Mexico grants asylum to Bolivia's Morales; demands safe passage

November 12, 2019 08:19
People take part in a demonstration on Monday in Mexico City in support of Bolivian President Evo Morales after he announced his resignation the previous day. Photo: Reuters

Mexico granted asylum to Bolivia’s former president Evo Morales on Monday and demanded safe passage for him from the troubled South American nation.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Morales’ life was in danger, and the decision to grant him asylum was in Mexico’s long tradition of sheltering exiles, Reuters reports.

Morales’ government collapsed on Sunday after ruling party allies quit and the army urged him to step down in the wake of a disputed election, adding to a sense of crisis in Latin America, which has been hit by weeks of protests and unrest.

Looting and roadblocks convulsed Bolivia after Morales stepped down. He said “violent groups” attacked his house. His exact whereabouts were unknown, though it is believed he had left in the presidential plane for his stronghold of Chapare province.

“His life and integrity is at risk,” Ebrard told reporters. “We will immediately proceed to inform Bolivia’s foreign ministry that under international law, it should offer safe conduct.”

Mexico has informed the Organization of American States, and will inform the United Nations, he added. The Washington-based OAS delivered a report on Sunday citing serious irregularities during Bolivia’s October vote.

Ebrard said earlier on Monday that his government views Sunday’s events in Bolivia as a “coup” because the military broke with the constitutional order by pressing Morales to resign.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador praised Morales, saying he chose to resign rather than put the lives of Bolivia’s citizens at risk.

Bolivian capital La Paz, meanwhile, braced for violent clashes on Monday night as thousands of supporters of ousted leader Evo Morales marched towards the city where opposition protesters and police set up barricades and armed themselves for a potential showdown.

Police said the crowd was marching down from the nearby city of El Alto, even as Morales was granted asylum by Mexico.

Around the central Murillo square and other parts of the city, opposition protesters erected roadblocks made of metal scraps and other debris, as tension mounted following Morales’ resignation on Sunday.

Bolivia’s Armed Forces Commander Williams Kaliman said he had ordered troops to conduct joint operations with police against “groups of vandals.”

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