Bolivia's interim leader says Morales must 'answer to justice'

Bolivia’s interim leader Jeanine Anez declares exiled president Evo Morales must ‘answer to justice’ and face prosecution

  • Anez said Morales has committed ‘electoral crime’ and should be prosecuted 
  • He resigned after an election win which was tarnished with fraud allegations 
  • Anez also ruled him out of standing in elections and said he is breaking asylum  

Bolivia’s interim president Jeanine Anez has said that exiled ex-president Evo Morales would have to ‘answer to justice’ over election irregularities and government corruption if he returns.

‘He knows he has to answer to justice. There is electoral crime. There are many allegations of corruption in his government,’ Anez told journalists in La Paz. 

She also said Morales, who is in Mexico, is breaking the conditions of his asylum by continuing to engage in politics.

Bolivia’s interim president Jeanine Anez (pictured) has said that exiled ex-president Evo Morales would have to ‘answer to justice’

Anez said she was in talks with lawmakers from Morales’s party in an effort to resolve the country’s democratic crisis and indicated new elections were likely, though she gave few details.

She did say, however, that Morales would not be welcome in any new election.

Morales, who led Bolivia since 2006, resigned under pressure on Sunday after weeks of protests and violence following an October 20 election that awarded him an outright win but was tarnished by widespread allegations of fraud. 

Yesterday, Morales declared he is still the president of Bolivia and called for the UN and Pope Francis to mediate in his country’s political crisis. 

Evo Morales has declared he is still the president of Bolivia and called for the UN and Pope Francis to intervene

He said Bolivia’s Legislative Assembly has not yet accepted his resignation, which he presented Sunday at the urging of military leaders following weeks of protests against a re-election that his opponents called fraudulent.

‘The assembly has to reject or approve the resignation’ which it has not done, said the man who ruled Bolivia for almost 14 years as its first indigenous president. 

In an interview with The Associated Press yesterday in Mexico City, he said: ‘If they don’t approve or reject it I can say that I am still president.’

Morales said he would return to Bolivia from Mexico, which has granted him political asylum, if that would contribute to his country’s pacification.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said yesterday he is sending Jean Arnault, a personal envoy, to Bolivia to support efforts to find a peaceful solution to the nation’s crisis.

‘I have a lot of confidence in the UN,’ Morales said. But he noted he wants the world body ‘to be a mediator, not just a facilitator, perhaps accompanied by the Catholic church and if Pope Francis is needed, we should add him.’

The president said he wants the UN to be accompanied by Pope Francis to mediate in his country’s crisis

But political analyst Kathryn Ledebur of the nonprofit Andean Information Network in Bolivia, who has lived in the country for nearly 30 years, said Morales could have a case for still being president.

‘A resignation letter has to be presented and considered, and accepted in the plenary before it goes into effect,’ she said. 

‘Do I think that Evo wants to return and be president – I don’t see that. But does he want to mess with them? Yes. He wants to keep them guessing.’

Two days after arriving in Mexico, Morales told the AP he has received information that some Bolivian army troops are planning to ‘rebel’ against the officers who urged him to resign. 

Bolivian militarized police stand guard as supporters of Bolivian ex-President Evo Morales demonstrate in La Paz yesterday

A supporter of Bolivia’s former President Evo Morales yells at a police officer, telling him to respect the nation’s indigenous people

But he gave no further specifics on how many were in on the plan, or how they would rebel.

Morales said he was ‘surprised by the betrayal of the commander in chief of the armed forces,’ Williams Kaliman.

He called for calm and dialogue in Bolivia. ‘I want to tell them (his supporters) that we will have to recover democracy, but with a lot of patience and peaceful struggle.’ 

He said the United States was the ‘great conspirator’ behind the ‘coup d’etat’ that forced him from Bolivia. Morales has long had a tense relationship with Washington and in 2008 expelled US Drug Enforcement Administration officials from Bolivia.

Bolivia’s interim leader Jeanine Anez has been recognized by some countries, but faces an uphill battle in organizing new elections.

According to the constitution, an interim president has 90 days to organize an election. 

Bolivia’s interim leader Jeanine Anez (pictured) has been recognized by some countries, but faces an uphill battle in organizing new elections

The disputed accession of Anez, who until Tuesday was second vice president of the Senate, was an example of the long list of obstacles she faces. 

Morales’s backers, who hold a two-thirds majority in Congress, boycotted the session she called Tuesday night to formalize her claim to the presidency, preventing a quorum.

Late Thursday, legislators with Morales’ Movement Toward Socialism party, or MAS, and Anez were working on an agreement for new elections that would help resolve the crisis. 

The deal would make Eva Copa Murga Senate president with the backing of legislators from Anez’s Democratic Unity party.

‘It’s a historic agreement to pacify the country,’ Copa Murga said. But other legislators said a deal had not yet been reached.

Meanwhile Thursday, Morales’ backers demonstrated for his return from asylum in Mexico.

Supporters of Evo Morales wearing the traditional ponchos and holding Wiphala flags take part in a protest

They had come overnight from Chapare, a coca-growing region where Morales became a prominent union leader before he became president. Soldiers blocked them from reaching the nearby city of Cochabamba, where Morales’ supporters and foes have clashed for weeks.

Morales’ resignation followed nationwide protests over suspected vote-rigging in an October 20 election in which he claimed to have won a fourth term in office. An Organization of American States audit of the vote found widespread irregularities. Morales denies there was fraud.

Much of the opposition to Morales sprang from his refusal to accept a referendum that would have forbidden him from running for a new term.

In the wake of Morales’ resignation, it was unclear whether Bolivian election officials would have to formally bar him from running in a new election.

Anez, who claimed the interim presidency, was moving to establish authority in the turbulent country. She announced that Morales could not participate in elections again but his MAS party could.

Morales upended politics in this nation long ruled by light-skinned descendants of Europeans by reversing deep-rooted inequality. 

The economy benefited from a boom in prices of commodities and he ushered through a new constitution that created a new Congress with seats reserved for Bolivia’s smaller indigenous groups while also allowing self-rule for all indigenous communities.

Although some supporters became disenchanted by his insistence on holding on to power, Morales remains popular, especially among other members of his native Aymara ethnic group.

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