Former President of Bolivia Evo Morales, currently in self-imposed exile in Mexico, demanded on Tuesday to be allowed to vote in a presidential election made necessary by widespread election fraud under his administration.
Morales fled after the Organization of American States (OAS) revealed that Bolivia’s election commission diverted the vote count to a mystery private server as the tally between Morales and rival Carlos Mesa appeared close; the mystery server returned a landslide victory for Morales.
Morales’ presence on that ballot was already unconstitutional, as he was seeking an illegal fourth term. Morales strongarmed the nation’s constitutional court into ruling that term limits on any politician were a violation of “human rights” after the Bolivian people voted to keep term limits in a 2016 referendum.
Morales ruled Bolivia for nearly 14 year.
Speaking to Telemundo on Tuesday from Bolivia, Morales appeared to have given up his previous claims that he was still legally president of Bolivia despite resigning on November 10 in a public broadcast. He also did not insist on appearing on the ballot, only on participating in the election – at the very least, as a voter.
He demanded “guarantees to return [to Bolivia].”
“I have every right to return, I’m not saying to be a candidate but, like any other citizen, to participate in elections,” he said.
Morales chose to leave Bolivia following his resignation, despite saying in his resignation speech he would return to his native Cochabamba and advocate for the rights of coca growers. Coca is the plant used to make cocaine.
Since he abandoned the country, the new conservative administration has unearthed evidence that Morales was personally orchestration riots through leftist union leaders to pressure the government to allow him to return to power. Officials have stated they may charge Morales with participating in terrorist activities.
“I am not a candidate, but we all have the right to participate, whether it be voting or campaigning,” Morales insisted on Tuesday. He also claimed he had received “many requests from brothers and sisters who cry and ask [him] to return.”
“The United States does not want me to return,” Morales concluded.
Morales has repeatedly claimed his voluntary resignation was a “coup” orchestrated by the United States through the OAS. He denies involvement in any election fraud.
Bolivians took to the streets following the October 20 election fraud for weeks demanding an investigation into the strange circumstances under which Morales claimed to have won the election. In response, members of Morales’ party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), violently attacked pro-democracy protesters, who complained of police officers doing nothing in the face of the assaults. Morales stepped down after the OAS confirmed suspicions of election fraud; he later claimed the resignation was an involuntary response to the nation’s armed forces issuing a statement that they recognized the OAS investigation, which he claimed was proof of a “coup.”
Despite fleeing his people to Mexico, where leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador offered him political asylum, he has failed to avoid Bolivian condemnation. Bolivians turned out at a speaking engagement Morales cemented on Tuesday along with several former members of his administration who also fled, allowing the conservatives to take power. The crowd at the National Autonomous University of Mexico booed Morales and his cronies, began signing the Bolivian national anthem over his remarks, and holding signs reading “it wasn’t a coup” and “don’t subjugate the people.”
In Bolivia, the MAS party appears to have accepted the legitimacy of Morales’ resignation and the rise of President Jeanine Áñez, the former deputy Senate president and highest-ranking person on the chain of command left in the country after the socialist flight. Mesa, of a rival socialist party, announced he would run in the upcoming, as-yet-undated election, as would Chi Hyun Chung, of the conservative Christian Democratic Party. Áñez has not said if she will appear on the ballot.
The elections are possible because the MAS party voted to accept Morales’ resignation and Áñez’s appointment as legitimate, despite repeated calls from Morales in Mexico to reject his resignation. Some in the MAS party have continued fighting for a place for Morales on the ballot.
The coca grower syndicates that helped Morales rise to the presidency have not accepted his resignation, insisting that he is still the rightful president. They have, however, taken an important step forward: ending blockades on cities intended to shut down daily life in the country until Morales returns.
If Morales does return, he will have to contend with the fallout of the publication of an audio clip of a conversation between himself in Mexico and a union organizer on the ground in Bolivia in which he demands that his supporters starve out civilians in Bolivia’s largest cities.
“Brother, don’t let food into the cities, we will really blockade,” Morales says in the audio. “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.”
“It is not possible for Evo to continue pitting Bolivians against Bolivians, to order food not to enter, it is a crime against humanity,” Minister of Government Arturo Murillo told reporters upon revealing the recorded conversation.