Bolivia crisis: Power vacuum follows Morales’ resignation

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Tension is high in Bolivia following the resignation of the president, Evo Morales, after weeks of protest over a disputed election.

Mr Morales stepped down after the head of the army publicly called on him to leave his post.

The deputy head of the Senate said she would take over as interim president until new elections were held.

Critics of Mr Morales celebrated his departure from office but there have also been incidents of looting.

On Monday, Mr Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous leader, struck a defiant note on Twitter, saying that “the Bolivian people have never abandoned me and I will never abandon them”. He has also said that he was the victim of a “civic coup”.

International allies of Mr Morales echoed his characterisation of what had happened. The Russian foreign ministry said that “the wave of violence unleashed by the opposition didn’t allow the presidential mandate of Evo Morales to be completed”. 

Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard said that events in Bolivia constituted “a coup because the army requested the resignation of the president, and that violates the constitutional order of that country”. 

man walks past buses burned during a protest after Bolivia"s President Evo Morales announced on Sunday that he was resigning, in La Paz, Bolivia November 11, 2019.
Image captionMore than a dozen buses were set alight in La Paz in the hours after Mr Morales’ resignation

The Cuban president, Miguel Díaz Canel, tweeted that what happened “a violent and cowardly coup d’etat against democracy in Bolivia by the right”. Socialist-led countries Nicaragua and Venezuela also expressed solidarity. 

Spain also expressed its concern over the role of Bolivia’s army, saying that “this intervention takes us back to moments in the past history of Latin America”.

Mr Morales, a former coca farmer, was first elected in 2006. He has won plaudits for fighting poverty and improving Bolivia’s economy but drew controversy by defying constitutional term limits to run for a fourth term in October’s election, which is alleged to have been rife with irregularities. 

Who’s in charge?

That is not entirely clear at this point, adding to the volatile nature of the situation. The deputy leader of the Senate, Jeanine Áñez, said she would assume power as interim leader until elections were held. 

Carlos Mesa reacts after Bolivia's President Evo Morales announced his resignation
Image captionCarlos Mesa, who came second in the election on 20 October, wants fresh elections as soon as possible

Ms Áñez made the announcement after Vice-President Álvaro García, Senate leader Adriana Salvatierra and House of Deputies’ leader Victor Borda had all resigned, leaving her next in line to take over power temporarily.

“I assume this challenge with the only objective to call new elections,” she said. “This is simply a transitional phase.”

The opposition politician said she would convene the legislative assembly later on Monday to be confirmed as interim president.

But with Mr Morales’ party in control of both the Senate and the House of Deputies it is not clear if she will get the necessary backing from legislators.

Under Bolivia’s constitution, whoever takes over as interim president has 90 days to call fresh elections.

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