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Socialist Bolivian President Resigns amid Protests, Claims ‘Civic Coup’ against Government

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales annouces his resignation in Lauca N, Cochabamba, Bolivia November 10, 2019 (Bolivian Government TV via Reuters)

Bolivian president Evo Morales resigned on Sunday amid protests and pressure from the country’s military and the United States over the disputed results of his reelection last month.

On Sunday, the Organization of American States (OAS), an external auditing service largely funded by the United States, stated that evidence of widespread voting fraud discredited the results of the October election. In response, Morales and his supporters claimed the government was being overthrown in a “civic coup.”

“I am resigning just so that my sisters and brothers who are leaders, authorities of the socialism movement are not harassed, persecuted, and threatened,” Morales said in his resignation announcement. “ . . . I want to tell you, brothers and sisters, the fight does not end here.”

Vice President Alvaro Garcia and Senate president Adriana Salvatierra also resigned, citing fears for the safety of their families. In response to the news, protestors celebrated in the streets of the capital Santa Cruz, chanting “yes we could.” Opposition candidate Carlos Mesa thanked protesters for “the heroism of peaceful resistance,” and tweeted in support of “the end of tyranny,” saying, “Long live Bolivia!”

With a looming political vacuum, looters and gangs roamed the streets of Sant Cruz on Sunday night and set fire to buildings. Prominent opposition figure and academic Waldo Albarracin tweeted that his house had been burned by pro-Morales supporters, while a video showed protestors spraying Morales’s former residence with graffiti.

Morales, who has long been an opponent of the United States, won a controversial fourth term after the Bolivian Supreme Court overruled a legislative referendum and abolished term limits for the president in 2017.

Morales won the initial tally by just over 10 points, 47.1 to 36.5, obviating the need for a runoff. The OAS released a statement a day after the election citing “deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results after the closing of the polls.”

The response drew support from Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fl.) and Trump officials, while Morales supporters argued that the discrepancy was simply due to the delayed delivery of results in rural districts. Last week, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Left-leaning think tank, found “no evidence that irregularities or fraud affected the official result that gave President Evo Morales a first-round victory.”

On Sunday, Representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) tweeted in support of Morales.

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