Bolivia’s Evo Morales yesterday called on the opposition that ousted him to “pacify the country” after his shock resignation following weeks of protests over his disputed re-election left a power vacuum in the country.
Shops and offices in La Paz were shuttered early yesterday after looting broke out late Sunday in some parts of the capital and the neighbouring city of El Alto.
Thousands of commuters were forced to walk to work in the morning drizzle as the city’s cable-car network remained paralysed and buses were scarce.
The police — largely confined to barracks since riots broke out on Friday, with many units joining the protests — were returning to the streets, police chief Vladimir Yuri Calderon said. “The Bolivian police will be acting,” Calderon told ATB television.
Tweeting from the central coca-growing region of Chapare, where he fled on Sunday, Morales called on the opposition to “assume its responsibility” after Sunday’s riots.
He said the opposition leadership had a “responsibility to pacify the country and guarantee the political stability and peaceful coexistence of our people.”
Morales, who was Bolivia’s first indigenous president, said his opposition rivals, Carlos Mesa and Luis Fernando Camacho, “discriminators and conspirators, will go down in history as racists and coup plotters.”
Camacho is a key opposition leader in Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s biggest city and economic capital.
Mesa, a former president, came a close second to Morales in the disputed October 20 election.
Morales, whose Movement for Socialism party retains a majority in the Congress that will elect his temporary successor, said “the world and patriotic Bolivians repudiate the coup.”
Morales announced his resignation in a televised address Sunday, capping a day of fast-moving events in which many ministers and senior officials quit, some seeking refuge in the Mexican ambassador’s residence.
The streets of La Paz immediately exploded in celebration, with jubilant Bolivians waving the country’s flag, but violence and vandalism later erupted overnight there and in El Alto.
In the confusion, a group of 20 lawmakers and government officials took refuge at the Mexican ambassador’s residence, and Mexico announced it was offering asylum to Morales as well.
Morales also wrote that “violent groups” had attacked his home.
Police announced that they had arrested Maria Eugenia Choque, the head of the country’s electoral court, an institution slammed by the opposition as biased.
Morales, a member of the Aymara indigenous community, is a former coca farmer who became Bolivia’s first indigenous president in 2006.
He defended his legacy on Sunday, which includes landmark gains against hunger and poverty and tripling the country’s economy during his nearly 14 years in office.
He gained a controversial fourth term when he was declared the winner of the presidential election by a narrow margin.
But the opposition said there was fraud in the vote count and three weeks of street protests ensued, during which three people died and hundreds were injured.
The Organisation of American States carried out an audit of the election and on Sunday reported irregularities in just about every aspect that it examined: the technology used, the chain of custody of ballots, the integrity of the count, and statistical projections.
As chanting Bolivians kept up demonstrations in the street, the 60-year-old Morales called new elections, but this was not enough to calm the uproar.
The commanders of the armed forces and the police joined the calls for the president’s resignation.
A raft of ministerial resignations followed Morales’ announcement and raised the question of who was in charge, given that vice president Alvaro Garcia Linera also resigned.
Under the constitution, power then passes to the president of the Senate and the speaker of the lower house of Congress, in that order. But they have resigned, too.
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