Bolivian deposed President Evo Morales, who resigned due to the protests that engulfed the country following the recent elections, has told Sputnik exactly what happened during those days – when he decided to resign, whether the transfer of power was legal, how he managed to leave for Mexico, and who tried to stop him.
Morales also spoke about what he is going to do next, whether he plans to return to Bolivia, what is needed in order for him to return, and also gave an assessment of what is happening in his country.
Sputnik: Could you tell us, please, how you managed to leave Bolivia, what the situation was like at the time, if have you received any threats, and how you felt in your country?
Evo Morales: Well, I can say that after 20 October, exactly a month ago, we had the elections that we won. Two or three days after the official count, we won the first round. However, on Monday 21 October, the right-wingers who lost the elections called on their supporters to take to the streets against fraud because of the allegedly rigged elections. Now we realise that they were hiding behind the words of “fraud” to stage a coup d’état. On the evening of 21 October, in five of the nine departments of Bolivia, they set fire to the buildings of the electoral courts, burned ballot boxes, and control protocols.
And here is when the policy of racism, aggression, and violence, which lasted until 10 November, came into play. But I want to tell you that after setting the institutions on fire, they turned to attacks against our supporters, started hunting for union leaders, began to interfere with the change, assaulted government officials, departmental governments, set fire to their houses, captured their families to make them resign. Now I understand that it began with racism and reached fascism: they attacked representatives of the indigenous population, the indigenous inhabitants of the west, of the west of Bolivia, burning the national flag recognized by the constitution.
It was undoubtedly a tough battle. But that day last week, after the police, the armed forces, and even the OAS supported the coup, we had to announce our resignation. Above all, we left the office to stop the violence against our supporters and the authorities. Then we resigned. But I want to note that during our governance there was not a single person who died from a bullet wound, and now 32 people have died from gunshot wounds, from 11 November to yesterday.
It was a coup. There was no constitutional transfer of power. After the coup, there is only murder and genocide. We continue to receive such information. For example, yesterday many people died from bullet wounds, this is a total dictatorship, it hurts me to hear that. Those leaders who are currently being persecuted by criminal proceedings are waging a peaceful struggle for democracy, for life, and, above all, for their homeland. Once again, it hurts me to hear all this while being in Mexico. We hope the situation will calm down.
The challenge before us is to find a way to do so. We have already invited international organisations. Yesterday, we tried to make contact, but we failed. I feel that the ugly hand of racism, fascism, a coup d’état is working under the supervision of the United States.
Sputnik: Did you feel that your life was in danger when you were in Bolivia? Were you threatened?
Evo Morales: I will only tell you about three days. On Saturday 9 November, I went to the tropical region of Cochabamba to meet with local leaders and social movements. Upon arrival at Chimore Airport, one of the security officers, a little nervous, told me: “Mr President, I received messages and phone calls. The message I read said ‘give us Evo!’, and on the phone, they told me: ‘Give us Evo and you will have 50 grand…’” I asked what he meant by 50 grand. 50,000 dollars.
The officers loyal to me told me that the security would be strengthened. The next day, when we returned to Chimore, the president’s plane suddenly went to the military terminal instead of stopping at the commercial terminal. I asked: “What is going on? Why the military terminal?” And they told me they had received such instructions. I told them to get the plane to the commercial terminal. However, at that moment I saw 10-15 trucks moving at full speed.
Local leaders arrived, and I felt that they had rescued me because then it turned out that that there were heavily armed soldiers in one of the hangars. We stayed the night and spent it in the woods without any problems. The next day, the same thing happened to the plane from Mexico, which then took us there. It was blatant persecution.
Sputnik: I beg your pardon for repeating myself, but I just want to clarify something: are you saying that they promised 50,000 US dollars for your life or for information about your whereabouts?
Evo Morales: On Saturday 9 November, another security officer handed over messages to me. I read them. They said literally “Give us Evo and you’ll get 50 grand”. I asked again what that meant. It turned out to be 50,000 dollars. These people, who called by phone, offered my security 50,000 dollars to turn me in.
Sputnik: How did you manage to leave Bolivia and get to Mexico in this critical situation? After all, some countries did not want to help you…
Evo Morales: At first, it was planned that on 11 November the plane from Mexico would arrive at Chimore International Airport. They said that it was supposed to arrive on the morning of the 11th, but there was no plane. And at about 8-9 a.m., suspicious people in plain clothes were walking around the airport. Everyone said that they were police officers.
