Former Bolivian President Evo Morales has said he should be allowed to return to Bolivia and complete his final term in office.
The 60-year-old, who until Sunday was the longest standing leader in Latin America, made the comments in an interview with Al Jazeera in Mexico City, where he fled after resigning last week in the wake of protests sparked by a dispute over last month’s presidential election.
“I can’t be outside of the country. I’m used to being with the people as a union leader, president, doing work,” said Morales, who has accused his opponents of conspiring against his government.
“I miss it (Bolivia) a lot. I’m looking for a legal way to go back and be with the people as they resist the dictatorship, the coup,” added Morales, who has been granted asylum in Mexico.
Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Morales had been facing increasing pressure after claiming he was the outright winner of Bolivia’s October 20 vote, with opposition supporters taking to the streets for weeks accusing him of undermining the country’s democracy. Morales loyalists also rallied in large numbers to express their support.
After weeks of protests, he resigned on November 10 following an Organization of American States (OAS) audit citing irregularities during the vote, while the armed forces announced that they sided with anti-Morales protesters and demanded that he resign, prompting ruling party allies to quit.
Speaking from Mexico City, Morales said if he allowed back, he would not seek to run in fresh elections – a bone of contention between him and the opposition. But he added he still wanted to complete the last two months of his term.
“I don’t know why they’re so scared of Evo, they don’t want me to participate; that’s OK, everything for life, for democracy. I retire my candidacy, but they should let me finish my term. Is that understood?”
On Tuesday, Senate vice president and opposition leader Jeanine Anez declared herself interim president arguing that every person in line of succession had resigned. The country’s Constitutional Court backed her claim and said that she could take the place without confirmation by Congress, a body controlled by Morales’s Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party.
Anez has rejected the coup allegations and said Morales was not pushed out of the country due to military pressure.
“Evo Morales went on his own. Nobody kicked him out,” she said at a news conference on Friday, adding that Morales is free to return but has to “answer to justice for electoral fraud”.
Morales, a 60-year-old former coca leaf farmer and union leader, once enjoyed overwhelming popularity among Bolivians. He is credited with bringing steady growth to Latin America‘s poorest country.
But analysts say the left-wing president lost significant popularity, including among his own supporters after defying the results of a 2016 referendum on presidential term limits and insisting on running for a fourth term.
“On February 21, 2016, the lie won, enough lies to beat us,” Morales said, adding he was the victim of a false, US-led campaign aimed at smearing him.
“With 70 000 votes, more or less, the right united and beat us, based on a lie … the US embassy prepared that lie.”
Morales insisted there was no fraud in the October election and denounced the report of OAS, accusing it of being politically motivated
“I had a lot of trust, or some trust. But now, I don’t have any in the OAS. They should be called the Organization of the states of North America, not America.”