Bolivia's Morales denounces protests by 'violent groups'

Policemen guarding the exteriors of the presidential palace in La Paz retreated to their barracks on Saturday, while officers in other Bolivian cities have declared mutinies and joined protests against President Evo Morales, who has faced two weeks of unrest over disputed election results.

Morales, Latin America's longest-standing leader, won an election on October 20, but a delay of almost a day in the vote count sparked allegations of fraud and led to protests, strikes and road blocks.

Bolivian President Evo Morales resigned Sunday amid growing opposition after an worldwide audit found the results of last month's election could not be validated due to "serious irregularities".

Morales did not mention the OAS report.

Opponents challenge an official count that showed Morales winning with 47% of the vote and a margin of just over 10 percentage points over his nearest competitor - enough to avoid the need for a runoff against a united opposition.

The opposition has disputed the results and criticized the vote-counting process, citing the alleged lack of transparency. He was expected to give a press conference on Sunday morning.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commended the OAS audit and said the US supported the new election and the installation of a new electoral council.

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The dissension in police ranks posed a new threat to Morales, who is facing the toughest moment in his almost 14 years in power, and who has often said the opposition is trying to stage a coup. "Sisters and brothers, our democracy is at risk due to the coup d'etat that violent groups have launched that undermine the constitutional order", Morales tweeted in the early hours of Saturday.

The house of a Bolivian Governor was set on fire, allegedly by protesters opposed to the re-election of President Evo Morales, as widespread demonstrations and incidents continued with police insubordination reported in many places.

He called on Bolivians to protect their democracy and constitution.

"If it means resigning to bring peace to the Bolivia people, then Mr. President we should do it", he said.

Meanwhile, demonstrators on Saturday burst into the offices of the media outlets Bolivia TV and Radio Patria Nueva and forced employees to leave, accusing them of serving the interests of Morales, AFP news agency quoted Ivan Maldonado, the director of Radio Patria Nueva, as saying.

"I cried with joy", he said on Twitter.

The president also called on his supporters, from workers unions to mining guilds, agricultural associations, indigenous groups and women's organizations, to continue "to defend. the vote of the Bolivian people" peacefully.

  • Sonia Alvarado