All my supporters who were with me in the forest of Chimore gathered at the airport entrance. There were more than 10,000 people. The plane did not arrive in the morning, and we were told that it would arrive at 3.15 p.m. Then we were told that the plane had left Lima but that it was denied entry into Bolivian territory. People gathered to prevent me from being detained or abducted, particularly at the time when I got on the plane. The plane returned to Lima, and we were expecting it by 9.15 p.m., and only at 9.25 p.m. did the plane arrive.
Our supporters continued to gather. Of course, there were not 10,000 of them, but somewhere between 6000 and 7,000. The plane landed, and we were taken to it to get on board. But then the pilots told us that the permit had expired and they couldn’t go back to Lima. We went back to the terminal. Luckily, my supporters were still waiting, they didn’t leave. Some, of course, left, but then came back. Obviously, the commander of the Bolivian Air Force gave instructions to prevent the plane from leaving the airport. Vice President Álvaro García Linera contacted the commander and received permission.
We solved these problems and now we were flying to Paraguay, not Lima. When we landed in Paraguay, we were informed that some countries, such as Peru and Ecuador, had refused to allow us to fly over their territory. Fortunately, Brazil and, of course, Paraguay, gave us permission. We have been through some serious challenges.
Moreover, the US on Monday called Foreign Minister Diego Pary and said that they could provide a plane that would take us where we want. But there was some mistrust, we could not understand. I just said that if we boarded that plane, it would definitely leave us at Guantanamo. It was also suspicious that, when the Mexican plane was supposed to arrive in Bolivia, the US requested information about the pilots.
Sputnik: You emphasize the United States’ role in the coup d’état in Bolivia. But could other countries have been involved in this situation?
Evo Morales: During the election campaign, I had official information that they had created action teams from Brazil, Chile, and the United States. I don’t have much information. But before the elections, I summoned the US Embassy chargé d’affaires to explain how the workers, the embassy employees, were campaigning against me, offering dollars in exchange for refusing to vote for Evo, although they promised not to interfere in the internal affairs.
Now we are living in a dictatorship with a new leadership, and the US authorities were the first to recognise this government. Therefore, all this indicates that they participated in the coup.
Sputnik: How long do you plan to stay in Mexico for?
Evo Morales: I can’t say for sure. But here is what I want to tell you. We are being told that the United States does not want me to return to Bolivia. And the new Bolivian authorities, I mean the actual government, do not want me back in Bolivia. Personally, I wish I could return to Bolivia tomorrow. We’ll see how to get back to Bolivia as soon as possible. We hope that the de facto government will provide guarantees for us to return, and if something happens to me, the responsibility for this will lie solely with the current government, where as many people have died as during the military dictatorship.
Sputnik: Do they not want you to return to Bolivia because they know that you will be president again and the people will support you? Is that why the US doesn’t want you back?
Evo Morales: I gave up everything to settle the situation in Bolivia. If they are so afraid of me, then there is no problem, I will not stand for the next election. All for the sake of peace, all to ensure there are no deaths. If there is anything I can do to help resolve the situation, here we are. Therefore, it is important to understand how we can come together in Bolivia to look for ways to public peace.
Sputnik: You said that if necessary, you will not participate in the elections as a candidate. Who could be a candidate from MAS (the Movement for Socialism political party led by Evo Morales –ed. note Sputnik) in this case?
Evo Morales: We have to meet and discuss everything. We have new members, new leaders, both in rural and urban areas. I have not thought about this yet, because we decide everything in meetings, in extended format. We need some time for this.
Sputnik: A few days ago, you said there might be mediators to settle the situation. You mentioned former President of Uruguay Mujica and former Prime Minister of Spain Zapatero. Did you manage to talk to them, make an official proposal?
Evo Morales: Not yet. So far, they have confirmed their assistance in establishing a dialogue between the EU, senior officials of the Catholic Church, and the UN. If there are other international organizations, individuals who want to participate – they are welcomed. Together we will discuss how to reach a peaceful solution in Bolivia.
Sputnik: What are the conditions for your return to Bolivia?
Evo Morales: I ask for guarantees not only for myself but for the entire resigned leadership, for all our union leaders. Unfortunately, the situation in Bolivia now resembles a military dictatorship. Imagine that 32 people have died of gunshot wounds in nine days. This is genocide! These are crimes against humanity, and there can be no impunity for such crimes.
I call on the international community, the United Nations, human rights institutions: come and condemn. What is happening in Bolivia must be condemned. I repeat, during my tenure and election campaign, not a single person was killed. We were protecting people’s lives. I am convinced that life is above any law. Life, international norms, international treaties on life and human rights are above any national law. Instead, the de facto government issues a decree that gives a kind of carte blanche to the military, allowing them to shoot people. I have appealed to the armed forces with a call: “Stop getting your hands dirty in the blood!”
