Former Bolivian president Evo Morales arrives in Mexico after accepting political asylum

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales arrived Tuesday in Mexico, where authorities have granted him political asylum.

Emerging from a Mexican Air Force jet here, Morales was met on the tarmac by Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, who embraced the man who has led Bolivia for almost 14 years.

A somber Morales thanked Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, asserting that Mexico had saved his life after he received death threats in Bolivia.

In a short statement before the press at the airport, Morales denounced violence in his homeland and declared that he would continue “the fight” for equality in Bolivia.

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Former Bolivian President Evo Morales waves upon landing in Mexico City on Tuesday.

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales waves upon landing in Mexico City on Tuesday.

(Claudio Cruz / AFP )

“Thanks to Mexico, to its authorities,” he said. “But I also want to tell you that as long as we are alive, we will continue in politics. … And we are sure that people have the right to liberate themselves.”

Morales, an avowed socialist who is Bolivia’s first indigenous president, has pledged to return to Bolivia and declared that he was the victim of a coup.

Ebrard, the Mexican foreign minister, also characterized Morales’ forced departure as a coup.

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Morales resigned on Sunday after the head of Bolivia’s army requested that he step down following weeks of protests over disputed national elections on Oct. 20.

Morales, seeking his fourth straight term, says he won. But critics, who argue that Morales had ambitions to be president for life, charged that the election had been rigged, and a team from the Organization of American States found numerous irregularities in the balloting.

The former president dropped from public sight for a day before a Mexican military jet arrived in Bolivia on Monday to take him to Mexico.

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales waves to spectators as he walks with Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard after arriving in Mexico City on Tuesday.

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales waves to spectators as he walks with Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard after arriving in Mexico City on Tuesday.

(Pedro Pardo / AFP )

Morales and an entourage of political allies arrived here shortly after 11 a.m. local time on Tuesday following a circuitous route and a stop in Paraguay after several nations — including Peru and Ecuador — denied flyover or refueling rights, the Mexican foreign minister said.

Street protests and clashes between Morales’ supporters and foes have rocked Bolivia since Sunday.

His resignation, along with those of his constitutionally designated successors, has left the Andean nation of 11 million without a president. Lawmakers were planning to meet Tuesday in La Paz, the capital, to seek a way out of the country’s leadership void.

Among those accompanying Morales to Mexico was Bolivia’s former vice president, Alvaro Garcia Linera, a longtime confidant of Morales who also resigned.

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Before Morales arrived here, the Mexican foreign minister dismissed suggestions that Mexico’s decision to grant asylum to Morales — a longtime critic of U.S. “imperialism” — would elevate tensions with the United States. The Trump administration applauded Morales’ departure and called for new elections in Bolivia.

“With the United States there is no tension, there may be differences,” Ebrard told reporters in Mexico City.

Lopez Obrador, who was elected last year as Mexico’s first declared leftist president in a generation, has sought cordial relations with the Trump administration.

The decision to grant asylum to Morales, Ebrard said, was in line with Mexico’s longtime practice of providing refuge to political dissidents — from Republicans fleeing the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s to Chileans escaping the military government of Gen. Augusto Pinochet during the 1970s and 1980s.

Among the celebrated exiles who have sought refuge in Mexico were Fidel Castro, who arrived here in 1955 after being jailed in Cuba, and Leon Trotsky, the Bolshevik revolutionary leader. In 1940, a Soviet agent assassinated Trotsky at his home here.

Mexican authorities vowed to ensure the safety of Morales, who was whisked away from the airport in a military helicopter.

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