LA PAZ – Bolivia is on edge this Monday as it waits to see what will happen at the end of the day when time runs out on an ultimatum for President Evo Morales to resign, launched by a civic leader amid the national crisis caused by elections for which the opposition demands a run-off.
The Pro Santa Cruz Committee, whose leader Luis Fernando Camacho on Saturday gave Evo Morales 48 hours to step down from the presidency, has scheduled a meeting for Monday night when the period for the president to respond to the ultimatum expires.
Camacho said Sunday night it will be during the citizens’ assembly tonight in downtown Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s largest city, when it will be made known how his group will react if Morales fails to resign.
This is not the first time Camacho has issued such a warning. On the day after the Oct. 20 elections, for example, he demanded a run-off between Evo Morales and opposition candidate Carlos Mesa.
The request then became a demand for the annulment of the election and the resignation of the president, who has governed since 2006 and has been in office longer than any other president in Bolivian history.
Morales, for his part, said he would call an emergency meeting of movements that have supported him during his more than 13 years in power, though the only gathering yet to occur was a meeting Monday morning with a federation of mining cooperatives.
Such meetings are usual on his daily agenda at the seat of government in La Paz.
Barricades on the main streets of cities around the country are being maintained throughout the day, though in some more than others, with the greatest traffic problems caused on the south side of La Paz and at points around Sucre, the capital.
Additionally, in some urban areas like Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, peaceful protests have been reported in front of public institutions.
Suspicion of fraud arose when the day after the elections the preliminary count went from indicating that a second-round election between Morales and Mesa would be necessary, since they had the most votes though neither had a sufficient majority for an outright win, to forecasting a first-round victory for the head of state and his fourth straight term in office that would last until 2025.
The protests have gone on since then with moments of violence – like when two men were shot to death last week in the eastern city of Montero – though the violence has tapered off since then following calls for calm by the government, the opposition and civic movements.
Detractors of Morales do not accept the audit of the electoral process carried out by the Organization of American States (OAS) to determine whether or not fraud was committed, on grounds that it was arranged with the government alone without ever contacting the opposition.
The Morales administration accuses those claiming fraud of having no proof at all and of not accepting his victory in an attempted coup d’etat, a phrase the president has used repeatedly since he came to power whenever a crisis occurs.