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Bolivia’s Evo Morales resigns presidency after almost 14 years in power

La Paz / Bowing to widespread pressure to resign, Bolivia’s Evo Morales confirmed Sunday afternoon that he is stepping down as president after almost 14 years in power in a video made public from an unknown location.

The move comes after many other top government officials had resigned.

Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera also resigned after Morales stepped down.

The two men appeared together in a video in which they issued a call for calm and peace in Bolivia.

In the video, Morales lamented what he said was a “civic coup” against him and called on opposition leaders Carlos Mesa and Luis Fernando Camacho, whom he accused of staging the “coup” to oust him, not to “mistreat” Bolivians and “stop kicking” them.

“We don’t want confrontations,” he added, saying that he was resigning to foster the “pacification” of Bolivia and so that the country could “return to social peace.”

The country has been going through a serious crisis since the Oct. 20 election, in which Morales was proclaimed the victor in the presidential race but the opposition claimed that fraud was committed to keep him in power and called for him to resign.

“The struggle doesn’t end here,” Morales warned, his voice faltering at times, going on to insist in his resignation video that a “civic, political and police coup” had been instigated against him by “oligarchic groups that are conspiring against democracy.”

On that subject, he demanded that “the truth be told” to the international community about the so-called coup.

He also said that he was saddened by the violence in recent days, adding that he will be in the Cochabamba area, the portion of Bolivia in which he began his political career, after a series of rumors that he had – or would – leave the country.

“I have no reason to leave,” Morales declared, “because I haven’t stolen anything.”

He said that “My sin is to be indigenous, a union leader, a coca-grower,” adding that he was ending his tenure in power after “13 years, nine months and 18 days.”

“Many thanks for accompanying us,” he concluded in his video address, appearing together with Garcia Linera with a Bolivian flag in the background.

Opposition candidate and former President Carlos Mesa, meanwhile, hailed on Twitter what he called “the end of the tyranny.”

“To Bolivia, to her people, to the young people, to the women, to the heroism of the peaceful resistance. I will never forget this unique day. The end of the tyranny. Grateful as a Bolivia for this historic lesson. Long live Bolivia!!!!” Mesa tweeted.

Earlier on Sunday, the armed forces and National Police had called on Morales to resign as a step toward restoring calm in Bolivia, which has been rocked by protests since last month’s disputed presidential election.

Armed forces chief Gen. Williams Kaliman and National Police commander Yuri Calderon read separate statements expressing the security forces’ position.

Calderon asked Morales to step down in the statement he read.

Earlier in the day, Morales said a new presidential election would take place in Bolivia and the results of the vote held last month would be annulled.

“I have decided to call new elections,” Morales said during a brief appearance in the presidential hangar at the international airport in the city of El Alto.

The president was accompanied by representatives of the movements that back his administration and said they were consulted before the decision regarding new elections was made.

Morales’s announcement came after the Organization of American States (OAS) released a report recommending that a new presidential election be held due to the irregularities in the Oct. 20 vote that the president won.

Mesa, for his part, said Morales should not be a candidate in the election.

“Evo Morales has shattered the constitutional order and should resign,” Mesa said during a press conference.

The 66-year-old Mesa said there was “fraud” in last month’s election and “President Evo Morales and Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera … are not in a position to preside” over a new election “under Article 168 of the constitution.”

Opposition civic leader Luis Fernando Camacho on Sunday also called on Morales and all members of Congress to resign.

Camacho said a “transitional government made up of notable” members of society should be created to “call new elections within a period of no longer than 60 days.”

In a blow to the president, the powerful Central Obrera Boliviana (COB), the Andean nation’s largest labor federation and a Morales ally in recent years, called on the head of state on Sunday to “resign, if necessary,” to calm the country.

COB leader Juan Carlos Huarachi said the labor federation supported new elections and “will not be an accomplice to the shedding of blood.”

During his appearance at the airport, Morales did not mention the OAS report, but he said a new election commission would be appointed.

The Attorney General’s Office, for its part, said it would charge the members of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in connection with “presumed irregular acts.”

The AG’s office said in a statement that the “very serious” irregularities found by the OAS could be linked to alleged crimes committed in the “tabulation of the official results” of the presidential election.

Supreme Electoral Tribunal head Maria Eugenia Choque Quispe tendered her resignation, saying it was “irrevocable” and she wanted to deal with “any investigation” into her agency’s conduct.

“I am aware of the report of preliminary findings and submit my irrevocable resignation in this context,” Choque Quispe said in a letter to Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera.

The opposition alleged that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal carried out a fraudulent vote count in the first-round presidential election.

Morales said he agreed to replace all the members of the commission, which the opposition and grassroots organizations contend rigged the vote to give the president a fourth consecutive term that would have ended in 2025.

The 60-year-old Morales said Congress would begin the process shortly to name new members to the elections agency.

Morales said the new presidential election, whose date has not been set, would be overseen by “new political actors.”

The president said he agreed to hold a new election to “lower all the tension” and “pacify Bolivia.”

Pro- and anti-government protesters have been clashing since the day after the election, leaving at least three people dead and 421 others injured, according to figures released by the Ombudsman’s Office.

On Sunday, at least three people were wounded when someone opened fire on a highway in the highlands on a caravan of buses carrying miners headed to La Paz to join the protests against Morales, the Ombudsman’s Office said.(November 10, 2019, EFE/Practica Español)

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