Jeanine Añez, former vice president of Bolivia’s senate, stepped into the role of Interim President of Bolivia on November 12, filling the power vacuum left by the controversial resignation of long-serving president Evo Morales. She vowed to hold open elections but faces opposition from nation-wide protests denying her legitimacy.
Morales, who became the president in 2006 and then served three consecutive terms, left office on Nov.10 following nation-wide protests over his controversial re-election. The election in question was held on Oct. 10 and an official full-count showed Morales beating his opposition by 10.56 percent, a slim margin above the 10 percent required for full victory. The results were contested by the Organization of American States (OAS), a regional oversight group that reported “clear manipulation” in the election of Morales to an unprecedented fourth term. Responding allegations of voting fraud and manipulation swept the country and nation-wide protests rose, morphing into police mutinies in some cities and resulting in several deaths.
On the morning of Nov. 10, immediately following OAS’s report, Morales announced his intention to hold a second election. However, as protests continued and the opposition spoke out against him, he stepped down that afternoon at the strict request of General Williams Kaliman and offered a formal resignation. His Vice President and several other key officials resigned with him.
The resignation has met with both international and internal controversy. Several supporters of Morales condemned the resignation, supporting the former president in the wake of what he is calling a “coup.” Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard has been one of the most vocal supporters of Morales and on Nov. 11, Mexico offered sanctuary to Morales and former key Bolivian officials. Nicaragua and Venezuela have also offered support for the former president. However, other nations have expressed alternative opinions on the president’s removal from office. President Trump called Morales’ resignation “a significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere,” while Spain warned that “ “this intervention takes us back to moments in the past history of Latin America”.
His removal from office and the resulting departure of key officials left a power vacuum that was filled on Nov. 12 by former opposition Senate leader Jeanine Áñez. The 52-year-old declared her Interim presidency with the backing of the constitution, which places her next in-line following the successive departure of high-ranking officials. She entered into her position vowing to hold another election as soon as possible. The United States and Brazil both recognized her presidency on the day she took office.
However, supporters of Morales and other discontented citizens have protested her assumption of power. One protester told the Associated Press, “We don’t want any dictators. This lady has stepped on us – that’s why we’re so mad,” and chants of “Now, civil war” were also reported. The protestors marched on to the Presidential palace in La Paz, where they clashed with riot police armed with tear gas. Meanwhile, legal supporters of Morales challenge Áñez’ authority as the country’s power-struggle continues.
Morales remains in Mexico but has vowed to “continue the fight” while Añez faces challenges both locally and abroad. As protests continue to rage within Bolivia, the state of the country and potential future elections remain uncertain.