Morales denounces ‘illegal’ warrant for arrest as supporters ‘burn opponents’ houses’

Vincent Wood
Evo Morales announces his resignation on 10 November 2019 in a televised address from Cochabamba, Bolivia: Bolivia TV/AFP/Getty

Former Bolivian president Evo Morales has denounced what he has claimed was an “illegal” warrant for his arrest, as supporters of the outgoing leader were accused of setting fire to his opponents’ homes.

Mr Morales announced his resignation after weeks of protest against his administration, following allegations he had rigged the recent election to remain in office for a fourth term.

However he has since claimed he was the victim of a military coup – and that the police were preparing to take him into custody.

In a tweet Mr Morales, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, said: “I report to the world and Bolivian people that a police officer publicly announced that he has instructions to execute an unlawful apprehension order against me; in addition, violent groups also stormed my home.”

Noting that he had been “moved to tears” by support, he added: “The coup plotters who assaulted my house and that of my sister, set fire to homes, threatened the death of ministers and their children and vexed a mayor, now lie and try to blame us for the chaos and violence they have caused.

Bolivia and the world witness the coup.”

Police general Yuri Calderon denied any order to apprehend Mr Morales had been issued.

However, footage circulating on social media did appear to show citizens – including small children – walking through the ransacked remains of the former leader’s house.

Meanwhile the homes of journalists and opposition politicians have been set alight, with political rival Waldo Albarracin blaming a blaze at his own house on “bands of criminals related to Evo Morales”.

Saying there was “nothing left” of his home, he added: “This crime against humanity shows once again the criminal face of Evo Morales and his government regime that has just left power after his flagrant electoral fraud that was discovered.

“The material losses are large, a whole life’s work destroyed in an hour, yet I have bad news for Evo Morales – his criminals failed to kill us, we are still alive”.

On hearing of his resignation, protestors set fire to a coffin to symbolise the end of Mr Morales’s presidency after 13 years and nine months of rule – part of celebrations that saw citizens take to the streets of La Paz with flags and fireworks.

His critics claim Mr Morales took advantage of a supreme court stacked in his favour to do away with the term limits set out in the nation’s constitution, and accused him of rigging a 20 October election that sparked weeks of protest and civil unrest in the administrative capital of La Paz.

The Organisation of American States (OAS), which audited the election, found “serious irregularities” in the voting process.

However both Mr Morales and his supporters say he has been the victim of a military coup, the first since the deposition of Walter Guevera Arze in 1979.

His resignation came hours after the head of the country’s military called on Mr Morales to step down, while appealing to Bolivians to desist from violence.

In the UK, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote on Twitter: “To see Evo Morales who, along with a powerful movement, has brought so much social progress forced from office by the military is appalling.

“I condemn this coup against the Bolivian people and stand with them for democracy, social justice and independence”.

It is currently unclear if the heads of the nation’s armed forces have manoeuvred to seize power in the country.

“I think we have to keep a close eye on what the military does over the next few hours,” said Jennifer Cyr, associate professor of political science and Latin American studies at the University of Arizona. “Are they overstepping their role?”

She added the power vacuum created by the resignation of both Mr Morales and his vice president “opens up space for the military to potentially step in”.

Additional reporting by AP

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Bolivian president Evo Morales resigns after fierce election backlash