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Bolivia: Opposition senator declares herself president

November 13, 2019

Days after the resignation of longtime Bolivian President Evo Morales, Senator Jeanine Anez has declared herself the interim president of Bolivia. From Mexico, Morales said the move showed he had been ousted by a coup.

Bolivia's self-declared president Jeanine Anez
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/N. Pisarenko

Opposition politician Jeanine Anez on Tuesday declared herself Bolivia's interim president after the resignation of longtime President Evo Morales, who arrived in Mexico earlier in the day after fleeing the Andean nation.

With the move, Anez, the second vice president of the Senate, took temporary control of the Senate and put herself in position to become the country's president.

What we know so far

  • Anez, 52, said on Tuesday that she was taking over the presidency in a legislative session boycotted by Morales' Movement for Socialism party.
  • Anez said the constitution allowed her to become Bolivia's head of state after the resignation of the president and vice president.
  • She said she plans to call a new election as soon as possible and that Bolivia could not be left in a power vacuum after Morales' resignation.

Read more: Bolivia crisis: 5 things to know

Exiled Morales says he is willing to return

Morales commented on the move from Mexico on Wednesday, saying that appointment of Anez confirmed that his ouster was a coup. He also slammed the Organization of American States (OAS) which had prompted protests in Bolivia by saying there were serious irregularities during the October 20 election.

The OAS is "in the service of the North American empire," Morales told reporters in Mexico City.

"We won the elections and they were stolen from us," he added.

The exiled politician also said that he was ready to return to Bolivia "if my people ask for it." He called for a dialogue to end the violence which would be supervised by allied countries and international organizations.

"I have never in my life asked institutions, authorities, to do something illegal," Morales said.

'She must quit'

Clashes broke out on the streets of La Paz, Bolivia's capital, on Tuesday evening after Anez's declaration. 

Morales supporters tried to reach the Congress building, shouting: "She must quit." They were met by police, who fired tear gas to try to disperse the crowd. 

Morales, who arrived in Mexico City earlier on Tuesday, called her announcement "the most disastrous ... coup in history."

The former Bolivian president said that the opposition leader "declared herself... interim president without a legislative quorum, surrounded by a group of accomplices and backed by the armed forces and police that repress the people."

Protests in Bolivia

The South American country has seen protests since an election on October 20 in which Morales was reelected as president, a vote which the Organization of American States (OAS) alleges had gross "manipulations" of electric computer systems. Tens of thousands took to the streets of La Paz in the weeks after the polls. At least three people have been killed and hundreds more injured in the unrest.

Who is Evo Morales?

Morales, 60, had been Bolivia's president for more than 13 years before his resignation on Sunday. Born in a small village in western Bolivia to a family from the indigenous Aymara people, he is widely considered Bolivia's first indigenous president.

His supporters had lauded him as a champion for indigenous rights and environmentalism, and his presidency was characterized by leftist policies that diverted revenues from natural resources to indigenous communities.

Morales' reelection and resignation

Morales drew controversy earlier this year when he called a referendum to expand presidential term limits, a move his critics say was an attempt by him to hold on to power. The referendum failed, but he ran for a fourth term anyway, winning 47.1% of the vote in the October 20 poll.

He eventually resigned after heads of the military and police demanded he step down amid continued protests. Some described the military intervention as a coup d'etat. Morales subsequently fled to Mexico, where he was granted asylum, arriving on Tuesday.

Who is Jeanine Anez?

Anez is a Democratic Social Movement politician who has served in the Bolivian Senate since 2010. She became the highest ranking member of the Bolivian government following the resignation of Morales' government. As the leader of the opposition, she has been described as fiercely anti-Morales.

What happens next?

Bolivia's political crisis is far from over after Anez's move. Under the Bolivian constitution, Morales' resignation needed to be approved by both houses of Congress, and lawmakers failed to get the quorum for an assembly session on Tuesday, which prompted Anez's declaration. Morales' Movement for Socialism party, which has called the assembly session in which Anez declared herself president illegal, is bound to push back on the opposition leader's power play.

dj, dv/se (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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