BUENOS AIRES – Evo Morales, who resigned in November as Bolivia’s president, said on Thursday that the chief of the Bolivian Supreme Court should step in as acting head of state and organize fresh elections in the Andean nation.
Under Bolivia’s constitution, Morales said, the chief judge is supposed to assume the presidency in the event of a vacancy following the end of the presidential and congressional mandates.
Morales’ term, and that of the current legislature, expires on Jan. 22, and because the results of the October 2019 elections were annulled, there is no president-elect or lawmakers-elect poised to take office.
After initially accepting refuge in Mexico, Morales arrived in Argentina three weeks ago and applied for asylum.
He was joined for Thursday’s press conference in Buenos Aires by two prominent Argentine lawyers who are representing Morales in the matter of sedition and terrorism charges brought against him by the government the Bolivian military installed after pushing him out.
The attorneys, Eugenio Zaffaroni and Gustavo Ferreyra, said Bolivia has not asked Argentina to extradite Morales and that there is no Interpol warrant for his arrest.
“Moreover, the crime of sedition is objectively political and one cannot request the extradition of anyone for a political crime, according to the extradition treaty we signed with Bolivia in 2013,” Zaffaroni, a former chief justice of Argentina’s Supreme Court, told reporters.
His attorneys insisted that Morales remains Bolivia’s constitutional president because the Legislative Assembly never accepted the resignation he submitted under duress on Nov. 10.
“We still don’t really know if the de-facto authority in Bolivia totally dominates the administrative apparatus and the territorial apparatus,” Ferreyra said. “We venture to say that it is a state of pure force.”
Zaffaroni, who currently sits on the Inter-American Court of Justice, said that with end of the current presidential and congressional terms on Jan. 22, Bolivia will be a “state of non-law.”
“How to emerge from a situation in which neither the executive branch nor the legislative branch exist? The courts remain and ultimately the right thing would be what has already happened several times in the history of Bolivia: the head of the Supreme Court assumes the provisional presidency and calls elections and this situation is normalized,” Zaffaroni said.
In an interview with EFE on Dec. 24, Morales said that the interim government in La Paz must stop persecuting his supporters to make sure that the elections promised for 2020 will be free and fair.
Bolivia’s first indigenous head of state said that while the crisis in the Andean nation could only be resolved through a “policy of reconciliation,” the prospects for such an approach appeared dim in light of the actions of the government led by right-wing Sen. Jeanine Añez.
“To say ‘Jeanine out’ is sedition and prosecution. To communicate with Evo is sedition,” he said, referring to criminal charges brought against himself and prominent members of his leftist MAS party.
Violence erupted in Bolivia a day after the Oct. 20 elections, driven by accusations of fraud from the opposition. Morales, who had been in office since 2006, claimed victory, but then invited the Organization of American States (OAS) to audit the count and agreed to abide by their judgment.
On Nov. 10, hours before announcing his resignation, Morales accepted an OAS proposal for a new election. Even so, the army brass went on television to “suggest” that he step down amid a rebellion by police units and mob violence targeting the homes and persons of prominent MAS figures, including the president’s sister.
The Bolivian Ombudsman’s Office says that 35 people have died in political violence since Oct. 20, the vast majority of them being MAS supporters killed by the security forces during protests against the Añez government.