La Paz: Evo Morales vowed on Tuesday to continue “the struggle” after arriving in Mexico where he has been granted political asylum, as Bolivia’s senate sought to end civil turmoil and fill the power vacuum left by his abrupt resignation as president.
Morales thanked left-wing ally and Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, saying “he saved my life,” and vowed to remain in politics despite having left his homeland.
In his absence, lawmakers were summoned to ratify Morales’s resignation and appoint deputy senate speaker Jeanine Anez as interim president.
She has found herself next in line to take over after the resignations of vice president Alvaro Garcia Linera, the Senate president, and the speaker of the lower house of Congress.
“That’s the intention, I hope we can do it. We can’t remain without government,” said Anez.
Grinning and waving as he left the Mexican military plane that had picked him up from Bolivia late on Monday night, Morales was welcomed by Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.
Morales said in a speech that he was victim of a “coup”, and defended his record on improving living conditions for poor and indigenous Bolivians.
He said “there will only be peace when social justice is achieved for all.”
He resigned after losing the support of the military, leaving the country suddenly rudderless. Dozens of officials and ministers also stepped down, some seeking refuge in foreign embassies.
Protests near Congress
On Monday, the armed forces pledged to help police take back the streets from violent groups that have wreaked havoc since the controversial October 20 election that saw Morales win an unconstitutional fourth term.
Security forces deployed in La Paz on Tuesday, where Morales supporters marched through the center to congregate in San Francisco Square near the Congress.
Police announced the death of the top officer in La Paz, Colonel Heybert Antelo, whose units mutinied on Saturday. He was injured in a motorcycle accident after being “ambushed” by Morales supporters, his successor said.
Anez has already pledged to call new elections to end the political crisis.
However, her being sworn in as interim president depends on the ability of senators to reach La Paz, the seat of government.
Public transport has been virtually paralyzed since Sunday night when protesters torched 64 municipal buses. The cable car system that serves La Paz has also ground to a halt.
Burning barricades manned by opposition protesters were also preventing access to the Congress. Lawmakers from Morales’ Movement for Socialism (MAS) party demanded that they be removed to allow access to the parliament.
“It’s public knowledge that the barricades are continuing,” around the Congress, said MAS’s Congressional leader Betty Yaniquez.
‘I’ll be back’
Morales asked left-wing ally Mexico for asylum and was whisked away on a military plane, along with his son and Garcia Linera. It made a stop in Paraguay to refuel and file a flight path to Mexico.
“It pains me to leave the country for political reasons, but I will always be watching. I will be back soon with more strength and energy,” Morales tweeted on Monday night.
Anez, 52, said she was confident that enough senators would reach the Senate to open a session — 19 of the 36 are needed to do so.
She said even MAS senators “want to end this uncertainty, vandalism and instability that we have in the country.”
“We already have a program. I think the people are crying out for there to be an elected president on January 22,” she said.
In Washington, 15 members of the Organization of American States called for elections to be held as soon as possible in Bolivia.
The crisis touched off by Morales’s resignation on Sunday — after three weeks of protests over his disputed re-election — deepened on Monday as gangs unhappy with his departure attacked police stations and civilians, triggering panic in the streets.
On Monday night, hundreds of Morales supporters who traveled to La Paz from nearby El Alto protested outside the presidential palace.
Overwhelmed police asked for help from the army.
Three people have died in clashes since the election.
Morales said on Twitter late on Monday that two of his homes had been attacked by vandals.
Opposition leader Carlos Mesa, also on Twitter, said “a violent mob” was heading for his home to attack it.
The police — largely confined to barracks since a rebellion Friday in which many units joined the protests — returned to the streets on Monday after a night of looting in parts of La Paz and neighboring El Alto.
Morales, 60, a former coca farmer who was Bolivia’s first indigenous president, said his opposition rivals, Mesa and Luis Fernando Camacho, “will go down in history as racists and coup plotters.”
He was Latin America’s longest serving leader until Sunday.
Morales had initially tried to hold onto power and call new elections following an Organization of American States audit that found “irregularities” in virtually every area reviewed and questioned “the integrity of the election results.”