Bolivia: Socialist Party Abandons Evo Morales, Accepts Conservative President

Bolivia's second Senate Vice President and opposition politician Jeanine Anez, center, wearing the Presidential sash, addresses the crowd from the balcony of the Quemado palace after she declared herself interim president of the country, in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
AP Photo/Juan Karita

The Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), party of former President Evo Morales in Bolivia, finally accepted his resignation letter on Wednesday, affirming the legitimacy of conservative President Jeanine Áñez.

The move closes the door on Morales’s repeated claims that despite resigning on November 10, he remained president of the country from exile in Mexico because the nation’s legislature did not accept his letter. Some senior members of the MAS party suggested that they may vote to reject the letter, effectively trapping Morales in power and stripping Áñez of her title. Morales insisted 24 hours after resigning that his voluntary resignation was a “coup” and he intended to return to power.

Morales ran Bolivia for nearly 14 years before resigning, following the publication of evidence by the Organization of American States (OAS) that the October 20 election that granted him an unconstitutional fourth term in power exhibited signs of significant fraud. Morales had already faced weeks of peaceful protests calling for him to step down before the OAS report revealed the people did not vote for him.

Morales and most of the senior members of the MAS party fled the country following his resignation, leaving deputy Senate President Áñez, a hardline conservative, the highest-ranking person left in the line of succession. She legally took power three days later and has endeavored to organize a new free and fair election.

The MAS party resisted aiding in the planning of a new election for nearly two weeks and initially rejected Áñez as president because the government swore her in without a quorum; the MAS party is the majority and boycotted the congressional session to appoint her.

On Wednesday, however, they finally accepted Morales’s resignation letter and issued a proposal for the new elections. The proposal differs from Áñez’s in that it seeks to allow Morales to run again.

According to the Bolivian newspaper El Deber, MAS lawmakers formally accepted both the resignation of Morales and former Vice President Álvaro García Linera, noting that their abandonment of the country and flight to Mexico cemented the formal abdication of their seats. They also accepted the resignation of all MAS members above Áñez as president and accepted her as the nation’s head of state, ending the debate as to her legitimacy.

The newspaper claimed significant divisions among members of the socialist party, many of whom rejected Áñez as legitimate for nearly two weeks since Morales fled.

Where the MAS party appears to have not abandoned Morales is in its proposal for new elections. The Áñez proposal requires the government to wait for the full OAS report on the October 20 election; what the organization published prior to Morales’s resignation was an abbreviated, rushed summation of the findings intended to quell civil unrest in the country by providing answers. The MAS proposal, instead, calls for holding identical elections to those of October 20, including allowing Morales on the ballot from Mexico.

Áñez warned on Thursday that she would stop any attempt to prevent a free and fair election by issuing an executive order implementing her proposal as a last resort.

“If the Assembly does not allow us to do through this legal means, we will find another way,” she said. “That there are going to be elections in the country: yes. We guarantee it.”

The MAS party accepting Morales’s resignation apparently contradicts the public desires of the ex-president, who insisted he was still in power as recently as last week and claimed the majority-MAS legislature should vote to reject the resignation and reinstate him in power.

“The jurists tell me: as long as the Assembly does not approve my resignation, I am still president,” Morales told the BBC in an often contentious interview. “I am waiting for the National Assembly to decide over my resignation.”

Morales insisted in that interview that the United States had orchestrated the “coup” against him and that he has “every right to participate in elections.” The Bolivian Constitution term-limited him out of the October elections, but his rubber-stamp constitutional court ruled he had a “human right” to run indefinitely.

Morales faces not only concerns regarding election fraud, but the violent aftermath of his resignation. Bolivian police have arrested Cuban government agents, Venezuelan nationals, and at least one Argentine Marxist terrorist charged with either paying poor Bolivians to riot or teaching socialists how to conduct terrorist operations. MAS supporters have repeatedly used dynamite to destroy city infrastructure and blockade major roads. Locals in cities like La Paz and El Alto have told reporters anonymously that socialists have threatened them into marching against Morales’s resignation.

Minister of Government Arturo Murillo released audio on Wednesday of Morales allegedly orchestrating the riots. Morales told a local socialist community organizer that the plan was to starve residents in the cities to force them to pressure the government to return Morales to power.

“Brother, don’t let food into the cities, we will really blockade,” Morales said. “When they expelled me from Congress in 2002, they did a blockade. And now, they kick me out of Bolivia; there is a blockade. We will win.”

Murillo announced on Thursday that his government would seek to bring a case at the International Criminal Court at The Hague against Morales for crimes against humanity.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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