Bolivian army ready to prevent election violence

Agence France-Presse . La Paz | Published: 15:54, Nov 12,2019


Bolivia’s president Evo Morales addresses the media at the presidential hangar in the Bolivian Air Force terminal in El Alto, Bolivia, November 10, 2019. — Reuters photo

Bolivia’s armed forces agreed on Monday to conduct joint operations with the police to prevent violence as Mexico announced it had granted asylum to Evo Morales, who resigned from the Bolivian presidency on Sunday.

The senator set to succeed him as interim president, Jeanine Anez, pledged to call fresh elections in the troubled South American country.

The United Nations and the Organisation of American States earlier voiced fears of a breakdown in security in a country that appeared increasingly rudderless after dozens of officials and ministers resigned along with Morales, some seeking refuge in foreign embassies.

‘The military command of the armed forces has arranged for joint operations with the police to prevent bloodshed and fighting amongst the Bolivian family,’ said General Williams Kaliman in a televised address.

Earlier, La Paz police chief Jose Barrenechea called on Kaliman to ‘intervene, because the Bolivian police have been overrun.’ Some small police barracks around the country were torched or looted on Monday.

‘We are going to call elections,’ Anez told reporters in La Paz, the seat of government, saying that there will be ‘an electoral process that reflects the will of all Bolivians,’ a day after the shock resignation of Morales and his ministers that left the country in a power vacuum.

Morales lost the backing of the military after three weeks of street protests over his disputed re-election for a fourth term.

Anez, a 52-year-old deputy senate speaker, is constitutionally in line to become interim president, and likely to be tasked by Congress to oversee fresh elections and a transition to a new government by January 22.

Lawmakers are due to meet on Tuesday to begin the process.

Tweeting from the central coca-growing region of Chapare, where he fled on Sunday, Morales called on the opposition to ‘pacify the country’ as some of his supporters were violently set upon in La Paz, while a top opposition figure said he feared an imminent mob attack on his home.

Mexico’s foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard said he had received a call from Morales ‘to verbally and formally request asylum in our country’ and that the request had been granted.

A Mexican military plane bound for Bolivia has stopped off in Peru and continued its journey to pick up Morales, the Peruvian foreign ministry said.

On Monday AFP reporters said hundreds of Morales supporters were marching on La Paz from its satellite town El Alto as opposition leader Carlos Mesa claimed on Twitter that ‘a violent mob’ was heading for his home to attack it.

AFP photographers saw civilians making arrests after tussling with Morales supporters in La Paz, sometimes assisted by police. Some of those arrested were made to kneel in the street, hands behind their backs. Some were bloodied.

Morales, a former coca farmer who was Bolivia’s first indigenous president, said his opposition rivals, Mesa and Luis Fernando Camacho, ‘will go down in history as racists and coup plotters.’

Morales also wrote that ‘violent groups’ had attacked his home.

An OAS audit of the election found irregularities in just about every aspect that it examined.

Morales called new elections but commanders of the armed forces and police backed calls for his resignation.

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