Published:  01:21 AM, 12 November 2019

UN chief urges restraint for Bolivians

UN chief urges restraint for Bolivians Anti-government protesters block a street meters away from the presidential palace in La Paz, Bolivia, Sunday. -AP

The United Nations says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is deeply concerned about the situation in Bolivia, where Evo Morales resigned the presidency Sunday after weeks of protests over a disputed election. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric says in a Spanish-language statement that Guterres "urges all relevant parties to refrain from violence, reduce tensions and exercise maximum restraint."

Three Bolivians have been killed and more than 100 injured during clashes among opponents and supporters of Morales since the Oct. 20 election, which he claimed to have won. The statement adds that Guterres urges Bolivians "to commit to seek a peaceful solution to the current crisis and to ensure transparent and credible elections." Morales resigned soon after the release of an Organization of American States audit that reported irregularities in the vote count. Bolivia's Evo Morales claims authorities are seeking to arrest him now that he has given up the presidency under pressure after weeks of social unrest over the country's disputed election.

But a police commander said Sunday night no warrant has been issued for Morales, whose whereabouts are unknown. In a tweet, Morales said: "I report to the world and Bolivian people that a police officer publicly announced that he has instructions to execute an unlawful apprehension order against me; in addition, violent groups also stormed my home."

Police Gen. Yuri Calderon says rumors of police seeking to arrest Morales are "fake news." He says no apprehension order has been issued for Morales. Armed intruders, however, did break into Morales' home in Cochabamba. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says he is standing with Bolivia's Evo Morales, who has abruptly resigned as president amid political turmoil that erupted after his disputed election to a fourth term.

Maduro said Sunday in a nationally broadcast statement via telephone that Morales has fallen victim to the same US-backed plot that seeks to topple him from power and install a right-wing government in Venezuela. The two leftist leaders are long political allies. Venezuela's socialist party leaders are calling on Venezuelans to join in a march next Saturday to show solidarity with Morales. In Maduro's words: "Let's go to the street to defend the people's right to democracy, freedom and socialism."

Also next Saturday, US-backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is urging his supporters to demonstrate against Maduro. Argentina is urging all political and social actors in Bolivia to keep the peace and engage in dialogue following weeks of unrest over a disputed election that led Bolivian President Evo Morales to resign Sunday. In a statement, Argentina's government says calm is needed for Bolivians to navigate the transition to new elections. In its words: "It is imperative that all Bolivian political forces and leaders act at this delicate time with responsibility and restraint."

The Argentine statement also says Bolivia should work with its regional neighbors as well as impartial international groups and observers to ensure a transparent election. Morales resigned soon after the release of an Organization of American States audit that found irregularities in Oct. 20 presidential election.

The US State Department says American officials are monitoring events in Bolivia following the surprise resignation of President Evo Morales and several other top officials after weeks of sometimes violent protests over the disputed presidential election. Morales stepped down hours after the Organization of American States released report outlining irregularities in the Oct. 20 election. In a statement Sunday night, the department says: "We urge the OAS to send a mission to Bolivia to oversee the new electoral process and to ensure that the new Electoral Tribunal is truly independent and reflects a broad swath of Bolivian society. The Bolivian people deserve free and fair elections."

The statement also urges Bolivians to refrain from further violence. Clashes between Morales' supporters and opponents have left three dead and over 100 injured. Mexico's foreign minister says 20 members of Bolivia's executive and legislative branches are at the official Mexican residence in the capital seeking asylum following Sunday's resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales. - AP, Bolivia

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