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Bolivia crisis deepens

International | Opposition grows against interim leader
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 11/19/19, 04:48 pm

Bolivia has joined the list of nations around the globe dealing with ongoing battles between protesters and police. But unlike demonstrators who want to depose unpopular leaders in Haiti, Hong Kong, Iraq, and other places, Bolivian protesters want to bring back exiled President Evo Morales.

Morales, who served as president for 14 years, was the country’s first indigenous leader. A former coca farmer, he increased representation for the minority group to which he belonged. The nation’s economy also grew under his leadership.

But Bolivia began shifting toward dictatorship under Morales’ rule. A 2013 law required churches to register with the state and report information like membership rolls and financial details. In 2016, the government organized a referendum to change the constitution to allow Morales to seek a fourth term. When 51 percent of voters said no, Morales appealed to his loyalist-packed constitutional court, which ruled he had a right to run for reelection.

Eduardo Gamarra, a Bolivian professor of political science at Florida International University, said Morales would have been remembered as the Nelson Mandela of Bolivia if he had respected his term limits.

The Washington-based Organization of American States found irregularities in Bolivia’s Oct. 20 election and called for a new vote. Morales, who first sparked the protests by claiming he won a fourth term, agreed to a new election. But he resigned Nov. 10 after mounting pressure from the country’s military chief. The vice president and Senate president from his party, Movement for Socialism (MAS), also stepped down. Morales sought political asylum in Mexico, claims he is still president, and has called on the United Nations to intervene.

Opposition Senate Vice President Jeanine Añez stepped into the vacuum and declared herself the interim leader even after lawmakers from the MAS party boycotted her swearing-in ceremony. She insisted Morales left on his own and said he will likely face charges for election fraud if he returns. “I now call for a peaceful and democratic transition, revoking the conditions that had made us into a totalitarian country,” Añez said.

Añez has 90 days to organize a new vote, but Morales’ party maintains a parliamentary majority. An agreement last week with MAS fell through the day after it was announced.

“She has to name a new electoral board and hold elections all before the 22nd of January,” Gamarra said. “That’s going to be a very difficult task with the MAS mobilized on the streets and holding two-thirds of Congress.”

In the streets, Morales supporters—mostly indigenous people—continue to clash with security forces. At least nine people died and 22 others sustained injuries during protests calling for Morales’ safe return in the central town of Sacaba on Friday.

In the administrative city of La Paz, police fired tear gas at demonstrators mainly from the coca-growing region of Chapare, as they threw rocks and waved the indigenous “Wiphala” flags. Protesters blocked the city’s major highways, creating food and fuel shortages.

“[Añez] does not represent the people, but the big elites, the society that has money but does not represent the poor,” bread seller Ruth Moscoso told Reuters.

Associated Press/L’Osservatore Romano (file) Associated Press/L’Osservatore Romano (file) Pope Francis (left) and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the Vatican in October

Church leaders to visit South Sudan

Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said last week they would visit South Sudan together if a transitional government came into power by February as expected.

This month, the two warring sides in South Sudan agreed to a 100-day extension of their truce to allow more time to form a coalition government. The country has struggled to seal a peace deal since civil war broke out in 2013 following clashes between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and those aligned with Vice President Riek Machar.

In 2016, South Sudanese Catholic, Anglican, and Presbyterian church leaders visited Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, and Welby, the leader of the Church of England, and extended an invitation. “The South Sudanese people have suffered too much these past years and are awaiting—with great hope—a better future, especially the permanent end of conflicts and a long-lasting peace,” Francis said on Nov. 10. —O.O.

iStock/FTiare iStock/FTiare Switzerland’s national flag

Court: Christian convert can stay in Switzerland

The European Court of Human Rights ruled last week against Switzerland’s attempt to deport a Christian convert to Afghanistan. Switzerland previously denied the former Muslim’s asylum request.

ADF International, the global arm of Alliance Defending Freedom, advocated for the convert, who would face extreme persecution if returned to Afghanistan. The court said the asylum-seeker “would be compelled to conceal their Christian faith and would in effect ‘be forced to live a lie’ if deported to Afghanistan by the Swiss authorities,” ADF International attorney Lorcán Price said.

The court also criticized Switzerland for failing to properly assess the risks associated with deportation. —Julia A. Seymour

Associated Press (file) Associated Press (file) James Le Mesurier in southern Turkey in 2015

White Helmets founder dies

James Le Mesurier, a British national known for his work with the Syrian Civil Defense, or White Helmets, died last week in Turkey. The 48-year-old was found near his home in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district.

Le Mesurier founded Mayday Rescue, which set up and trained the White Helmets as first responders to help civilians hurt in bombings in Syria. The group includes more than 3,000 humanitarian volunteers and has saved thousands of lives since 2013. The White Helmets also documented Syrian government attacks on civilians and infrastructure. The Syrian government and its allies accused the group of working as a foreign agent in the country.

Le Mesurier moved to Turkey four years ago with his wife. Authorities suspect he fell to his death and have launched an investigation. —O.O.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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  • Jorasi
    Posted: Thu, 11/21/2019 09:13 pm

    It would be nice if we could click on a button and post these to Facebook.

  • Web Editor
    Posted: Fri, 11/22/2019 11:49 am

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