Bolivia president says will call elections in coming hours


LA PAZ, Nov 20, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Bolivia’s interim President Jeanine Anez said Wednesday she will call elections in the coming hours, after deadly unrest following the resignation of Evo Morales in the wake of the disputed October 20 ballot.

The announcement comes as Anez’s government released audio allegedly of Morales, who has fled to Mexico, ordering a member of the opposition movement to continue blockades around the landlocked country.

Dozens of people have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces over the past month as supporters of Morales obstruct main roads leading from agricultural regions to La Paz and other major cities.

“God willing, today, in the morning, we will call elections as the entire country is demanding,” Anez told reporters.

The Washington-based Organization of American States, which audited last month’s elections and found “irregularities,” on Wednesday approved a resolution calling on Bolivia to “urgently” hold a new vote.

It is not clear if new elections will be ordered by presidential decree or by law that would need to be approved by Congress, where Morales’ Movement for Socialism party holds a majority.

Unrest in Bolivia first erupted after Morales — the country’s first indigenous president — was accused of rigging the results of last month’s polls to gain reelection.

He resigned and fled to Mexico after losing the support of the security forces.

Anez, the 52-year-old former deputy speaker of the Senate, declared herself the country’s interim president last week, filling a vacuum left by Morales’ departure and the resignations of several ministers.

Since Morales stepped down, his supporters have demonstrated daily in the streets of La Paz and in some provincial cities to demand Anez’s departure.

Interior Minister Arturo Murillo played a telephone recording to journalists on Wednesday, allegedly of Morales issuing instructions to a leader of the opposition movement in Bolivia.

“Don’t let food into the cities, we’re going to block, really encircle (the cities),” says the voice Murillo attributed to Morales.

Morales’ order was a “crime against humanity,” Murillo told reporters, accusing the ex-president of “terrorism.”

“In the coming hours we will file an international lawsuit on this,” Murillo said.

– Deadly violence –

At least 27 people have been killed in violence since the October 20 election, according to a tally by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Speaking to reporters in Mexico on Wednesday, Morales condemned the crackdown on protesters by security forces as a ”genocide.”

The deadliest clashes occurred Friday in the central city of Cochabamba — a stronghold for Morales — where nine people were killed in a confrontation with the army and police.

On Tuesday, deadly violence erupted in El Alto when security forces lifted a siege on a fuel plant that had caused severe shortages in the nearby capital.

At least three people were killed and dozens wounded.

A spokesman for the ombudsman’s office said two of those killed had been hit by gunfire, including a 31-year old man.

The army said in a statement that “agitators and vandals” had attacked and partially destroyed the Senkata fuel plant, “using high-powered explosives.”

A convoy of around 50 fuel tankers was able to leave the Senkata plant for the first time in more than a week after police and military forces using armored vehicles secured the route to neighboring La Paz.

Morales supporters erected barricades around the El Alto plant last week to protest what they said was a coup by Anez.

Many businesses in El Alto remained closed Wednesday morning, an AFP reporter said.