Bolivian President Evo Morales has resigned, caving in following three weeks of sometimes-violent protests over his disputed re-election after the army and police withdrew their backing, sparking wild celebrations in La Paz.
“I resign my post as president,” the leftist Morales said Sunday in a televised address, capping a day of fast-moving events in which many ministers and senior officials quit as support for Latin America’s longest-serving president crumbled and created a temporary leadership vacuum in the country.
The streets of La Paz immediately exploded in celebration, with jubilant Bolivians waving the country’s flag, but violence and vandalism later erupted overnight in La Paz and the neighboring city of El Alto.
The main opposition candidate in the election, former president Carlos Mesa, said Bolivians “have taught the world a lesson. Tomorrow Bolivia will be a new country.”
In the confusion, a group of 20 lawmakers and government officials took refuge at the Mexican ambassador’s residence, and Mexico announced it was offering asylum to Morales as well.
Morales later tweeted that there was a warrant for his arrest, but police commander Vladimir Yuri Calderon told local Unitel television that was not the case.
Morales also wrote that “violent groups” had attacked his home.
Police announced on Sunday night that they had arrested Maria Eugenia Choque, the head of the country’s electoral court, an institution slammed by the opposition as biased.
Morales, a member of the Aymara indigenous community, is a former coca farmer who became Bolivia’s first indigenous president in 2006.
He defended his legacy Sunday, which includes landmark gains against hunger and poverty and tripling the country’s economy during his nearly 14 years in office.
He gained a controversial fourth term when he was declared the winner of the October 20 presidential election by a narrow margin.
But the opposition said there was fraud in the vote count and three weeks of street protests ensued, during which three people died and hundreds were injured.
The Organization of American States carried out an audit of the election and on Sunday reported irregularities in just about every aspect that it examined: the technology used, the chain of custody of ballots, the integrity of the count, and statistical projections.
As chanting Bolivians kept up demonstrations in the street, the 60-year-old Morales called new elections, but this was not enough to calm the uproar. The commanders of the armed forces and the police joined the calls for the president’s resignation.
Armed Forces chief Williams Kaliman told reporters he was asking Morales “to resign his presidential mandate to allow for pacification and the maintaining of stability, for the good of our Bolivia.”
– Power vacuum –
A raft of ministerial resignations followed Morales’ announcement and raised the question of who was in charge, given that vice president Alvaro Garcia Linera also resigned.
Under the constitution, power then passes to the president of the Senate and the speaker of the lower house of Congress in that order. But they have resigned too.
An opposition senator, Jeanine Anez, said on Sunday she would assume the interim presidency of Bolivia.
– ‘Political decision’ –
To announce he was stepping down, Morales traveled by plane to the coca-growing Chimore region of central Bolivia, the cradle of his career in politics.
It was there in the 1980s that he made his name as a combative union leader defending farmers who grow coca.
“I do not have to escape. I have not stolen anything,” he said.
“My sin is being indigenous. To be a coca grower.”
“Life does not end here. The struggle continues,” he added.
“I am resigning so that they (the opposition leaders) do not continue to kick our brothers,” Morales said, referring to pro-government protesters who repeatedly clashed with opposition demonstrators.
– Allies denounce ‘coup’ –
With the situation in Bolivia unclear following the fast-moving events, regional heavyweight Colombia called for an urgent meeting of the OAS permanent council to look for solutions.
In the immediate aftermath of the shock announcement, Latin American leftist allies rallied to denounce a coup against one of their own.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro called for a mobilization of political and social movements “to demand the preservation of the life of the Bolivian native peoples, victims of racism.”
Hooded demonstrators overran Venezuela’s embassy in La Paz on Sunday, the country’s ambassador, Crisbeylee Gonzalez, told state news agency ABI.
Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez described Morales as “a protagonist and a symbol of the rights of the indigenous peoples of our Americas.”
And Brazil’s Lula insisted “my friend Morales” had been removed in a coup, evidence of “an economic elite in Latin America that did not know how to share democracy with poor people.”
Argentina’s Fernandez said a coup had been carried out “by the joint actions of violent civilians, police personnel who confined themselves to their barracks, and the passivity of the army.”
The UN meanwhile said that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “deeply concerned” about the Bolivia developments.
Guterres “urges all concerned to refrain from violence, reduce tension and exercise maximum restraint,” his spokesman said in a statement.
Trump fears his base will turn on him if he flips and calls for nationwide mask guidelines: CNN
On CNN Saturday, analyst Ron Brownstein outlined the key reason President Donald Trump is struggling to adapt his message to proper public health guidance on the coronavirus pandemic.
"Ron, there is a retail trade group that has asked President Trump to institute federal, nationwide mask guidelines at stores across the country as the country continues to re-open," said anchor Alex Marquardt. "Experts are saying that masks could save thousands of lives in the coming months. Do you see a scenario in which — any chance in which he would issue that?"
"I think the short answer is no, and for a revealing reason," said Brownstein. "He is in a trap of his own construction. On coronavirus, we talk all the time about how President Trump's base is bonded to him, immovably. He's also bonded to the base in the other direction, that he is very reluctant to get out crosswise with a base that includes the kind of people that showed up at the Michigan capital to protest lockdown without wearing masks and waving Confederate flags and carrying automatic weapons."
Trump and the GOP have become the party of the dead
There are few morbid topics subject to greater speculation than the religious loyalty of President Donald Trump's "base." Why an alarmingly large amount of Americans refuse even to entertain any criticism of Trump deserves scrutiny from political scientists, psychologists and perhaps horror novelists working in the school of Edgar Allan Poe.
This article first appeared in Salon.
What is abundantly clear is that no matter who votes for Trump, he and the Republican Party on the national level have no interest in governing on the behalf of living human beings — with the exception of ensuring that a tiny minority of billionaires and multimillionaires enlarge their investment portfolios. Trump evinces no concern for Americans dying of the coronavirus, racist violence or any other malady or injustice. He demonstrates no regard for health care professionals courageously trying to save their patients from dying, and appears cruelly indifferent to the struggles of millions of workers whose livelihoods have been destroyed by COVID-19. Needless to say, Trump also shows contempt for Black Lives Matter, immigrants and anyone who opposes his re-election, which at this moment (and throughout his presidency) is more than half of the American public.
As coronavirus seizes the state, Florida hospitals are in panic mode
This article first appeared in Salon.
There are 47,663 hospital beds in the state right now with 11,782 available (meaning a remaining capacity of 19.82 percent) and a total staffed bed capacity of 59,445, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration's Hospital Bed Capacity Dashboard. The state Department of Health also reported on Friday that, out of 95,300 individuals who received coronavirus test results over the course of the previous day, 11,433 tested positive for COVID-19 (all but 90 of whom were Florida residents), meaning that more than 12 percent of the new cases had positive test results. The state also reported 93 new deaths due to COVID-19. (Salon reached out to the Florida Department of Health for comment on this story.)