Bolivian President Evo Morales resigns amid widespread protests

November 11, 2019

Following widespread protests across the country — some of which turned violent and even deadly — and amid allegations of fraud following a disputed election on Oct. 20, socialist Bolivian President Evo Morales has announced his resignation from office, Fox News reported.

Morales, who had recently claimed victory in that election to serve a fourth term as president, was reportedly urged to step down by the South American nation’s top military officer, Gen. Williams Kaliman, who called for “peace to be restored and stability to be maintained” in a nationwide address, according to NBC News.

Protests lead to resignation

CBS News reported that the massive crowds of protesters in the nation’s capital of La Paz were overjoyed at the announcement that the socialist president had resigned, breaking out in a chant of “This is not Cuba, nor Venezuela. This is Bolivia, and Bolivia is respected.”

In addition to Morales, Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera also resigned from office, as did Maria Eugenia Choque, the president of Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the national organization charged with overseeing elections, according to CBS. Fox noted that the Senate president, third in line to the top office, also stepped down, leaving uncertainty as to who would lead the nation going forward.

The disputed results of the national election on Oct. 20 sparked protests in all of Bolivia’s major cities, some of which turned violent. At least three people were killed and more than 100 others injured in clashes between supporters of the president and the opposition. The unrest reportedly caused a split among security forces and led to the closure of businesses, public transportation, and schools across the country.

Election irregularities

CBS noted that vote totals following the election reportedly showed Morales with just over 47% percent support in the nine-candidate field, with a 10.56% point lead over the second-place candidate, former President Carlos Mesa, who obtained 36.51% of the vote. That lead of just over 10.5% gave Morales just enough of a margin to declare victory and avoid a second-round run-off election, in which the opposition most likely would have united behind Mesa and surpassed Morales to oust him from office electorally.

The election outcome was called into dispute by observers of the U.S.- and United Nations-backed Organization of American States (OAS), which expressed in a statement its “deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results revealed after the closing of the polls.”

The OAS noted that early indications on the night of the election showed that a second round of voting would clearly be necessary, but that the TSE (Supreme Electoral Tribunal) had ceased publicizing results with only 80% of the polls reporting in and then the next day announcing “data with an inexplicable change in trend that drastically modifies the fate of the election,” resulting in Morales’ outright victory.

Uncertain future

National Review pointed out that Morales was openly socialist and had long been an opponent of the United States, and Reuters reported that Morales had allied himself with the socialist regimes in Cuba and Venezuela.

CBS reported that Morales was the first indigenous native of Bolivia to be elected president and first took office in 2006. Initially, things were good, as he oversaw the paving of roads and upgrading of infrastructure, curbed inflation and grew the economy, even achieving the launch of Bolivia’s first satellite into space.

However, the citizenry eventually grew dissatisfied with his lengthy rule and passed a referendum in 2016 placing term limits on the office of the president. The limits imposed by the people were ignored by Morales, though, after the reportedly “friendly” Supreme Court in that nation overruled the referendum and allowed for him to run for office yet again.

It is entirely unclear at this time what will happen in Bolivia over the short term as there is no clear leader, the government is in shambles, and people are protesting in the streets. Hopefully, peace will prevail, calm will be restored, and Bolivians will soon hold free and clear elections to determine the country’s next lawful president.

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Ben Marquis

Ben Marquis is a staff writer for Conservative Institute.