Bishops plead for peace after resignation of Bolivian president

Bishops plead for peace after resignation of Bolivian president People in La Paz, Bolivia, shout slogans during a protest against Bolivia's President Evo Morales. Morales resigned Nov. 10 after nearly 14 years in office. Photo: CNS photo/Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters

The Bolivian bishops have urged an end to the vandalism that has taken place following the resignation of president Evo Morales on Sunday.

Supporters of Morales have clashed with police in several cities.

In a November 10 message, the bishops’ conference, along with several civic groups, encouraged “Bolivians to peace and to not commit acts of vandalism or revenge or anything we could regret. We all have a grave obligation to defend the lives of all Bolivians”.

They also pointed out that “what’s happening in Bolivia is not a coup d’état, we say it before all Bolivian citizens and the entire international community”.

“In the name of God we tell you: stop the violent acts and let us preserve life and the peace. Let us maintain the peaceful spirit that has reigned in the people in this time,” they said.

Morales resigned on November 10 after weeks of protest regarding a disputed October 20 election. The socialist leader had been in power since 2006.

According to the electoral commission Morales won on the election’s first round, but the opposition claimed fraud. The Organisation of American States said on November 10 that there was “clear manipulation” in the election, and that it was statistically improbable that Morales had won by the margin needed to avoid a runoff.

Armed forces

Within hours of the OAS report, Morales resigned, after being encouraged to do so by the head of the Bolivian armed forces.

In both La Paz and El Alto, Morales’ supporters have clashed with police, and more than 20 people have reportedly been injured.

The deputy head of the Senate, Jeanine Anez, has said she will serve as a caretaker president until elections are held.

Morales has been offered asylum by Mexico.

The Bolivian bishops and civil leaders said, “We call on the National Police and the Armed Forces of the nation to urgently fulfil their constitutional role in defence of property and people, preserving the lives and freedom of everyone.”

“We are all in agreement in proposing to the National Assembly of Bolivia a constitutional and peaceful solution in order to shortly have constitutional president with the task of forming a new electoral tribunal and bringing us to new elections so that the entire people may express their opinion in freedom and peace,” they continued.

Luis Fernando Camacho, an opposition leader, reportedly placed a Bible on the Bolivian flag in the presidential residence after Morales resigned, saying, “Pachamama will never return to the Palace. Bolivia is Christ’s”.

Bishop Krzysztof Bialasik Wawrowska of Oruro said that when the news of Morales’ resignation came, “at that moment all the people gathered together to celebrate this fact, practically as a victory, because we were already living in a dictatorship and the people knew that they didn’t want to become like Venezuela”.