Former Bolivian president Evo Morales yesterday urged the UN — and possibly Pope Francis — to mediate in the Andean nation’s political crisis following his ouster in what he called a coup that forced him into exile in Mexico.
In an interview in Mexico City, Morales said he is still the president as the Bolivian Plurinational Legislative Assembly has not yet accepted his resignation, which he presented on Sunday at the urging of military leaders following weeks of protests against a re-election that his opponents called fraudulent.
“If they haven’t accepted or rejected [the resignation], I can say I am still president,” said Morales, who ruled Bolivia for almost 14 years as its first indigenous president.
Mexico has granted him political asylum.
Morales said he would return to Bolivia if that would contribute to its pacification.
He said he has also received information that some Bolivian army troops are planning to “rebel” against the officers who urged him to resign.
However, he gave no further specifics on how many were in on the plan, or how they would rebel.
Morales said he was “surprised by the betrayal of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces,” Williams Kaliman.
He called for calm and dialogue in Bolivia.
“I want to tell them [his supporters] that we will have to recover democracy, but with a lot of patience and peaceful struggle,” Morales said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday said he was sending a personal envoy, Jean Arnault, to Bolivia to support efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.
“I have a lot of confidence in the UN,” Morales said.
However, he said he wants the world body “to be a mediator, not just a facilitator, perhaps accompanied by the Catholic Church and if Pope Francis is needed, we should add him.”
Bolivian interim president Jeanine Anez has been recognized by some countries, but faces an uphill battle in organizing new elections.
According to the constitution, an interim president has 90 days to organize an election.
The disputed accession of Anez, who until Tuesday was the second vice president of the Senate, is an example of the long list of obstacles she faces.
Morales’ backers, who hold a two-thirds majority in Congress, boycotted the session she called on Tuesday night to formalize her claim to the presidency, preventing a quorum.
Morales’ backers on Thursday demonstrated for his return from asylum in Mexico.
“Evo: Friend, the people are with you!” protesters shouted in the city of Sacaba.
They had come overnight from Chapare, a coca-growing region where Morales was a prominent union leader before he became president. Soldiers blocked them from reaching the nearby city of Cochabamba, where Morales’ supporters and foes have clashed for weeks.
Many protesters waved the national flag and the multicolored “Wiphala” flag that represents indigenous peoples.
Morales’ resignation followed nationwide protests over suspected vote-rigging in an Oct. 20 election in which he claimed to have won a fourth term in office.
An Organization of American States audit of the vote found widespread irregularities.
Much of the opposition to Morales sprang from his refusal to accept a referendum that would have forbidden him from running for a new term.
In the wake of Morales’ resignation, it was unclear whether Bolivian election officials would have to formally ban him from running in a new election.
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