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LATIN AMERICA | 29-07-2020 09:21

Evo Morales supporters rally against Bolivia election delay

Supporters of ousted former leader demonstrate and call general strike as part of a protest against decision to further delay national elections due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Supporters of former Bolivian president Evo Morales announced plans for a general strike on Tuesday while protesting a decision to further delay national elections because of the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country.

Morales fled the country late last year and now lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after demonstrations against his re-election to an unconstitutional fourth term.

At least 5,000 people demanded the government walk back plans to postpone the vote by another six weeks during a march through El Alto, an electoral stronghold for the leftist ex-leader.

"The election date of September 6 must be respected," mining leader Lucio Padilla told AFP. "Our obligation is to defend democracy."

Labour activists are planning national work stoppages from Monday unless the election tribunal pledges to hold the vote on schedule. 

"If this council is not heard... the indefinite general strike begins," said Carlos Huarachi, the leader of the country's main trade union federation Central Obrera Boliviana.

The election has already been delayed once from its original date in May.

Supporters of the ousted president accuse the right-wing administration of Jeanine Áñez of pushing back the vote further because Morales protege Luis Arce is leading the polls.

Áñez assumed the interim presidency last year but her tenure – originally intended as a stopgap until new elections could be held – has been criticised for dragging on and lacking legitimacy.

But the government said it was forced into the delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 3,000 people and infected more than 72,000 others nationwide.

Government minister Yerko Núñez accused Morales and Arce of encouraging public marches and risking further spread of the outbreak.

Arce "has admitted that he is behind these protests... and will have to be held accountable for the decision he has made," Núñez said.

– TIMES/AFP

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