Evo Morales Accepts the Asylum Offered by Mexico

Bolivian citizens and police celebrate the resignation of Bolivian president Evo Morales this Sunday in La Paz. (Martín Alipaz)

14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 11 November 2019 — Evo Morales, who resigned from the Presidency of Bolivia on Sunday in the midst of a serious crisis following the October 20 elections, accepted the offer of asylum offered by Mexico, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Monday.

“I inform you that a few moments ago I received a call from President Evo Morales whereby he responded to our invitation and verbally and formally requested asylum in our country,” the foreign minister said at a press conference.

Ebrard defended the principle of non-intervention and said that “Mexico will not recognize the new Government” and therefore respects “the legitimately elected Government until the end of its term.”

Asked about the “military coup” in Bolivia, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “in synthesis” is a “serious setback to the democratic life” of the entire region. He believed that people’s rights were “suspended” and said that Mexico is “very worried.”

This Sunday, Ebrard announced that 20 personalities of the Bolivian Executive and Legislative branches had been received at the official Mexican residence in La Paz. The foreign minister said Monday that he has more requests from Bolivian personalities who have expressed “their desire to take asylum in Mexico.”

The citizen movements against Evo Morales decided to remain mobilized despite the resignation of the president because they fear the same thing will happen as happened in Venezuela in 2002, when then President Hugo Chavez was overthrown and resumed power 48 hours later. Neither the rain nor the cold of night prevented hundreds of people from taking different points of the capital, La Paz, amid a tense calm and some uncertainty about what lies ahead for their country.

In Cuba, President Miguel Díaz-Canel has marked the official line, followed by the entire state press, and has fully supported his political ally through Twitter. “We condemn that the strategy of the opposition coup in Bolivia has unleashed violence, which has cost deaths, hundreds of wounded and condemnable expressions of racism towards the original peoples. We support Evo,” the president wrote.

“The right, with a violent and cowardly coup d’etat, threatens democracy in Bolivia. We strongly condemn the coup d’etat and express our solidarity with our brother president. The world must be mobilized for the life and freedom of Evo,” Díaz-Canel added.

In response, John Suarez, director of the Center for a Free Cuba — based in Virginia — has welcomed the news through a statement. “The protesters had been asking to end the 14-year tenure of this autocrat. It was also seen that the police refused to repress the protesters. This is a positive example for the army and the police in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba.”

The text adds: “Evo Morales and his regime had spent years undermining the rule of law, compromising the independence and integrity of the electoral system that violated democratic norms, ignoring a 2016 referendum and eliminating the limits of the presidential term. The fraudulent election on 20 October 2019 was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Bolivians.”

Singing an emblematic “anthem” from the beginning of the protests “who gives up, nobody gives up, who gets tired, nobody gets tired. Evo again? Hell no!*,” citizens of all ages filled the streets of La Paz.

Bolivians woke up this Sunday with the news of a report from the Organization of American States (OAS), in which it recommended that they hold “another electoral process” given the “irregularities” in the elections of October 20.

Immediately the streets were filled with angry people demanding the resignation of Evo Morales, a resignation that the president announced in a video the same afternoon. Then that rage became a party, hundreds of people waving flags and caravans of vehicles blowing their horns. Then night and rain arrived, and with them, the uncertainty.

The festive atmosphere darkened as several events occurred that gave a glimpse of an uncertain political landscape. The vast majority of people on the streets are aware of this situation, that there is still a lot to do since a battle has been won, but not thear.

The people “don’t yet buy it,” and until they see the signed resignation, on paper and officially handed over to the Legislative branch, they will not believe in Morales’s departure from power.

“We don’t have the paper, we haven’t seen it … The same thing can happen like in Venezuela, Maduro is his biggest father, his greatest teacher, that’s why we’re still here until we have the certainty, the signed paper that Evo Morales never comes back here and goes to jail, we will continue whatever it costs us (…) even if it costs us blood,” a young man who wishes peace for his country told the EFE agency.

“It has been a joy, but it is not a lasting one because this Government has already prepared, this has not been a surprise, its people are already escaping and they are already sending los masistas (from MAS, Evo Morales’s party) to confront us, this already threatens rights, threatens democracy,” said another man.

Bolivia now begins the stage after this historical cycle of the indigenous leader, who during these “thirteen years, nine months and 18 days,” which he referenced in detail in his farewell, was able to astonish many around the world and at the same time awaken the fears of others about his populism.

