Trump Extends Support to Bolivia’s President After Police Charge Evo Morales

Bolivia's interim president Jeanine Anez attends the closing of the Satinadores XXXVIII training course, at the Bolivian Army's School of Condors, in Yacuiba, Tarija, Bolivia, on December 14, 2019. (Photo by JORGE BERNAL / AFP) (Photo by JORGE BERNAL/AFP via Getty Images)
JORGE BERNAL/AFP via Getty Images

President Donald Trump issued a statement of support Tuesday for his Bolivian counterpart, President Jeanine Áñez, on Twitter, suggesting that Washington has evidence that backs her administration’s claims that foreign entities are instigating violence against conservatives in that country.

Áñez was sworn in as president in November after socialist former President Evo Morales chose to resign in light of incriminating evidence that extensive election fraud had secured his win in the October 10 election. Morales fled to Mexico and later claimed he was the victim of a “coup” and a “Zionist” plot by the Organization of American States (OAS), which published the independent report alleging electoral fraud, and the governments of Israel and America. Morales fled with nearly every single high-ranking member of his Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party, leaving the conservative Áñez, then-deputy Senate president, the last in the line of succession remaining in the country.

In the aftermath of Morales’ departure, socialist mobs engaged in looting, rioting, and violent attacks in the streets of the city’s major cities. Bolivian officials have revealed that among those arrested for rioting are Venezuelan, Cuban, and Argentine citizens, some with links to the communist government of Cuba. The Argentine citizen is a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist terrorist organization.

In his tweet Tuesday, Trump condemned violence instigated “from afar” in the country and assured Áñez that America would support her efforts to organize a special election. Áñez, a Christian religious conservative, has said she does not want to run in the special election to avoid the illusion of a power grab, but has not dismissed the possibility of running again in a normal general presidential vote.

“We support [President Áñez] in Bolivia as she works to ensure a peaceful democratic transition through free elections,” Trump said. “We denounce the ongoing violence and those that provoke it both in Bolivia and from afar. The U.S. stands with the people of the region for peace and democracy!”

Áñez replied, also on Twitter, expressing gratitude.

“We are grateful for the backing of the President of the United States, [Donald Trump]. Our work is to pacify our fatherland and convene elections, just as the citizenry has demanded,” she wrote.

President Trump had extended support to the country in the immediate aftermath of Morales’ resignation, before high-ranking officials had sorted out who would succeed him.

“The resignation yesterday of Bolivian President Evo Morales is a significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere,” Trump said in a statement. “Morales’s departure preserves democracy and paves the way for the Bolivian people to have their voices heard. The United States applauds the Bolivian people for demanding freedom and the Bolivian military for abiding by its oath to protect not just a single person, but Bolivia’s constitution.”

The Trump tweet this week follows a meeting between USAID administrator John Barsa and Áñez’s minister of government [the equivalent to a secretary of the interior], Arturo Murillo, to discuss American support for the interim government. Morales had expelled America’s ambassador to La Paz, Philip Goldberg, in 2008 and cut ties to the United States entirely. Among her first acts as president, Áñez reversed that decision.

Murillo has spearheaded efforts to expose meddling from abroad in Bolivian politics, particular on Morales’ part after he departed the country. In late November, Murillo held a press conference in which he revealed audio that the Bolivian government had attained of a conversation between Morales and a socialist organizer within Bolivia, taking place after Morales fled to Mexico. In the call, the voice Murillo alleged to be Morales orders the organizer to shut down cities and install a full blockade nationwide to force the conservatives to rescind Morales’ apology and reinstate him. Morales explicitly tells his ally, “don’t let food into the cities.”

Áñez’s government used the tape to file charges against Morales at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for crimes against humanity for attempting to starve civilians to achieve his political goals. This week, Bolivian police used the evidence to file an arrest warrant against Morales.

“He can return whenever he wants. He left because he wanted to,” Áñez said on Sunday, announcing the warrant. “He knows that he has to give answers to the country and will have to face justice. In the next few days, that arrest warrant will be issued, because we have already brought the various charges.”

Morales supporters did attempt to shut down commerce in the nation’s major cities. Marching to the slogan “here we go, civil war,” thousands of Morales supporters engaged in looting and other violence in La Paz, El Alto, Santa Cruz, and other Bolivian urban centers for weeks after his resignation.

Morales’ party has appointed him campaign manager for their special election despite his status as a fugitive. To be closer to the election, Morales left Mexico and has received political asylum from the newly inaugurated leftist government of Argentina.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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