Clashes test interim leader of Bolivia

Showing resistance: A supporter of former President Evo Morales holds a Bolivian flag during clashes with police in La Paz on Wednesday.

Showing resistance: A supporter of former President Evo Morales holds a Bolivian flag during clashes with police in La Paz on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: AP


Jeanine Anez pledges to ‘hold elections in the shortest possible time’; receives support from U.S.

Bolivia’s interim President Jeanine Anez moved on Wednesday to fill the power vacuum left by the resignation of Evo Morales, who said he was ready to return from exile in Mexico to “pacify” the country, as riot police clashed with his supporters and one was killed.

Ms. Anez, a 52-year-old Deputy Senate Speaker before proclaiming herself acting President on Tuesday — a move endorsed by the Constitutional Court — named 11 Cabinet Ministers and appointed a new military high command.

In a press conference at the presidential palace, she reiterated a pledge to “hold elections in the shortest possible time.”

Rejecting Mr. Morales’ claims that her presidency amounted to a coup, she said: “There is no coup in Bolivia. There is a constitutional replacement.”

“The only coup d’Etat in this country has been by Evo Morales,” she said, referring to a 2016 referendum that blocked the ex-President from running for re-election, but which Mr. Morales had overturned by the Constitutional Court.

The riot police fired tear gas during clashes with hundreds of Mr. Morales’ supporters who marched towards the presidential palace to protest Ms. Anez’s appointment. A 20-year-old man was shot and killed in a village near the eastern city of Santa Cruz during a clash between Mr. Morales’ supporters and the police, a doctor said.

Ms. Anez praised the “democratic disposition of the Armed Forces and police” who abandoned Mr. Morales last weekend, prompting him to resign on Sunday after weeks of protests.

On Wednesday, troops tried to remove barricades on the main highway linking two of the country’s biggest cities, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, amid efforts to resume business as usual after three weeks of protests and strikes brought much of the country to a halt.

“We are doing everything possible to bring everything back to normal,” said police chief, General Yuri Calderon.

Watch | All about the Bolivian crisis

‘Ready to return’

“If the people ask me, we are ready to return to pacify” Bolivia, Mr. Morales told a news conference in Mexico City, where he arrived on Tuesday after receiving political asylum. Mr. Morales, who became the country’s first indigenous president in 2006 and ruled for nearly 14 years, resigned on Sunday and fled Bolivia after losing the support of the Army and the police.

He called for a “national dialogue” to resolve the crisis, and rejected Ms. Anez’s legitimacy.

Mr. Morales called the “coup” against him “a political and economic conspiracy coming from the United States.”

The U.S. on Wednesday recognised Ms. Anez as Bolivia’s interim President. “The United States applauds Bolivian Senator Jeanine Anez for stepping up as Interim President of State to lead her nation through this democratic transition, under the constitution of Bolivia,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

Mr. Pompeo said the United States looks forward to working with Bolivia and its people “as they prepare to hold free, fair elections as soon as possible.”

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 10:32:21 AM |

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