Carlos Mesa came second in the October election of which there is no doubt that it was fraudulent: the president of the electoral body, María Eugenia Choque, has ended up in detention. But the former president has been losing prominence in favor of Luis Fernando Camacho, leader of the civic committee of Santa Cruz, the largest and strongest region in Bolivia, who has come to La Paz with the aura of a saviour.

Evo Morales had the opportunity to leave power in style, but he was forced to resign in his attempt to continue in the presidency of the country, at a convulsive moment in much of Latin America.

“I denounce to the world and the Bolivian people that a police officer publicly announced that he is instructed to execute an illegal arrest warrant against me; likewise, violent groups raided my home. The coup plotters destroy the rule of law,” wrote Evo Morales on Twitter.

The message was published after the civic leader Luis Fernando Camacho also insisted in social networks that there was an order to arrest Morales.

“Confirmed! Arrest warrant for Evo Morales! The police and the military are looking for him in Chapare, a place he hid,” Camacho said in reference to the area of central Bolivia where he is assumed to be. “The military took away the presidential plane and it is hidden in Chapare, go for it!” he added.

However, the Bolivian Police denied that such an order exists. “I want to let the Bolivian population know that there is no arrest warrant against state officials such as Evo Morales and his cabinet ministers,” National Police Commander Yuri Calderón told the private channel Unitel.

Calderón clarified that it is the Prosecutor’s Office and not the Police that issues arrest warrants and said that “the order has been issued for the presidents of the departmental electoral courts and the departmental members of the electoral courts.”

Also ordered to be apprehended is María Eugenia Choque, until yesterday president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and Antonio Costas, who resigned from the vice presidency of the electoral body shortly before the end of the counting for the elections of October 20. So far, 25 arrest warrants have been executed against presidents and members of the different departmental electoral courts, Calderón said.

“I don’t have to escape,” because “I haven’t stolen anything,” Morales said, hopeful that it may be only a hasta luego because “the fight doesn’t end here.”

Mexico could be an exit for the president, because last night, after condemning what happened in Bolivia, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard explained that, “in accordance with its tradition of asylum and non-intervention, Mexico has received 20 personalities from the Bolivian Executive and Legislative in its official residence in La Paz,” and added that they would also offer asylum to the president.

In a message on Twitter, the head of Mexico’s foreign policy called for “international solidarity” to respect the integrity and “inviolability” of the Mexican embassy in La Paz, which serves as a refuge for former officials.

Many are keeping a vigil to prevent the “vandals,” as some call the Morales supporters, los masistas, from the neighboring city of El Alto, come to stir up trouble and commit misdeeds like those noted on the eve of this day.

A group guards the road that leads to the imposing building of the headquarters of the Government, giving way only to the Police, which in some way has been one of the key protagonists of the historical moment that the country is experiencing, for its decision to mutiny and join the people.

There was concern about the attacks against groups of people who remain on a civil strike in regions like Potosí, where they say snipers have threatened those who were asking for Morales’s departure.

Throughout the day the officials were targeted by these attacks, and at night it was the turn of politicians, leaders and journalists of the opposition, whose homes were burned or looted.

“The celebration was quiet, it was celebrating the triumph of the people, there were families, children, and out of nowhere they threw firecrackers,” said a man in distress, clearly worried about the moment he is living through.

A taxi driver who was trying to get around the barricades to continue doing his job told EFE that “it was time for the president to resign because they themselves armed this chaos, they themselves called it a coup d’etat, this is the best solution.”

The man who until now was one of the last survivors of “21st Century Socialism” said he said goodbye to make way for peace in his country, but after the initial celebration that his detractors so craved, what was unleashed was chaos.

Police and military commanders called on Bolivians to remain calm, guarantors of the constitutional order. But the feeling is of a power vacuum, having renounced those who could have succeeded the president, such as the vice president and the heads of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, to the point of considering that even come parliamentary opponent could provisionally assume the head of state.

Bolivia has not experienced this uncertainty since 2005, when it was then President Carlos Mesa who resigned under siege from a serious social upheaval.

One solution could be a mixed commission from both chambers that, in an emergency, would study what to do now, explains constitutional lawyer Gonzalo Hidalgo.

*Translator’s note: The original chant, “Evo de nuevo? huevo carajo!” rhymes and is a play on words between Evo (the president’s first name) and huevo (egg).