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LATIN AMERICA | 11-11-2019 18:33

Evo Morales granted asylum in Mexico

President formerly requested asylum Monday afternoon, with the Mexican government granting it on the basis of "humanitarian reasons."

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Monday night  former Bolivian president Evo Morales requested asylum in Mexico and that the government would grant it. 

The announcement came during a press conference Monday evening.

"Just a few moments ago, I received a call from Evo Morales regarding a formal request for asylum in this country," Ebrard said. "Mexico has decided to grant it for humanitarian reasons. His life and his wellbeing are both in danger in Bolivia." 

Meanwhile, Mexico's neighbour to the north, the United States, expressed a different take on the resignation of Morales. US President Donald Trump called it a "significant moment for democracy" and said it would send a strong message to countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua that "democracy and the will of the people will always prevail." 

Earlier in the day, Mexico's president Ángel Miguel López Obrador called on the Organisation of the American States (OAS) to address the current crisis in Bolivia. He said the group should offer a "clear position" rather than "silence." 

Later in the day, the OAS responded by rejecting "any unconstitutional way out" and asked Bolivia's Legislative Power to meet in order to "reassure the institutional functionality and name new authorities that can oversee a new electoral process." 

Morales' decision to accept Mexico’s offer of political asylum thrusts President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government into the centre of a crisis that has split Latin America’s government allegiances.

The asylum was granted due to “humanitarian reasons and by virtue of the emergency situation he faces in Bolivia, where his life and integrity are at risk,” Mexican Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard said at a press conference in Mexico City on Monday.

Mexico has asked Bolivia’s Foreign Ministry to ensure Morales’s safe passage to the country under international law, he said. The former president flew out Monday night on a plane that made a brief stop in Paraguay to refuel.

Bolivia is in chaos after a night of arson attacks and clashes. Morales quit Sunday following election irregularities that triggered weeks of violence and intervention from the Armed Forces.

The offer of asylum was originally made public by Ebrard via Twitter on Sunday night, saying that the Mexican government has received 20 Bolivian executive and legislative officials seeking asylum at the nation’s official residence in La Paz and would offer the same to Morales.

An Aymara Indian in a country historically ruled by a wealthier, white elite, Morales took power in 2006, the year that López Obrador made the first of his two unsuccessful runs for the president before he finally won election last year. Morales was a champion for the poor and an icon of the region’s left.

Ebrard on Sunday had decried the military’s intervention to push Morales aside, saying it was reminiscent of Latin America’s bloody coups of the 20th century. On Monday, he again criticized the armed forces for interrupting Bolivia’s proper constitutional order.

Mexico has a long tradition of granting asylum to foreign leaders. The Shah of Iran, who fled during the revolution in 1979, took refuge in the resort city of Cuernavaca, with former US president Richard Nixon coming to visit him. Soviet leader Leon Trotsky, who became an exile after clashing with Joseph Stalin, moved to Mexico in 1937 and was welcomed by leftist president Lázaro Cárdenas, who is a hero for López Obrador.

Morales said in a post on Twitter Monday that his house and his sister’s house were attacked, and that his ministers have received threats. Banks, supermarkets and government offices in the centre of La Paz were closed following looting Sunday night, local media reported.

– TIMES/AP/BLOOMBERG

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