Bolivian President Evo Morales has announced his resignation, seeking to calm the country after weeks of unrest over a disputed election that he had claimed to win.
Morales said he was stepping down “for the good of the country,” which has been roiled by protests in the days following the October 20 election. Three people have died in the protests and hundreds have been injured.
Demonstrators and the Bolivian opposition had accused electoral authorities of manipulating the vote count in favor of Morales, the country’s longtime socialist leader. Morales denied the allegations but declared himself the winner.
Morales was one of the longest-serving heads of state in Latin America. He had served nearly 14 years and was Bolivia’s first indigenous president.
Morales called earlier in the day for urgent, open-ended dialogue with opposition parties holding seats in the National Assembly, but he pointedly excluded the powerful regional civic committees opposing him.
An opposition leader, former president Carlos Mesa, immediately rejected Morales’s gesture, saying, “We have nothing to negotiate with Evo Morales and his government.”
A police rebellion erupted Friday among an elite tactical operations unit called UTOP in the central city of Cochabamba. It then spread to units in Sucre, the constitutional capital, and Santa Cruz, a bastion of opposition strength in the east.
In a damning report, the Organization of American States (OAS) said on Sunday that Morales’ election victory should be annulled due to irregularities and a new ballot held.
The OAS announcement sparked off a dramatic day as key allies – including minister, regional governors and government legislators – stepped down. The military also called on Morales to resign for the good of the country.
Morales – a 60-year-old former union leader who remains popular with many Bolivians, particularly in poorer rural areas – had earlier agreed to the new vote, but for many around the country that was not enough.
Amid clashes in the streets between supporters of Morales and opposition protesters, some said they could see no easy resolution to the worst crisis in decades in the nation of 11 million people.