Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his administration on Sunday offered asylum to former Bolivian President Evo Morales, who resigned amid public fury over the election fraud that nearly gave him an unconstitutional fourth term in office.
The offer of asylum was formally extended by Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, while Obrador took to Twitter to salute Morales as a “responsible” statesman who “preferred to resign rather than to expose his people to violence.”
Foreign Minister Ebrard suggested Morales was deposed by a “military operation” that was “similar to the tragedies that bloodied our Latin America last century.”
Ebrard noted that Mexico has “received 20 personalities from the Bolivian executive and legislature” and invited Morales to join them.
“Mexico will maintain its position of respect for democracy and institutions. No coup,” he said, but refused to explain his allegations when asked for comment by the press.
Morales tendered his resignation after election monitors from the Organization of American States (OAS) found “clear manipulation” of the vote and the top Bolivian army officer, General Williams Kaliman, issued a public call for the president to step down “for pacification and the maintaining of stability, for the good of our Bolivia.”
Morales did resign but defiantly declared, “the Bolivian people have never abandoned me and I will never abandon them.”
Allies of the left-wing president from Mexico to Moscow suggested he was unfairly driven from office by riots or described him as the victim of a military coup. The ruling regimes in Cuba and Venezuela also declared their support for Morales. Mexico’s swift offer of asylum was widely interpreted as President Obrador making a play for leadership status among the Latin American left.
On the other hand, Canada and the European Union joined the United States in refusing to recognize Morales as president after the disputed election. Morales brashly invited foreign election monitors to review Bolivian ballots and suggested he would agree to another round of voting if they found irregularities, but reneged once those irregularities were discovered.
In truth, as Yascha Mounk at The Atlantic pointed out on Monday, Morales lost the support of the military, law enforcement, the Bolivian people, and even his own political party with years of power-hungry authoritarian rule.
Openly defying constitutional term limits, with the help of an absurd court ruling that overturned a binding referendum by asserting Morales had a basic human right to remain in office indefinitely, and claiming another term with fraudulent ballots was simply the last straw.
“Morales’s departure from office marks both a sea change in Latin American politics and a stinging rebuke to the naïveté of parts of the Western left,” Mounk predicted, castigating those Western leftists for buying the fiction peddled by Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, and Russia of Morales as a beloved leader re-elected with the support of the people but overthrown by a coup.
Mounk added a provocative thesis that classically liberal democracy, which seemed easily crushed and stolen by authoritarians over the past two decades, is proving to be surprisingly resurgent in places like Latin America, Hong Kong, and central Europe.
It was not immediately clear who would take charge in Bolivia after Morales’ resignation. The deputy leader of the national Senate, Jeanine Anez Chávez, declared she would hold the position of interim president after the vice president and the legislative leaders in line ahead of her also resigned.
“I assume this challenge with the only objective to call new elections. This is simply a transitional phase,” she said.
Whoever the new permanent president might be, Morales is already urging his followers to resist their authority. “The world and patriotic Bolivians will repudiate this coup,” he vowed.