Bolivia’s Morales Steps Down Under Pressure
Leftist leaders in the region have decried the series of events following the disputed presidential election as a coup.
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Bolivia’s long-serving President Evo Morales resigns, Hong Kong police fire live rounds at protesters, and Spain’s elections lead to another hung parliament.
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Bolivia’s Evo Morales Forced From Power
After nearly 14 years in power, Bolivian President Evo Morales announced in an address to the nation that he would resign on Sunday—following a call from the military for him to step down. Leftist leaders in Argentina, Venezuela, and Mexico decried the maneuver as a coup, with Mexico’s foreign minister offering Morales asylum if he sought it. Bolivia’s vice president and the president of the Senate have also resigned.
Morales was declared the winner of a disputed presidential election on Oct. 20, which was followed by weeks of protest and an audit by the Organization of American States. (In recent days, police joined the demonstrations.) After the audit found “clear manipulations” of the vote on Sunday, Morales initially agreed to hold new elections. But then the pressure intensified: Morales’ allies began to resign and the military asked him to step down, too.
Bolivia divided. The turmoil over the past few weeks and Morales’ determination to hold onto power have left Bolivia deeply divided. Morales, the country’s first indigenous leader, remained popular—especially in poor, rural areas. His supporters had clashed with the opposition in the streets, and the protests have wreaked havoc on Bolivia’s already unstable economy.
Who will be in charge? Under Bolivia’s constitution, the vice president and then the head of the Senate would take over following a president’s resignation—but they have also stepped down. Lawmakers are expected to appoint an interim head of government until new elections can be held. In the mean time, with chaos engulfing the country, Jeanine Añez, the vice-president of the senate, has announced that she is assuming power in accordance with the country’s rules of succession.
What We’re Following Today
Hong Kong police shoot two protesters. Two pro-democracy protesters were injured by live fire on Monday in Hong Kong after a confrontation with police, with both activists taken to the hospital. The city was already preparing for a general strike called after the death of another young protester who fell from a parking garage last weekend. The strike follows another weekend of violent anti-government demonstrations, and seven universities remain suspended across Hong Kong.
Spain faces political deadlock, again. Seeking to form a progressive government, Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez begins meeting with other party leaders today after Sunday’s elections—the second this year—led to another hung parliament. But negotiations to form a coalition are likely to be more difficult this time around. Sánchez’s Socialists won slightly fewer seats than in the April vote, his natural ally Podemos lost several seats, and the far-right Vox party more than doubled its number of seats. Neither the left nor the right appears to have a path to a majority.
“Catastrophic” bushfires burn in Australia. The Australian states of New South Wales and Queensland have declared a state of emergency as more than 120 bushfires threaten communities there. In New South Wales, a “catastrophic” warning has been put in place for the first time, including for the Sydney metropolitan area. Thousands of people have been evacuated, and conditions are expected to worsen over the next few days. The fires come a year after Australia’s hottest summer on record.
The World This Week
This week, three U.S. diplomats will testify in public in the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. (Ten officials have already testified behind closed doors.) The acting ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, will be the first to testify on Wednesday, followed immediately by the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, George Kent, and then the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, on Friday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits the White House on Wednesday, but he could face icy reception in Washington just weeks after Turkey launched an offensive in northern Syria. On Sunday, U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said that the United States could impose sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of Russian missile defense systems—something that could come up between Erdogan and Trump.
Sri Lanka holds its presidential election on Sunday, with many parties backing the opposition candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the brother of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Rajapaksas have been criticized abroad for alleged human rights violations and Sri Lanka’s growing ties to China. Ahead of the election, the country’s election commission censored a state TV station for supposed bias against Rajapaksa.
Keep an Eye On
Fentanyl and the U.S.-China trade deal. After China indicated there could be a breakthrough in the trade war with the United States last week, the Trump administration quickly denied it. One sticking point in the dispute remains the U.S. opioid crisis, the Guardian reports. Trump has blamed Chinese-produced fentanyl for the rising number of drug deaths, and the issue could become more important ahead of the 2020 U.S. election.
Mexico calls in the FBI. Mexico has invited the FBI to assist with the investigation into an attack that killed nine dual U.S.-Mexican citizens in northern Mexico last week. U.S. agents would work alongside their Mexican counterparts. Trump blames drug cartels for the deadly attack and has urged Mexico to take greater action against the gangs.
Misinformation in Britain’s snap election. Ahead of the Dec. 12 U.K. election, social media companies say they are scrambling to combat misinformation on their platforms as government officials fail to take action. Experts are concerned that British voters remain susceptible to the same type of misleading online ads that plagued the 2016 Brexit vote.
2019 Diplomat of the Year—Foreign Policy will honor NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in an exclusive celebration on Nov. 12, convening over 200 senior leaders from the global diplomatic and defense community. To request an invitation, please fill out this form.
Odds and Ends
Iceland now wants Denmark return around 1,400 early Scandinavian manuscripts given to the University of Copenhagen by an Icelandic scholar nearly 300 years ago. (Iceland was ruled by Denmark until 1944.) The texts recount Viking history and Norse mythology, and Danish scholars argue they are part of Denmark’s cultural heritage.
British grime musicians who overtly backed Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the 2017 election are less enthusiastic this time around. Although the star Stormzy famously declared “Fuck Boris” at the Glastonbury Festival earlier this year, many of the leading names in grime—a style of electronic dance music that emerged in London—feel that they were used to turn out the vote in black communities and then received little in return. The musician Skepta claimed that artists put their names behind Labour two years ago but that now politicians “don’t give a fuck about us again.” The group Grime4Corbyn is, however, still planning an “FCK BORIS” street party in the prime minister’s Uxbridge constituency on Nov. 16.
That’s it for today.
Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson