Morales Backers Fight Cops as Bolivia Leader Consolidates Power

Matthew Bristow and John Quigley

(Bloomberg) -- Enraged supporters of ousted socialist leader Evo Morales battled police in downtown La Paz as Bolivia’s interim leader appointed a new cabinet and new military high command during her first day in power.

Senator Jeanine Anez, a lawmaker who took over after Morales fled the country, on Wednesday called for an end to the violence and reiterated her pledge to hold new elections.

Anez is trying to consolidate her tenuous hold on power amid opposition from pro-Morales lawmakers who say she’s the illegitimate leader of a coup. Senator Adriana Salvatierra from Morales’s Movement Toward Socialism party, known as MAS, said her colleagues had been assaulted and barred from entering congress.

The MAS has a majority in both houses of congress, which will make it difficult for Anez to govern.

Security forces fired tear gas a few blocks from congress, while protesters threw rocks and set fire to buildings.

Anez told congress on Tuesday that she would assume the leadership of the Senate, and that under the constitution this makes her interim head of state. The nation’s constitutional court laid out the legal justification for the move in a ruling published on its website.

Anez occupied the government palace Tuesday evening, clutching a giant bible. On Wednesday, she named a new cabinet including Jose Parada, an economist from the Santa Cruz region, as finance minister.

Morales, who quit Nov. 10, has called Anez a “right-wing coup leader” who had seized power in “the most crafty and nefarious coup in history.” Speaking in a news conference from Mexico City, Morales said he’s ready to return home to pacify the country if Bolivians want him to.

There has been a power vacuum since Morales resigned under pressure from the military. Morales’ vice president, and the heads of the two houses of congress also quit, leaving Bolivia without a constitutional replacement for the head of state.

How Evo Morales Fell and Plunged Bolivia Into Chaos: QuickTake

Coca growers and other Morales supporters pledged nationwide protests until he returns.

“The critical period for achieving governability is in the next five to seven days,” Jose Gabriel Espinoza, an adviser to the National Chamber of Commerce, said in a phone interview.

The nation’s dollar bonds continued to drop Wednesday, adding to a three-week sell-off, as uncertainty over Bolivia’s future spooked investors. The yield on the bonds maturing in 2028 rose 0.02 percentage point to 5.98%, the highest since February.

Anez has said she aims to call a presidential election and transfer power to a new leader in January. Morales on Tuesday arrived in Mexico, whose government is granting him asylum. His party said in a statement that he fled to escape a plot by Bolivian police to assassinate him.

‘Constitutional Solution’

The crisis reached a head Sunday, after monitors from the Organization of American States said it was unlikely that Morales had really won last month’s election by a big enough margin to avoid a second round. Morales initially offered to hold a new election, then quit after the army publicly withdrew its support.

Read More: Bolivian Debt Is No-Go as Morales Exit Fuels Investor Doubt

Morales’s departure split governments in the Americas and beyond. The U.S., Brazil and the U.K. have recognized Anez as president, while Russia joined Mexico, Venezuela and Cuba in denouncing what the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said appeared to have been “an orchestrated coup.”

Morales took office in 2006, and stayed in power longer than any of the leftist leaders who reshaped the continent’s politics during the 2000s.

To contact the reporters on this story: Matthew Bristow in Bogota at mbristow5@bloomberg.net;John Quigley in Lima at jquigley8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Matthew Bristow at mbristow5@bloomberg.net, ;Juan Pablo Spinetto at jspinetto@bloomberg.net, Robert Jameson

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