Bolivian President Evo Morales stepped down Sunday night, claiming he was the victim of a coup following weeks of mounting pressure and public protests after a disputed re-election victory. The situation in Bolivia is moving fast and it isn’t even clear who is in charge at this point as the vice president, the Senate president and the head of the lower house had all resigned as well. Morales announced his resignation in a televised addressed after the military called on him to step down.
Morales’ resignation came as Bolivia had been engulfed in violent protests for weeks after reports that the October 20 election, which Morales had said gave him a victory to rule for a fourth consecutive term, was plagued by fraud. Earlier Sunday, international observers said there were lots of irregularities in the vote and a new election should be held. Morales agreed to that but the military chief called on him to resign anyway. Morales said later in the day that he would be stepping down in an effort to stop the violence. Late Sunday there were isolated reports of clashes and looting in the capital of La Paz.
As the first indigenous president of the country, Morales had long been a hugely popular president who led Bolivia in an era of economic growth and narrowing inequality. But his star began to wane as Morales seemed determined to stay in power and ignored a referendum that refused to abolish term limits. He then insisted he won the October vote outright despite persistent reports of fraud. And after weeks of protests there appeared to be a turning point Friday when small groups of police officers broke from the government and began joining the protesters.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard wrote on Twitter that the country would offer asylum to Morales if he asked for it. There was no sign he had done so and late Sunday, Morales worte on Twitter that police were seeking to arrest him “illegally.”