Bolivia’s socialist President Evo Morales, in power for 13 years after forcing constitutional reforms through to stay in power, resigned on Sunday following the publication of evidence he rigged the October presidential race.
In a half-hour televised speech, Morales announced that he would step down to end the “harassment” of his protesters and blamed racism for his skyrocketing unpopularity since elbowing his way into a third presidential race by erasing constitutional term limits. The Organization of American States (OAS) published evidence this weekend of fraud in the October presidential election, pressuring Morales to step down.
Morales’ potential successors as per the Bolivian constitution have also resigned, leaving no one in charge of the country.
“My sin is to be indigenous, to be a syndicalist leader, a coca grower,” Morales said, highlighting his legacy of promoting the growth of coca leaf, used to produce cocaine, internationally. He insisted he hoped his resignation “pacified” the country and called for new elections after the fraudulent round that granted him victory on October 20. He did not specify if he wished to run in those elections again.
“I am resigning so that my brothers and sisters at MAS will no longer face harassment, persecution, or threats,” Morales added. “I lament this civic coup, with some sectors of the police, for uniting to attack democracy, social peace, with intimidation of the Bolivian people.”
Morales blamed Carlos Mesa, his opponent in the election, and Luis Fernando Camacho, a community leader organizing protests against Morales’ election fraud, for his resignation.
Mesa is a member of the Civic Community party, a “centrist coalition” created out of multiple parties, including the Leftist Revolutionary Front (FRI).
“I decided to resign so that Mesa and Camacho will stop persecuting my brothers, syndicalist leaders, so that Mesa and Camacho won’t continue to abduct and mistreat the relatives of our syndicalist leaders,” Morales said, “so that they stop hurting businessmen and transport professionals who haven’t stopped working in Santa Cruz.”
The head of state did not offer any evidence for his claim that the opposition leaders were “abducting” or attacking Morales supporters. For the past two weeks, Bolivian newspapers have been publishing evidence of socialist rioters beating protesters demanding a fair election in broad daylight as police stood by, doing nothing.
Morales also claimed that he had “no reason to escape” and challenged opponents to divulge evidence against him of corruption and repeatedly referred to his decision to resign as a “coup.” He said he would remain in the country advocating for indigenous rural workers; he remains the head of several regional coca leaf growers’ organizations and said he would return to “sharing [his] time” with them.
Morales had served two terms when he attempted, and failed, to pass a constitutional reform extending term limits via popular referendum in 2016. He then forced the nation’s Constitutional Court to erase term limits for all offices a year later, opening a pathway to remain in power indefinitely.
Initial election results following the October 20 election this year showed Morales with a narrow enough lead against Mesa for Mesa to legally force a runoff election – then the vote-counting servers abruptly shut down. When they turned back on, Morales had mysteriously won his election outright.
The Organization of American States (OAS) confirmed this weekend in a preliminary report that significant “irregularities” suggested that fraud had occurred, leading thousands to take the streets demanding the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) president resign.