Bolivia’s Morales departs for exile in Mexico

Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president departed Monday for exile in Mexico, leaving behind a country in turmoil after his abrupt resignation as president.

As the nation suddenly found itself without a leader, the military agreed to help police take back streets lost to violence from disgruntled supporters of Bolivia’s first indigenous president.

The senator set to succeed Morales as interim president, Jeanine Anez, pledged to call fresh elections to end the political crisis.

Bolivia appeared increasingly rudderless after dozens of officials and ministers resigned along with Morales, some seeking refuge in foreign embassies.

Morales left the country on a military plane sent for him by Mexico, which granted him political asylum for his safety. Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard confirmed Morales was on the plane.

“It pains me to leave the country for political reasons, but I will always be watching. I will be back soon with more strength and energy,” Morales tweeted.

The crisis touched off by his resignation Sunday — after three weeks of protests over his disputed re-election — deepened Monday as gangs unhappy with his departure attacked police stations and civilians, triggering panic in the streets.

On Monday night hundreds of Morales supporters who traveled to La Paz from nearby El Alto protested outside the presidential palace.

Overwhelmed police asked for help from the army.

“The military command of the armed forces has arranged for joint operations with the police to prevent bloodshed and fighting amongst the Bolivian family,” said chief General Williams Kaliman in a televised address.

Three persons have died in clashes since the disputed election.

Morales, 60, announced his resignation in a televised address on Sunday. The streets of La Paz immediately exploded in celebration, with jubilant Bolivians waving the country’s flag, but violence and vandalism later erupted overnight there and in El Alto.

Morales, a former coca farmer who was Bolivia’s first indigenous president, said his opposition rivals, Mesa and Luis Fernando Camacho, “will go down in history as racists and coup plotters.”

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