On November 13, Bolivia’s brand new interim president, Jeanine Áñez, named a new military high command and denied coming to power through a coup, as former President Evo Morales, exiled in Mexico, states.
“There isn’t a coup d’état in Bolivia, there’s a constitutional repositioning,” Áñez said at a press conference at the Palacio Quemado, the government palace, one day after assuming power. The leader reiterated that she will call for elections “within the shortest timeframe possible.”
“The only participant in a coup in this country has been Evo Morales,” said Áñez, alluding to a 2016 popular referendum vote that opposed the former leftist indigenous leader’s indefinite reelection, which he ignored, and the October 20 elections, in which he won a controversial reelection that the opposition attributed to “fraud.”
The results from that election unleashed massive and violent protests that led to his resignation.
“I will not accept any exit other than democratic elections,” said the right wing president, who was the second vice-president of the Senate when she took over the country November 12.
The 52-year-old lawyer assumed power in a controversial legislative session that lacked the regulatory quorum, filling the power vacuum created by the resignations of Morales and other officials in the line of succession.
The Constitutional Court endorsed her proclamation, while military and police leaders declared their loyalty to her.
On November 13, she appointed a new military leadership of five officers, naming Army General Sergio Carlos Orellana commander of the Armed Forces in a ceremony with about 50 officers present.
The “State needs us more than ever to keep the peace,” said Orellana in a speech in which he asked Morales’ followers to “desist with their uncompromising attitudes.” The leader also named a new General Staff of Defense chief as well as commanders of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
Áñez lauded the “democratic will of the Armed Forces and the Police,” who abandoned Morales.
Gen. Orellana’s appointment resulted in the retirement of General Williams Kaliman, appointed chief of the Armed Forces by Morales a year ago and who refused to send his troops to suppress opposition protests and police riots that were unleashed on November 8.
The president also said that “she’s working on the issue” of her ministerial cabinet and issued a warning to Morales’ supporters to stop street protests. “From now on, we won’t allow anyone to put obstacles before us,” she said.
Meanwhile, clashes erupted between Morales’ followers and police officers about three blocks from the government palace, which was surrounded by police blockades.
Áñez also called on “public officials to return to work immediately,” following three weeks of street protests and blockades. She warned that there would be changes in the leadership of government agencies: “All public offices must be at the service of the new government.”