Bolivian army chief urges Morales to step down

Evo MoralesImage source, AFP
Image caption,
President Evo Morales denies accusations of wrongdoing after weeks of protests

The army chief in Bolivia has urged President Evo Morales to step down amid protests stemming from his disputed re-election last month.

The call comes hours after Mr Morales agreed to call a new election after international monitors called for the result to be annulled.

The Organization of American States (OAS), which monitored the elections, found "clear manipulation".

Mr Morales has denied wrongdoing and previous calls to resign.

General Williams Kaliman told reporters on Sunday: "After analysing the conflicted domestic situation, we ask the president to resign his presidential mandate to allow for pacification and the maintaining of stability, for the good of our Bolivia."

He added that the military had ordered "operations in the air and on land to neutralise armed groups acting outside the law".

Opposition leader Carlos Mesa - who came second in last month's poll - had also urged Mr Morales and his vice-president to rule themselves out of the new election.

Nor should they preside over the electoral process, he said.

"If you have an iota of patriotism, you should step aside," Mr Mesa said at a news conference.

Mr Morales had already come under increased pressure on Sunday, with several political allies resigning, some citing fears for the safety of their families.

What did the OAS say?

In its preliminary report on Sunday, the OAS said it had found "clear manipulations" of Bolivia's voting system and it could not verify the result of the 20 October race.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Protesters marched in La Paz on Saturday with a sign reading: "Resistance against the dictatorship"

During the audit, it said it found physical records with alterations and forged signatures, and evidence of wide-scale data manipulation.

The international body concluded it was unlikely that Mr Morales had won by the 10% margin required for a victory. It recommended that a new electoral commission be set up before a fresh election could take place.

How did Mr Morales respond?

The president was first elected in 2006.

In his announcement on Sunday, he said the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TES) would be overhauled before the poll, with parliament choosing its members.

Bolivia's attorney general has now ordered an investigation into the conduct of TES members.

Mr Morales, who is Bolivia's first indigenous president, told reporters that he had made the decision "to reduce all tension".