After spending more than a year in exile, Evo Morales, the former leader of Bolivia, has returned to a Bolivia that is more polarized than ever before. The former president can thank the victory of his left-wing MÁS party for being able to return the country he left last November.
As he returned to the country, he was greeted with a homecoming tour as his supporters hail him for the economic and social progress made during his 14 years in power. But his detractors, of which there are many, aren’t exactly celebrating his return.
Many accuse him of leading the country towards authoritarianism and spreading corruption. In fact, Morales was only forced into exile after trying to secure an unprecedented fourth term as president, which had been rejected in a 2016 referendum where voters decided he should not have that right.
Bolivia’s former leader – Evo Morales – has returned after living a year in exile.
Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first Indigenous president, returned to Bolivia from Argentina one day after Luis Arce, his protégée, was sworn in as the nation’s new president. Arce is now leading Morales’ leftist political party – Movement Towards Socialism (MÁS).
While Arce had been leading in the polls, he surprised many observers by winning outright in the first round. Morales welcomed the news by immediately returning to Bolivia.
It was just over a year ago that Morales was forced into exile after leading the country for almost 14 years. Many were angry that he ran for re-election in 2019 despite a majority voting against dropping presidential term limits from the constitution.
He subsequently lost the support of the chief of the army, who urged him to resign as mass protests over allegations of vote rigging swept across the country.The protests continued for weeks – and combined with pressure from the army and the police – led to Morales’s resignation and his move into exile first in Mexico and then in Argentina.
Morales enjoyed a homecoming tour on his return to Bolivia from exile in Argentina.
Waving the Whipala, the checkered colorful Indigenous flag and chanting, “Evo, Evo,” thousands of supporters welcomed the return of Morales. After crossing the border from Argentina, Morales began a 600-mile homecoming tour backed by a massive motorcade.
“In the past year I’ve never felt abandoned,” he told the crowd, referring to his year in exile. In fact, it was almost a year to the day since he had fled the same city.
The Bolivian leader continues to maintain that the United States had a hand in provoking the “coup d’état” that forced him from power.
Though not all Bolivians are excited about the former president’s return.
As crowds cheered and welcomed the former resident, many Bolivians believe that his return risks derailing the new president’s stated intention to reunite the country after a year of rule by a right-wing interim government.
Morales has repeatedly said that he will not engage in politics, but many remain skeptical. He remains as the head of the MÁS party and many say it would be difficult to imagine a world in which Morales avoids meddling in political matters.
Though his supporters would certainly like to see him get involved.
“Here are his people, he knows how to listen to the Indigenous people,” said Elizabeth Arcaide, a 43-year-old woman who wiped away tears during a rally in Orinoca, where hundreds turned out at a local football field under a scorching sun to welcome home the “son of the people.”
Though it remains to be seen what role Morales could play in the future of Bolivia.
Long a polarizing figure in Bolivian politics, Morales’ future in the country remains to be seen. Arce, often referred to by his nickname Lucho, has insisted that Morales will have no role in his new government.
For his part, Morales has said that he would only be working on organizing with labor unions and to help spread socialist ideas as an advocate.
“I will share my experience in the union struggles, because the fight continues,” he told supporters on Monday. “As long as capitalism exists, the people’s fight will continue, I’m convinced of this.”
But experts said Morales, who remains the head of the MAS and continues to command strong loyalty among his core of supporters in rural areas and Indigenous groups, is likely to continue to loom large not only over the party he founded, but on the politics of the country as a whole.
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