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Morales reaches exile in Mexico after fleeing Bolivia

Supporters and opponents of the ousted president again headed for clashes in the streets of Bolivia’s capital.

Evo Morales lands in Mexico City (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
Evo Morales lands in Mexico City (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

By Luis Andres Henao and Carlos Valdez, Associated Press

Former president Evo Morales has flown to exile in Mexico after weeks of violent protests in Bolivia, leaving behind a confused power vacuum in the Andean nation.

He was met at Mexico City’s airport by foreign secretary Marcelo Ebrard after a flight from Bolivia on a Mexican government plane.

“The president of Mexico saved my life,” Mr Morales said, thanking President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for granting him asylum.

He vowed to “continue the struggle”.

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Evo Morales is greeted by Marcelo Ebrard (Eduardo Verdugo/AP)

Supporters and foes of Mr Morales again headed for clashes in the streets of Bolivia’s capital even as the opposition leader laid out a possible — but still uncertain — path towards new elections after the president’s resignation.

Prodded by military leaders, Mr Morales – who transformed Bolivia as its first indigenous president – stepped down on Sunday after weeks of widespread protests fed by allegations of electoral fraud in the October 20 presidential election that he claimed to have won.

Resignations by every other constitutionally designated successor left unclear who would take his place and how.

The Senate’s second vice president, opposition politician Jeanine Anez, called a legislative session on Tuesday to formally accept his resignation and choose an interim replacement.

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Jeanine Anez (Juan Karita/AP)

Under the plan, she would take temporary control of the Senate, making her next in line for the presidency.

“The country is experiencing dramatic moments and all parliamentarians have the obligation to give certainty to the country,” she told a news conference.

But it was not immediately clear if the session would occur or if a majority of senators would go along. Morales backers still have a majority in the body.

His departure was a dramatic fall for the one-time llama shepherd from the Bolivian highlands and former coca growers’ union leader who as president helped lift millions out of poverty, increased social rights and presided over nearly 14 years of stability and high economic growth in South America’s poorest country.

His downfall was prompted by his insistence on holding on to power despite a public referendum against continuous re-elections.

“It pains me to leave the country for political reasons, but I’ll always be concerned,” he said on Twitter. “l’ll return soon, with more strength and energy.”

Mr Ebrard said Mexican diplomats had to scramble to arrange a flight path for the plane because some nations initially closed air space to it. The plane stopped in Paraguay to refuel.

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The aftermath of violence in La Paz (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

Angry supporters of the socialist leader set barricades on fire to close some roads leading to the country’s main airport on Monday, while his opponents blocked most of the streets leading to the capital’s main square in front of Congress and the presidential palace.

Police urged residents of La Paz to stay in their homes and authorities said the army would join in policing efforts to avoid an escalation of violence.

Local media reported that Morales supporters were marching on La Paz from the nearby city of El Alto, a Morales stronghold, to try to break the street blockades thrown up by his opponents and reach the capital’s main square.

But the tensions were defused after General Williams Kaliman, chief of the armed forces, announced a joint police-military operation in a television address.

He said the hope was to “avoid bloodshed and mourning of the Bolivian family” and urged Bolivians to help restore peace.

PA

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