Former Bolivian president Evo Morales stepped down following military pressure.
Last month, on Oct. 20, Bolivia held presidential elections, electing Evo Morales to a fourth term. Questions were raised as to the constitutionality of him standing for a fourth election, but the country’s supreme court ruled term limits to be unconstitutional.
According to the official tally Morales’ party, MAS (Movement toward Socialism in English) won around 47 percent of the vote. The second runner up came in with around 37 percent. Under Bolivian election law there is a runoff election if the first place candidate does not win by more than 10 percent of the vote. The government decided to accept Morales as the winner.
Bolivia first elected Evo Morales to the Presidency of Bolivia in 2005, and he took the office in 2006. He was the first indiginous president of a country in which 88 percent of the population identifies as indiginous or mixed. Morales is of the Aymara ethnicity, which is one of the two major native groups in Bolivia. His native tongue is Aymara, but he learned Spanish in school and learned Quechua while working as a coca farmer.
Also while working as a farmer, he received his political education. He became involved as a leader in the indiginous workers movement espousing relatively radical and self-described socialist politics.
His election marked a sharp contrast with the long-time right wing rule of the minority white and middle class groups, which had long excluded indiginous people from political power. Bolivia had been an early victim of neoliberal austerity brought on by involvement of the world bank and the international monetary fund.
After the 2019 election, the supporters of the major opposition group started engaging in street protests against the reelection of MAS and Morales. Morales’s home was ransacked by protesters and MAS politicians were harrassed. On Nov. 9, the U.S. dominated Organization of American States claimed that there was evidence of vote tampering by the government.
In response, Morales announced that there would be a runoff election that would invite international elections observers from the U.N. to ensure its democratic legitimacy.
On the next day, the head of the armed forces asked Morales to step down in a video posted to the Iinternet. Morales then resigned, citing fear of escalating violence and a forced military coup. Similar situations in neighboring countries had resulted in much more violence in previous political upheavals, notably the death of Salvador Allende in Chile and the subsequent military dictatorship that carried out disappearances and torture.
Despite his resignation and the resignation of several other MAS leaders in prominent executive and legislative positions, protests of both pro- and anti-Morales groups have been escalating and violence against indiginious activists by protesters and police have been reported.
Videos showing right wing protestors burning the Whipala flag — which is one of the official flags of Bolivia used to represent indiginous groups — have made the rounds on social media, as have videos of police removing the Whipala from their uniforms and videos of indiginous people marching in the streets in counterprotest. Fearing for his own life, Morales was granted political asylum in Mexico where he remains and calls the occurrence a coup d’etat.