(CNSNews.com) – Leftist leaders in Latin America reacted heatedly Sunday to the decision by Bolivian President Evo Morales to resign after three weeks of unrest over disputed election results, alleging the socialist leader was the victim of a “coup” carried out by right-wing forces, backed by the United States.
Three people have been killed and hundreds injured in protests that erupted after October 20 elections. Official results handed Morales a fourth term, with a victory margin over his centrist rival Carlos Mesa of just over ten percent, thus ruling out the need for a second round run-off.
Amid widespread claims of fraud, the Organization of American States (OAS) carried out an assessment of the vote. It set off Sunday’s dramatic developments by announcing preliminary findings of clear manipulation and irregularities, and recommended a new election and the appointment of a new electoral commission.
In response, Morales agreed to hold a new election, but then military chief Gen. Williams Kaliman went on television to call on the president to stand down, to allow “peace to be restored and stability to be maintained.”
Morales confirmed in a televised announcement that he would be resigning “for the good of the country,” and described the situation as “a civic, political and police coup.”
He blamed by name Mesa and Luis Fernando Camacho, a civic leader from the city of Santa Cruz, who has been leading opposition to Morales’ claimed election victory.
Officials next in the constitutional line of succession – Morales’ vice president and the heads of the two chambers of parliament – also resigned, evidently clearing the way for Jeanine Anez, the second vice-president of the Senate and a vocal Morales critic, to assume the presidency pending new elections.
Earlier in the day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had responded to the OAS findings by calling for new election, and saying that for the sake of credibility, “all government officials and officials of any political organizations implicated in the flawed October 20 elections should step aside from the electoral process.”
“We call on everyone to refrain from violence during this tense time and we will continue to work with our international partners to ensure that Bolivia’s democracy endures,” Pompeo said.
‘Imperialism and the oligarchy’
Morales’ ideological allies in Havana and Caracas were quick to denounce what they called a “coup” in Bolivia.
“Disregarding the electoral institutions and the popular mandate expressed in the polls, sectors of the Bolivian opposition, with the support and leadership of the United States and regional oligarchies, have launched a coup d’etat with the aim of robbing the Bolivian people of the electoral result,” the office of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said in a statement.
Diaz-Canel voiced solidarity for “our brother president,” urging the international community to side with Morales and condemn “the coup adventurism of imperialism and the oligarchy.”
Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, whose presidency is not recognized as legitimate by the U.S. and more than 50 other countries, condemned “the consummated coup d’etat against Brother President Evo Morales.”
“We, the social and political movements of the world, declare ourselves in mobilization to demand the preservation of the life of the Bolivian native peoples, victims of racism,” he tweeted.
Another regional leftist to voice dismay was former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who tweeted to his 1.2 million followers that he had “just learned that there was a coup in Bolivia and that Comrade Evo Morales was forced to resign.”
“It is unfortunate that Latin America has an economic elite that does not know how to live with democracy and the social inclusion of the poorest,” added Da Silva, who was released from prison on Friday while awaiting an appeal against a 12-year sentence for corruption.
What happens next to Morales was not immediately clear overnight. After resigning he reportedly flew to Chimoré, a support base 200 miles east of the capital, La Paz. He also tweeted that his foes were trying to get him arrested on the basis of an illegal arrest warrant.
The claim was echoed by Health Minister Gabriela Montagno, who said on Twitter, “The Bolivian police intend to illegally detain Evo Morales. We condemn this madness in front of the whole world.”
Camacho, the Santa Cruz protest leader, also tweeted that the army and police were hunting for Morales.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter that Mexico would provide asylum to Morales should he seek it.
Meanwhile Cuba’s Radio Habana claimed that embassies of Cuba and Venezuela in La Paz were being threatened by right-wing protestors.
Morales, an indigenous Aymara Indian, defeated a pro-U.S. candidate in presidential elections in late 2005, a result hailed by left-wingers in the region as another blow to “Yankee imperialism.”
Then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez invited Morales to join the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), a leftist bloc he had set up in 2014 as a counterweight to Washington.
Morales won a second term in 2009 with an increased majority, and when he won a third term in 2014 he dedicated the victory to Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro.