Monday, December 16, 2019 | ePaper

Bolivia crisis

'Five killed' in pro-Morales protest

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Bolivian riot police clash with supporters of Bolivia's ex-President Evo Morales during a protest against the interim government, in Sacaba, Chapare province, Cochabamba department. Internet photo



At least five people are reported to have been killed in Bolivia in clashes between supporters of former President Evo Morales and security forces.
A doctor in the central city of Sacaba said most of those killed and injured on Friday had bullet wounds, according to the Associated News agency. Bolivia's authorities did not report any deaths in the city.
Mr Morales resigned last Sunday amid protests following the presidential election. He has since fled to Mexico.
Mr Morales told the BBC earlier on Friday that there were no meaningful charges that could be brought against him over October's disputed election. He was responding to interim President Jeanine Áñez, who said he could be prosecuted if he returned to Bolivia. The new government has broken ties with Venezuela, and is also sending home more than 700 Cuban medics. The moves are meant to show that the new authorities are distancing themselves from Mr Morales' regional left-wing allies. Hospital director Guadalberto Lara told AP that most of the killed and injured in the town of Sacaba had bullet wounds. Witnesses said police opened fire on protesters  calling for the return of Mr Morales to Bolivia. Separately, an AFP correspondent said five supporters of the former president were killed after seeing the bodies at a local hospital. Also on Friday, riot police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in La Paz, the country's administrative centre, Mr Morales, 60, has said he was forced to stand down but did so willingly "so there would be no more bloodshed". But his resignation triggered clashes around Bolivia between his supporters and police. In Friday's interview with BBC Mundo, Mr Morales said: "What charges can they bring against me? Electoral fraud? "Do I administer the electoral commission?" he continued, arguing that several members of that body were key opposition figures.
Mr Morales also rejected the idea that he could be banned from any future vote. "If I want to return, it's 'Evo can't come back'. Why so much fear of me?" he asked.Ms Áñez, 52, is a qualified lawyer and a fierce critic of Mr Morales. She was previously director of the Totalvision TV station, and has been a senator since 2010.
As the deputy Senate leader, Ms Áñez took temporary control of the body last Tuesday after Bolivia's vice-president and the leaders of the senate and lower house resigned. That put her next in line for the presidency under the constitution. The appointment of Ms Áñez, an opposition senator, as interim leader has been endorsed by Bolivia's Constitutional Court. Ms Áñez has said she wants to hold elections as soon as possible, denying that took place against Mr Morales. The US has recognised her as the leader, saying it looks forward to working with Bolivia's interim administration. Mr Morales has branded Ms Áñez "a coup-mongering right-wing senator" and condemned the US recognition of her interim rule. In the country, reaction to Ms Áñez's assumption of power has been mixed. Mr Morales, a former coca farmer, was first elected in 2005 and took office in 2006, the country's first leader from the indigenous community. He won plaudits for fighting poverty and improving Bolivia's economy but drew controversy by defying constitutional limits to run for a fourth term in October's election. Pressure had been growing on him since contested election results suggested he had won outright in the first round. The result was called into question by the Organization of American States (OAS), a regional body, which had found "clear manipulation" and called for the result to be annulled.
In response, Mr Morales agreed to hold fresh elections. But his main rival, Carlos Mesa - who came second in the vote - said Mr Morales should not stand in any new vote. The chief of the armed forces, Gen Williams Kaliman, then urged Mr Morales to step down in the interests of peace and stability. Announcing his resignation, Mr Morales said he had taken the decision in order to stop fellow socialist leaders from being "harassed, persecuted and threatened".

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