Bolivia's Morales calls for calm after protesters demand junta

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales attends a news conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina October 22, 2020. — Reuters pic
Former Bolivian President Evo Morales attends a news conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina October 22, 2020. — Reuters pic

LA PAZ, Oct 28 — Exiled former Bolivian president Evo Morales called for calm yesterday after several hundred right-wing protesters demanded that a “military junta” replace socialist president-elect Luis Arce.

On Monday, hundreds of demonstrators marched to military barracks in the eastern city of Santa Cruz — a right-wing stronghold — and called for “military help” to prevent the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party from regaining power following a year under conservative Jeanine Anez's interim government.

Morales wrote on Twitter, however, that “the constitution is very clear on the role of the armed forces and the Bolivian police: We, as we always have done, will respect them as institutions.

“We must all act calmly in a constitutional way.”

Bolivia has been in political crisis for a year after Morales ignored the constitution and stood for and won a fourth successive term as president, even though leaders are limited to two terms.

Following weeks of protest and an Organisation of American States (OAS) audit that found clear evidence of fraud, Morales resigned and fled the country and Anez assumed the presidency.

New elections were held on October 18 with Arce — from Morales' MAS party — romping to victory.

The electoral tribunal, Anez and four observer missions, including the OAS, have all confirmed the election was clean and transparent.

Arce claimed more than 55 per cent of the vote with centrist former president Carlos Mesa a distant second on just under 29 per cent.

But Monday's protesters don't trust the result.

“I don't want a communist country,” said one banner, according to the El Deber de Santa Cruz newspaper.

“I support a constitutional transition of power to a military junta to avoid a second fraud,” said another.

One protester told the newspaper that he wanted “a transitional military government until it's possible to hold elections without fraud.”

Santa Cruz is the stronghold of right-wing civic leader Luis Fernando Camacho, who led protests against Morales last year and finished third in the recent election with 14 per cent.

Morales was barred from standing in the election.

Bolivia is waiting to see when Morales will return from exile in Argentina after a judge on Monday lifted a preventative detention order against him over alleged “terrorism.” Yesterday he said he will “possibly” return by November 9.

Neither the armed forces nor the government has commented on the demonstration.

The topic is sensitive in Bolivia, which was mostly ruled by military dictatorships from 1964-82. — AFP

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