past two weeks, Bolivian newspapers have been publishing evidence of socialist rioters beating protesters demanding a fair election in broad daylight as police stood by, doing nothing.
Morales also claimed that he had “no reason to escape” and challenged opponents to divulge evidence against him of corruption and repeatedly referred to his decision to resign as a “coup.” He said he would remain in the country advocating for indigenous rural workers; he remains the head of several regional coca leaf growers’ organizations and said he would return to “sharing [his] time” with them.
Morales had served two terms when he attempted, and failed, to pass a constitutional reform extending term limits via popular referendum in 2016. He then forced the nation’s Constitutional Court to erase term limits for all offices a year later, opening a pathway to remain in power indefinitely.
Initial election results following the October 20 election this year showed Morales with a narrow enough lead against Mesa for Mesa to legally force a runoff election – then the vote-counting servers abruptly shut down. When they turned back on, Morales had mysteriously won his election outright.
The Organization of American States (OAS) confirmed this weekend in a preliminary report that significant “irregularities” suggested that fraud had occurred, leading thousands to take the streets demanding the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) president resign.
According to the preliminary report, the server that shut down redirected the vote counts to another server that “was not foreseen as part of the technological infrastructure of the Preliminary Election Results Transmission System,” meaning it was running outside of the supervision of the election commission. The server that ultimately issued the result of Morales winning a victory outright was not recorded as existing within the vote count framework at all, investigators found.
“It is strange that the flow of data would be redirected to an outside network, unforeseen or documented,” the report read. “There is also no valid technical explanation for why the perimeter servers controlled by the oversight agency were not used. This is extremely grave and affects the transparency of the process.”
Bolivian election authorities also kept no record of who was running these servers, in particular the mystery server that ultimately issued the results, or a play-by-play of events while votes were tallied. Election oversight officials also found that security surrounding the election software was weak and allowed for outside access in the event of a skilled computer technician seeking it.
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro expedited the results of the investigation in light of the growing unrest in Bolivia as peaceful anti-Morales protesters clashed with socialist rioters.
In light of the OAS report, the nation’s armed forces and police issued statements requesting that Morales step down.
“After analyzing the internal conflict situation, we suggest to the president that he resign his presidential mandate, allowing the pacification and maintenance of stability, for the good of our Bolivia,” a statement from the head of the Bolivian Armed Forces read. The statement requested that protesters “cease violent activities, disorder among brothers, so that we do not stain our families with blood, pain, or mourning.”
Police officials also released a statement “suggesting to Mr. President Evo Morales that he present his resignation to pacify the people of Bolivian in these difficult times our nation is facing.”
The head of Bolivia’s military, General Williams Kaliman, also issued a statement insisting the military was not seeking a political role in the civilian affairs of the nation.
“We assert that we will never defy the people we owe ourselves to and we will always be vigilant for peace,” Kaliman said, a preemptive response to typical complaints from the left that any public disapproval of their leaders is a “coup.” Morales repeatedly referred to discontent at the election fraud as a “coup” prior to his resignation.
Morales leaves office as one of the last socialists of the wave of radical leftists that took over Latin America at the turn of the century which included Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, and Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Among his contributions to Bolivia will be remembered his nationwide warning that eating chicken leads to homosexuality and his offer of a coca leaf cake to the head of the United Nations.