Evo Morales, country's first indigenous president, says his opposition rivals "will go down in history as racists and coup plotters," day after he resigned and fled to central Chapare region. Meanwhile, US "applauds" Bolivia's army for his ouster.

Supporters of Bolivian President Evo Morales and opposition supporters clash during a protest after Morales announced his resignation on Sunday, in La Paz Bolivia on November 11, 2019.
Supporters of Bolivian President Evo Morales and opposition supporters clash during a protest after Morales announced his resignation on Sunday, in La Paz Bolivia on November 11, 2019. (Reuters)

Bolivia's Evo Morales called on Monday on the opposition that ousted him to "pacify the country" after his shock resignation following weeks of protests over his disputed re-election left a power vacuum.

Tweeting from the central coca-growing region of Chapare, where he fled on Sunday, Morales called on the opposition to "assume its responsibility" after Sunday's riots.

He said the opposition leadership had a "responsibility to pacify the country and guarantee the political stability and peaceful coexistence of our people."

Morales, who was Bolivia's first indigenous president, said his opposition rivals, Carlos Mesa and Luis Fernando Camacho, "will go down in history as racists and coup plotters."

Camacho is a key opposition leader in Santa Cruz, Bolivia's biggest city and economic capital. Mesa, a former president, came a close second to Morales in the disputed October 20 election.

Morales, whose Movement for Socialism party retains a majority in the Congress that will elect his temporary successor, said: "the world and patriotic Bolivians repudiate the coup."

We spoke with Olivia Stiles, a Latin American affairs expert, for more.

US "applauds" Bolivia military

Also on Monday, US President Donald Trump said the resignation of Morales preserves democracy in Bolivia and sends a signal to "illegitimate regimes" in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

"The resignation yesterday of Bolivian President Evo Morales is a significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere," Trump said in a statement. 

"These events send a strong signal to the illegitimate regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua that democracy and the will of the people will always prevail.

"The United States applauds the Bolivian people for demanding freedom and the Bolivian military for abiding by its oath to protect not just a single person, but Bolivia's constitution."

'A night of terror'

Shops and offices in La Paz were shuttered Monday in the wake of looting that broke out late Sunday in some parts of the capital and the neighbouring city of El Alto.

"La Paz has experienced a night of terror," the capital's mayor Luis Revilla said, adding that 64 buses were destroyed in the disturbances.

Thousands of commuters were forced to walk to work in the morning drizzle as the city's cable-car network remained paralyzed and buses scarce.

The police –– largely confined to barracks since riots broke out on Friday, with many units joining the protests –– were returning to the streets, police chief Vladimir Yuri Calderon said.

"The Bolivian police will be acting," Calderon told ATB television.

Rudderless situation

However, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced disquiet over the security situation in the country that seemed increasingly rudderless, and the Organization of American States (OAS) called for "peace and respect for the rule of law".

The Washington-based institution called in a statement for "an urgent meeting" of Bolivia's Congress "to name new electoral authorities to guarantee a new electoral process."

The call came after Security Minister Carlos Romero, who has responsibility for the police, took refuge at the Argentine embassy, a foreign ministry source told AFP news agency in Buenos Aires.

Several of Morales' ministers and top officials resigned after his announcement –– including many who sought refuge at the Mexican embassy –– raising the question of who was in charge, given that vice president Alvaro Garcia Linera also resigned.

Under the constitution, power then passes to the president of the Senate and the speaker of the lower house of Congress, in that order. But they have resigned, too.

An opposition senator, Jeanine Anez, said she would assume the interim presidency, given her position as deputy senate leader.

But Congress will first have to be convened for a vote to take place and that was proving impossible on Monday as most lawmakers were in their constituencies and unable to return to La Paz.

'Violent groups' attack Morales home

Morales announced his resignation in a televised address Sunday, capping a day of fast-moving events.

The streets of La Paz immediately exploded in celebration, with jubilant Bolivians waving the country's flag, but violence and vandalism later erupted overnight there and in El Alto.

In the confusion, a group of 20 lawmakers and government officials took refuge at the Mexican ambassador's residence, and Mexico announced it was offering asylum to Morales as well.

Morales also wrote that "violent groups" had attacked his home.

Former coca farmer

Morales, a member of the Aymara indigenous community, is a former coca farmer who became Bolivia's first indigenous president in 2006.

He defended his legacy on Sunday, which includes landmark gains against hunger and poverty and tripling the country's economy during his nearly 14 years in office.

He gained a controversial fourth term when he was declared the winner of the presidential election by a narrow margin.

But the opposition said there was fraud in the vote count and three weeks of street protests ensued, during which three people died and hundreds were injured.

The OAS carried out an audit of the election and on Sunday reported irregularities in just about every aspect that it examined: the technology used, the chain of custody of ballots, the integrity of the count, and statistical projections.

As chanting Bolivians kept up demonstrations in the street, the 60-year-old Morales called new elections, but this was not enough to calm the uproar. The commanders of the armed forces and the police joined the calls for his resignation.

World reaction 

Latin American leftist allies Venezuela and Cuba rallied to denounce what they called a coup aid Morales and Bolivia's indigenous communities were "victims of racism."

Russia, another ally, said violent action by the opposition had forced Morales out.

Spain, Bolivia's former colonial ruler, blasted the role of the police and army in Morales' resignation, urging "all actors to avoid resorting to violence" and to "guarantee the safety of all Bolivians" including Morales, his relatives and administration.

Turkey on Monday expressed concern over the political unrest in Bolivia in the wake of the president’s stepping down.

"Turkey attaches importance to the principle that governments come into power through a democratic process," Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

Russia accused Bolivia's opposition of unleashing violence in the South American nation and said it looked like the government's hopes for dialogue had been swept aside by an orchestrated coup.

Source: AFP