President Evo Morales resigns in Bolivia amid election protests

Left-wing Democrats are dismayed by the unexpected news that the socialist president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, tendered his resignation from office on Sunday, with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) even going so far as to call his departure the result of a “coup,” according to Newsweek.

Reuters reported that Morales’ resignation came amid widespread protests across the country — some of which turned violent — following allegations of fraud and “serious irregularities” in the Oct. 20 elections in which Morales claimed victory in his quest to serve a fourth term as president.

Yet, even as he stepped down from office at the urging of the Bolivian military’s commanding officer, Gen. Williams Kaliman, Morales couldn’t resist launching accusations that he’d been the victim of a “civic coup” and even suggested he was facing imminent arrest — a charge the commander of the Bolivian police flatly denied.

Fraud allegations prompt resignation

Socialist President Morales was the first indigenous Bolivian to be elected president, first taking office back in 2006. While his tenure had initially been viewed as a good thing in the South American country, the nation’s citizens increasingly viewed him as having clung to power too long, particularly after he ignored a referendum imposing term limits and sought a fourth term in office.

The Organization of American States (OAS), an independent group backed by the United Nations and United States, conducted an audit of the Oct. 20 elections and found “serious irregularities” in the voting, including “clear manipulations” that resulted in Morales defeating his closest rival — former President Carlos Mesa — by just over 10 percentage points, the margin of victory necessary to avoid a run-off election in a crowded field of candidates.

It is unclear at this time who will be the next leader of Bolivia, as many of his top allies in the government have also resigned, including his vice president and the president of the Senate, the next two officials in the line of succession.

Legislators are expected to meet this week to discuss naming an interim commission or temporary leader to govern the country in the meantime, and the OAS has called for new elections to be held as soon as conditions are favorable for a free and clear voting process.

Allies pledge support

In the aftermath of Morales’ departure annoucement, his socialist allies across the Latin America region have stepped up to offer him support, including the leaders of Argentina, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, among others.

Mexico has also offered asylum to Morales and any of his allied officials who feel they may be in danger. Morales, among others who resigned, have claimed — without evidence — that they and their families have been threatened with retribution.

However, their collective resignations would likely have assuaged the concerns of protesters and reduced any potential threats they may have faced if they had continued to hold power amid the disputed election results.

Cautious optimism

It remains to be seen who will emerge as an interim leader in the South American nation and if the exit of Morales and his comrades will lead to the restoration of calm among the legions of protesters who took to the streets.

However, at least for now, there is one fewer socialist dictator in power in the Western hemisphere, and — despite what the likes of Rep. Omar might say — that is an undeniably good thing.

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