Nov 11, 2019

Mexico grants asylum to Evo Morales, Bolivia's outgoing president

Photo: Alexis Demarco/APG/Getty Images

Mexico will grant asylum to Evo Morales, who stepped down as Bolivia's president yesterday after 14 years in power, Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard announced this evening.

Why it matters: Bolivia has been engulfed in protests since an Oct. 20 election which Morales claimed to have won by a large enough margin to avoid a runoff, but which observers said was marred by irregularities. After stepping down, Morales claimed to be the victim of a coup.

The big picture: Morales is a giant of recent Bolivian history. The country's first indigenous president, he's been credited with reducing poverty and overseeing strong economic growth.

  • But he also consolidated power over institutions and the media, and sought the presidency this year despite losing a referendum on whether he could do so.

Driving the news: Pressure on Morales increased after the Organization of American States reported widespread electoral fraud. He promised a new vote, but Williams Kaliman, commander of the armed forces, urged him to resign in a televised address.

  • That hasn't ended the chaos on Bolivia's streets. "Mr Morales’s supporters burnt houses, businesses and buses in the streets of La Paz, and in the neighbouring city of El Alto," per the Economist.
  • "Several television stations and newspapers closed down to protect their employees. There are also reports that pro-opposition rioters ransacked Mr Morales’s house."

What to watch: The next three officials in the line of succession have resigned, leaving the country without a president.

  • As a power vacuum emerges in Bolivia, Morales is seeking the protection of a fellow leftist, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
  • President Trump cheered Morales' ouster as a "significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere" that would send a signal to the regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Go deeper

Morales leaves for Mexico amid unrest on Bolivia's streets

People gesture at policemen as they patrol the streets in La Paz, Bolivia on Monday night. Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP via Getty Images

Evo Morales, who's stepped down as Bolivia's president, departed for Mexico Monday night after tweeting that he had accepted the country's offer of political asylum amid violent clashes between pro- and anti-Morales groups, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Bolivia is now in a "political vacuum" and facing its "worst unrest in decades," per AP, which reports Morales loyalists set barricades alight to "block some roads leading to the country's main airport" as anti-Morales protesters obstructed the majority of streets near the front of the presidential palace and congressional building over Monday night.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 12, 2019

Bolivia unrest: What you need to know

Supporters of Bolivia's former President Evo Morales during clashes with police on Nov. 19 in El Alto, La Paz. Photo: Gaston Brito Miserocchi/Getty Images

Bolivia's interim president asked Congress Wednesday to back fresh elections as violence continued to grip the country in the wake of former President Evo Morales' resignation, the BBC reports.

Why it matters: There have been running street battles ever since the disputed Oct. 20 election, claimed by Morales. Clashes between Morales' supporters and security forces have been ongoing since his Nov. 10 resignation and subsequent departure for the political asylum of Mexico. At least 32 people have died in the unrest, per the BBC.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 21, 2019

Bolivian Sen. Jeanine Áñez declares herself interim president

Jeanine Áñez. Photo by Javier Mamani/Getty Images)

A senior U.S. State Department official welcomed conservative Bolivian opposition Sen. Jeanine Áñez's declaration Tuesday that she's the country's interim president following the departure of Evo Morales.

Why it matters: Former President Evo Morales left Bolivia in a political vacuum after resigning amid protests against his disputed October election win. There were clashes between his supporters and anti-Morales protesters on the streets of the capital when he left for Mexico on Monday night after accepting the country's offer of political asylum.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 13, 2019