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Bolivia enmeshed in chaos as Morales heads to Mexico

Chaos has struck Bolivia following the resignation and departure of President Evo Morales for Mexico under pressure from the military and political opponents.

Morales announced in a tweet on Monday that he had boarded a plane to Mexico, where he had been granted asylum after his resignation.

The announcement came after the Organization of American States (OAS) delivered a report alleging irregularities during the October presidential election in Bolivia, which Morales had won.

That prompted some of Morales’ ruling party allies to relinquish power and the army to urge the leftist leader to resign, which he agreed to do even as he stressed that his electoral victory had been valid.

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Morales secured an outright win in the presidential election on October 20, while his rival and the head of the Civic Community opposition party, Carlos Mesa, refused to recognize the results of the vote.

Mesa’s refusal to concede defeat initiated weeks of violent protests in the administrative capital La Paz, El Alto and other Bolivian cities.

Still, and after Morales’ departure, Bolivia’s military and security forces were deployed in major cities on Monday night following a day of violence and looting, with scuffles reported on the streets.

Burnt buses are seen at a parking lot in La Paz, on November 11, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Clashes between police and Morales’ supporters reportedly left some 20 people injured.

The 60-year-old president earlier urged his supporters to resist the “dark powers” that had forced him to step down.

Morales’ opponents, meanwhile, celebrated across Bolivia, setting off fireworks and waving national flags, according to local media reports.

People take to the streets of La Paz to celebrate the resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales, on November 10, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

The commander of Bolivia’s armed forces ordered troops to conduct joint operations with police to prevent violent clashes.

Expressions of support for Morales

Meanwhile, people took to the streets of the Argentinean capital, Buenos Aires, on Monday to protest against Morales’ forced resignation.

Nicaragua and Venezuela also expressed solidarity with the leftist leader.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said a “wave of violence unleashed by the opposition” had prevented the “presidential mandate of Evo Morales” from being completed.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel said in a tweet that what happened in Bolivia had been “a violent and cowardly coup d’etat against democracy.”

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused the United States of financing a “coup” against the former Bolivian leader, saying, “We denounce the coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia, financed and directed from the White House, just like all the coups in Latin America and the Caribbean in the last 100 years and more.”

Maduro’s supporters also took to the streets in the capital, Caracas, in support of Morales and chanted, “Evo. People. Friend. We are with you.”

March of support

Separately, thousands of Morales’ supporters began to march toward La Paz from the adjacent, indigenous city of El Alto late on Monday, allegedly caused panic among police in the capital city, who implored residents — as reported by Reuters — to fend off the protesters with sticks and other weapons if need be.

Opposition protesters had earlier erected roadblocks around La Paz’s central Murillo Square and other parts of the city.

In the early hours of Tuesday, it become clear that there would be no dramatic showdown as the march dissipated when protesters made their way downhill into the city center.

Some areas in La Paz were, however, the scene of vandalism and confrontations with police.

Snap vote around the corner

Bolivia’s deputy senate speaker, Jeanine Anez, who is constitutionally in line to become interim president, has pledged to call fresh elections to restore calm to the Latin American country.

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The OAS is scheduled to hold a special meeting on the situation in Bolivia at its Washington headquarters on Tuesday.

The organization also issued an urgent call for the Bolivian assembly to meet “to ensure the functioning of institutions and to name new electoral authorities to guarantee a new electoral process.”

Meanwhile, Morales has vowed to return “with more strength and energy.”

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