Former Bolivian President Evo Morales fled his country Monday night for Mexico, where the government granted him political asylum, after promising to “never abandon” the Bolivian people.
Morales resigned from the presidency on Sunday after the Organization of American States (OAS) revealed evidence of widespread fraud in the October 20 presidential election. Morales appeared to be in a tight race against fellow leftist Carlos Mesa in that election until the servers counting votes mysteriously shut down and redirected to what the OAS revealed was a secret server outside of the election commission’s control. Following that irregularity, Morales won the election by a wide margin.
The Bolivian constitution banned Morales from running in the 2019 election until 2017 when he strong-armed the nation’s top court to rule that he had a “human right” to run for office despite constitutional term limits.
In his resignation speech Sunday night, Morales vowed to return to his native Cochabamba and work as the head of a coalition of coca farmers’ unions. Less than 24 hours later, he was on a Mexican military plane out of the country.
“The Mexican Armed Forces plane with Evo Morales onboard has departed,” Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard confirmed on Twitter Monday night. “According to active international conventions, he is under the protection of Mexico. His life and integrity are safe.”
Ya despegó el avión de la Fuerza Aérea Mexicana con Evo Morales a bordo. De acuerdo a las convenciones internacionales vigentes está bajo la protección del de México. Su vida e integridad están a salvo. pic.twitter.com/qLUEfvciux
— Marcelo Ebrard C. (@m_ebrard) November 12, 2019
Ebrard told reporters on Monday that Mexico had already welcomed 20 members of Morales’ government fleeing Bolivia and leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador welcomed Morales to joined them. He also claimed that Morales was “deposed” by a “military” operation, despite the fact that Morales went on live television to say he voluntarily resigned.
Morales reportedly departed from Bolivia’s Chimoré airport and stopped in Ascunción, Paraguay, to refuel, after the government of Peru denied him landing privileges. Accompanying Morales were his former vice president, Álvaro García Linera, and Gabriela Montaño, the former health minister. Dozens of members of Morales’ party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), resigned following Morales’ departure from the presidency.
At press time, Bolivia does not have a president.
El presidente Evo Morales aparece con Álvaro García Linera y la ministra de Salud, Gabriela Montaño, en el momento que sube al avión de México que lo trasladaría a ese país, cuyas autoridades anunciaron su asilo. pic.twitter.com/erHBH4ETEg
— Página Siete (@pagina_siete) November 12, 2019
In a half-hour speech on Sunday, Morales stated that he both voluntarily resigned and that he was the victim of a “coup” against his government.
“I am resigning so that my brothers and sisters at MAS will no longer face harassment, persecution, or threats,” Morales said. “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 also promised that he would stay in Bolivia helping advocate for the rights of growers of coca, the plant used to develop cocaine. He said he had “no reason to escape” and defied those who considered him corrupt or criminal to divulge proof against him.
Following his speech, Morales posted on Twitter that an “illegal” warrant allegedly existed for his arrest. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), however, police leaders said that no one had issued such a warrant against Morales.
Morales nonetheless used the “warrant” as an excuse to flee.
“Brothers and sisters, I leave for Mexico, grateful for the efforts of the government of that brotherly people who have offered us asylum to protect our lives,” Morales wrote late Monday. “It hurts to abandon my country for political reasons, but I will always be watching. I will soon return with more strength and energy.”
He accused the police once again of staging a “false coup” against him, despite his voluntary resignation, because he is “an indigenous president who represents humble people.”
Socialist supporters responded to Morales’ resignation by rioting in the streets of Bolivia’s major cities. In La Paz, the economic capital, socialists burned down 63 public transportation buses, about a third of its total fleet. Rampant looting and burning down of politicians’ homes also occurred. A mob also vandalized and looted Morales’ home and that of his sister in Cochabamba.
Morales published a photo on Twitter Monday of him allegedly sleeping on the floor following the attack on his house.
“This was how my first night after leaving the presidency, forced by Mesa and Camacho with the help of the police, went,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to his presidential election opponent and Luis Fernando Camacho, a Catholic community leader that spearheaded efforts to prevent Morales’ attempt to steal the election. “This is how I remembered my time as leader. I am very grateful to the brothers at the federations of the Cochabamba Tropics for lending us security and care.”
Así fue mi primera noche después de dejar la presidencia forzado por el golpe de Mesa y Camacho con ayuda de la Policía. Así recordé tiempos de dirigente. Muy agradecido con mis hermanos de las federaciones del Trópico de Cochabamba por brindarnos seguridad y cuidado. pic.twitter.com/O1EpDhS5Qw
— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) November 12, 2019
Morales served as president of Bolivia for 13 years and began an illegitimate fourth term for president following the October 20 election. The people of Bolivia voted against ending term limits in a 2016 referendum, prompting Bolivia’s highest court to issue a ruling a year later stating that term limits are a violation of human rights.
Following the election last month, protesters took the streets noting the bizarre vote-counting behavior that blocked Mesa from a constitutional runoff election against Morales. Morales allowed the OAS to send independent observers to review election protocol last week; the OAS expedited the publication of its findings, which found “extremely grave” irregularities in the vote tallies.
Morales resigned after both the national police force and the armed forces issued statements suggesting he step down until the people had the chance to vote in a free and fair election.