Evo Morales, who stepped down as Bolivia’s president on Sunday after protests against election fraud, on Monday accepted an offer of political asylum in Mexico. Morales left for Mexico on a government plane, Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard tweeted.
“The Mexican foreign ministry, after consulting Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero, made the decision to grant him asylum...for humanitarian reasons,” Ebrard told a news conference on Monday. “Morales’s life and physical integrity are at risk in Bolivia.” Mexico, currently led by Leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has called Morales a victim of a coup.
In a tweet, the former Leftist president said it hurt to leave Bolivia “for political reasons” but vowed to return with more “strength and energy”. He thanked Mexico for providing him protection.
A dozen of officials and ministers resigned along with Morales, and some of them have sought refuge in foreign embassies. Jeanine Anez, the deputy head of the Senate in Bolivia, has said she will take over as interim president until new elections are held. Lawmakers are due to meet on Tuesday to begin the process, reported AFP.
Bolivia has been witnessing sporadic violence since October, when people took to the streets to protest Morales’ disputed re-election for a fourth term. Three people have died in clashes in the last three weeks. Around 20 people were injured in the clashes between police and Morales’ supporters on Sunday.
The country’s armed forces agreed to help police curb violence. “The military command of the armed forces has arranged for joint operations with the police to prevent bloodshed and fighting amongst the Bolivian family,” said General Williams Kaliman in a televised address.
Morales, a former coca farmer, was Bolivia’s first indigenous president. He was first elected in 2006. He was praised for fighting poverty and improving Bolivia’s economy.
United States President Donald Trump hailed Morales’s resignation as a “significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere,” and praised the role of the country’s military.