Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Sunday he would resign after the military called on him to step down and allies deserted him following weeks of protests over a disputed election, Reuters reports.
Morales, in power for nearly 14 years, said in televised comments that he would submit his resignation letter to help restore stability, though he aimed barbs at what he called a “civic coup”.
“I am resigning, sending my letter of resignation to the Legislative Assembly,” Morales said, adding that it was his “obligation as indigenous president and president of all Bolivians to seek peace.”
He later tweeted, “I want the Bolivian people to know that I have no reason to escape, they should prove if I’m stealing something.”
Vice President Álvaro García Linera also resigned.
The departure of Morales, a leftist icon and the last survivor of Latin America’s “pink tide” of two decades ago, is likely to send shockwaves across the region at a time when left-leaning leaders have returned to power in Mexico and Argentina.
Some of Morales’ leftist allies in Latin America decried the turn of events as a “coup”, including Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Argentine President-elect Alberto Fernandez.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said his country would offer Morales asylum if he sought it.
Bolivia under Morales had one of the region’s strongest economic growth rates and its poverty rate was cut in half, though his determination to cling to power and seek a fourth term alienated many allies, even among indigenous communities.
Pressure had been ramping up on Morales since he was declared the winner of an Oct. 20 election.
General Williams Kaliman, the head of Bolivia’s armed forces, earlier on Sunday said the military had asked Morales to step down to help restore peace and stability after weeks of protests over the vote.
Kaliman added that the military was calling on the Bolivian people to refrain from violence and disorder.
Earlier on Sunday, Morales had agreed to hold new elections after a report from the Organization of American States (OAS), which conducted an audit of the Oct. 20 vote, revealed serious irregularities in the election.
The OAS report said that vote should be annulled after it had found “clear manipulations” of the voting system that called into question Morales’ win, with a lead of just over 10 points over main rival Carlos Mesa.
The resignations of Morales and his vice president meant it was not initially clear who would take the helm of the country pending the results of new elections.
According to Bolivian law, in the absence of the president and vice president, the head of the Senate would normally take over provisionally. However, Senate President Adriana Salvatierra also stepped down late on Sunday.
Legislators were expected to meet to agree on an interim commission or legislator who would have temporary administrative control of the country, according to a constitutional lawyer who spoke to Reuters.
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