Evo Morales Asks Pope Francis to Supervise Elections in Bolivia

Bolivian President Evo Morales presents Pope Francis with a crucifix carved into a wooden hammer and sickle, in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. The crucifix is a replica, originally designed by Jesuit activist Luis Espinal, who was assassinated in 1980 by suspected paramilitaries during the months that preceded …
L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP

ROME — Former Bolivian President Evo Morales, who resigned from office in November, has asked Pope Francis to organize upcoming presidential elections in the country.

Speaking from a self-imposed exile in Buenos Aires Wednesday, the head of Bolivia’s Movement for Socialism (MAS) party asked that the pope “organize the electoral mission” in Bolivia together with European “organizations and institutions.”

Last month, Bolivia’s interim president Jeanine Áñez promised elections “as soon as possible,” although no date has yet been set. Reports suggest that Bolivians have little trust that the elections will be run fairly and freely without external supervision.

Morales said he had consulted with former Bolivian president Álvaro García but that the idea to invite “brother Pope Francis” was a “personal initiative.” It will be Bolivia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Sacha Llorenti, who will make the formal request that Francis “organize this electoral mission,” Morales said.

“I have a lot of respect, a lot of admiration for him. My brother Pope Francis is still the pope of the poor,” he added.

Although he did not specify which institutions he thought should help supervise the elections, he said that they should be “notable” and capable of “enforce all the rules.”

Morales will continue to run the MAS party from Argentina, where he arrived last Thursday after spending a month in Mexico. The ousted leader has asked to be received as a political refugee, saying he was forced out of office by the military.

In point of fact, Morales stepped down on November 10 after the Organization of American States (OAS) published a report revealing significant fraud in the October 20 presidential election.

Moreover, according to the Bolivian constitution, Morales had no right to run for a fourth presidential term this year, but in 2017 he forced the nation’s supreme court to declare he had a “human right” to be on any ballot in the nation indefinitely.

On Wednesday, Bolivian prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Morales, accusing him of sedition and terrorism. Interior minister Arturo Murillo has vowed to jail the former president for rest of his life, accusing him of inciting violent clashes that led to 35 deaths during disturbances before and after his resignation from office.

The socialist leader has reiterated on several occasions that he will not be a candidate for the elections and said Wednesday he is optimistic about the popularity of MAS, which he claims is first in the polls.

“Without a presidential candidate we remain first, although we have gone down,” he said. “We are always at 40-42 percent, now we are with 25 percent but still first, because the others are at less than 20 percent.”

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