December 15, 2019
Health

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales promises new elections amid protests

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Bolivian President Evo Morales vowed Sunday to call new elections after weeks of protest calling for his resignation. The announcement came shortly after the Organization of American States called for the annulment of the previous poll, held three weeks ago.

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Morales said he would call for "new national elections" that would allow "the Bolivian people to democratically elect new authorities".

Shortly before his announcement, the Organization for American States (OAS) also recommended fresh elections.

"The first round of the elections held last October 20 must be annulled and the electoral process must begin again," it said.

In a press release, the OAS said that the first round of the new election should occur "as soon as there are new conditions that give new guarantees for it to take place, including a newly composed electoral body".

The first round of the elections held three weeks ago was denounced by the opposition as fraudulent, sparking protests that have continued ever since.

The announcements come a day after anti-government protesters overran two state-run media outlets and forced them off the air. Demonstrators burst into the offices of Bolivia TV and Radio Patria Nueva and forced employees to leave, accusing them of serving the interests of Morales, said the director of the latter of the two, Ivan Maldonado.

"We were evicted by force after receiving constant threats from people gathered outside," Maldonado told AFP.

Some 40 employees were seen leaving the building that the two news organisations share in La Paz, walking hand in hand as a crowd of some 300 demonstrators yelled insults. Afterward, both outlets broadcast only music.

Morales denounced the seizure of the media outlets. "They say they defend democracy, but they behave as if they were in a dictatorship," he tweeted.

A radio station run by a farmers' union was also seized by protesters, Morales said.

Police in the balance

Some police have stopped guarding the square where the Morales presidential palace is located, raising questions over whether the security forces will remain loyal to the president.

A police rebellion erupted on Friday among an elite tactical operations unit called UTOP in the central city of Cochabamba. It then spread to units in Sucre, the constitutional capital, and Santa Cruz, a bastion of opposition strength in the east.

During the night the rebellion reached other cities but mostly spared La Paz, the country's administrative capital, local media reported.

But in a worrying sign for the Morales government, the UTOP officers in La Paz who for weeks have closely guarded the central Plaza Murillo — where the presidential palace is located — withdrew to their quarters Saturday in evident solidarity with the protests, an AFP reporter observed.

The sector remained guarded only by a small number of officers.

The leftist president, Bolivia's first from the indigenous population, assailed the police action.Read More – Source

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