Sputnik: A video appeared a few days ago showing the current Bolivian government accusing you of using violent methods. What can you say to that?
Evo Morales: I am not familiar with that video. I have not seen it yet, I have nothing to comment on. But, yesterday, for example, they said that I was in Bolivia. That’s a lie. You remember they made another video in which someone dressed as an Argentinian priest said that I had €325 million in the Vatican. I found out where this Argentine priest is, no one knew him. They could disguise any Argentinian as a priest and make him speak against me. So many lies, so much distortion of facts, so many staged videos! When I see that video, I will make a comment, but for now I have nothing to say. I think this is just more video editing that the government is doing, as always.
Sputnik: Do you think that the protests and repression now taking place in Bolivia could lead to a civil war?
Evo Morales: I am very afraid of this, and therefore there is an urgent need to put an end to this violence created by the right-wing forces of Bolivia, who are trying to silence the people with massacres and genocide. But they won’t be able to shut the people up with genocide, they won’t be able to shut them up with massacres, they won’t be able to scare the people with the dead and wounded. La Paz and some other cities are completely paralyzed, and I see that there are more and more peaceful demonstrations for life and democracy.
Sputnik: Have you asked for help from any country, such as Russia, for example? How can Russia help improve the situation in Bolivia and facilitate your return to your homeland?
Evo Morales: I would be grateful if any country, including Russia, could facilitate the dialogue. It would also be good if the governments of other countries, individuals, and major human rights organizations joined us in helping Bolivia. If it is a question of resolving the situation or guaranteeing the rights in Bolivia, we would welcome any organization or country in the world.
Sputnik: Do you suspect there might be foreign military intervention in Bolivia? By the United States?
Evo Morales: I have no information about any foreign military intervention. I am sure that there are countries that are always preparing to intervene under the pretext of human rights, under the pretext of democracy. They are constantly interfering. If our goal is to ensure peace, we must remember that this can only be achieved if social justice is guaranteed. Peace is not ensured by military intervention, but by respect for the dignity and identity of every nation in the world.
Sputnik: What do you think is the reason for the protests and instability in Latin America, including in Chile and Ecuador?
Evo Morales: The people are becoming organized and mobilized against the neoliberal economic model, the economic model imposed by the IMF in privatization. In the case of Bolivia, things are completely different. There is a struggle of the rich against the poor, the rich against the needy, especially against the indigenous people. First of all, the rich do not recognize the right of indigenous people to vote, nor do they recognize social protests. When the members of the lower class, the indigenous peoples, and social movements mobilize, there is shooting, killing, and death. But when the rich mobilize, there is no shooting, no detention.
Over the past few weeks, for example, they burned down my sister’s house in Oruro. But there were no police or military. They plundered my house in Cochabamba – not a single soldier or police officer. But when my supporters gather – not to attack, not to take revenge, but to defend democracy and life – then there are dead and wounded. That is the big difference between us. We can only solve this through dialogue. Reconciliation can come only through dialogue. I am deeply concerned. I feel terrible when my sisters and brothers misbehave when they fight because of the right-wing government, which has other interests that are not to solve the country’s problems. What worries me most is that over the 13 years of our government, we have guaranteed political and social stability, economic growth, and now, in a matter of days, they are destroying what we have been building with great effort. The consequences of that will affect economic indicators.
Sputnik: Do you think that instability might spread to other Latin American countries?
Evo Morales: I have no relevant information. Besides, we are busy now – we are concerned about the situation in Bolivia. Any social, economic, regional or national problems must be resolved through dialogue, and not on someone’s whims, as is now happening under the de facto government of Bolivia.
Sputnik: How do you see your future?
Evo Morales: So far, my wish is to return to Bolivia. As always, I would be doing my job, taking care of my family, but I would also be involved in the social, union struggle. Everything is for our beloved Bolivia.
Sputnik: What else would you like to tell our readers?
Evo Morales: The only thing I want to say is that there are some groups that have the economic power to kill the poor and ordinary people. They do not want us – Indians, indigenous peoples, social movements – to change Bolivia. I want to say that these people have set fire to my sister’s house in Oruro, plundered my house in Cochabamba. The police were supposed to provide security. But, unfortunately, some of their commanders serve this ruling class bunch, and not the ordinary people. I am convinced that sooner or later, they will be convicted.
I want the armed forces, the national police, and especially their leadership, to know that international human rights standards are above any decree, any law. They are being deceived by promises that they will be protected. There is no protection. Crimes against humanity shall be punished. And some commanders are already trying to escape, because they know they have committed crimes, crimes against humanity.