Calls for calm as Bolivian police and protesters clash in wake of Evo Morales’ resignation 

 

The expected interim president of Bolivia on Monday made an emotional call for an end to violence gripping the capital, as confrontations between police and groups loyal to outgoing president Evo Morales continued to flare up.

Following attacks on the properties of prominent anti-Morales figures over the weekend, Monday saw further violent confrontations between protest groups linked to Mr Morales’ MAS party and the police, amid accusations that Mr Morales had been forced out in a coup. 

While the United States has expressed support for Mr Morales’ resignation, which he announced on Sunday, Venezuela has joined with some of his Leftist allies decrying the turn of events as a "coup."

In La Paz, 64 buses were burned, the cable car system was suspended and there were reports of widespread looting.

Speaking on the steps of the Legislative Assembly, a tearful Jeanine Añez promised to oversee a peaceful handover of power by 22 January.

People celebrating Bolivian President Evo Morales' resignation, in Buenos Aires Credit: JOSE LUIS PERRINO/AFP

"We are going to call elections," Ms Añez told reporters in La Paz, saying that there will be "an electoral process that reflects the wants of all Bolivians."

On Saturday a preliminary report from the Organization of American States said that the 20 October elections, in which Mr Morales had won a first round victory by the slimmest of margins, had been subject of “clear manipulation” and called for a new round of voting.

Mr Morales accepted this demand but in the wake of two weeks of increasingly violent protests across the country, it was too little too late. 

With the country’s police force in a state of mutiny, the trade union federation – traditionally loyal to Mr Morales – and then the armed forces called for his resignation, “for the good of Bolivia”.

On Sunday night Mr Morales went on television to resign, saying that “dark forces have destroyed democracy.”

Senate second Vice President Jeanine Anez pleaded for calm Credit: AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

Dominic Raab, the British Foreign Secretary, registered his scorn as Jeremy Corbyn tweeted his support for Mr Morales, claiming the Labour leader put Marxist ideology ahead of democracy. 

Mr Corbyn wrote: "I condemn the coup against the Bolivian people and stand with them for democracy, social justice and independence.”

The Foreign Secretary replied: “Unbelievable. The Organisation of American States refused to certify the Bolivian election because of systemic flaws. The people are protesting and striking on an unprecedented scale. But Jeremy Corbyn puts Marxist solidarity ahead of democracy.”  

The exact whereabouts of Mr Morales are unknown, but he is believed to be in Chapare, the central region where he rose to prominence as a firebrand trade unionist for coca growers in the 1980s.

Late Sunday, Mr Morales went on Twitter to claim authorities were seeking to arrest him.

Some areas were blocked in the capital, La Paz, as police struggled to take control of the streets from protesters Credit:  Martin Alipaz/EPA-EFE/REX

"I report to the world and Bolivian people that a police officer publicly announced that he has instructions to execute an unlawful apprehension order against me; in addition, violent groups also stormed my home," Mr Morales said.

Armed intruders did break into Mr Morales’ home in Cochabamba, but the police denied any arrest order had been issued.

Following Mr Morales’ resignation the vice-president and the president of the senate also resigned, leaving opposition senator Ms Añez as the likely interim president to be voted in when congress eventually returns to session.

New elections are expected to be called within 90 days, with Mr Morales excluded from running.  

Carlos Mesa, the runner up in October’s elections, took to Twitter to deny that a coup had taken place, saying that it was an “authentic, democratic Bolivian Spring” and to call for calm in the run-up to new elections.  

 

Mormon teenager who survived Mexican cartel massacre speaks out for the first time

A 13-year-old Mormon boy who survived a Mexican cartel ambush that killed his mother has spoken for the first time and described his horrific ordeal.

Devin Langford was with his siblings and extended family in a convoy of cars heading through northern Mexico to a wedding party when their group came under attack on November 4. Nine US-Mexican citizens, including Devin’s mother, died in the gunfire.

The teenager said the last thing his mother said to him before she was fatally shot was "get down right now."

Sitting beside his father, he told a US breakfast television show: "She was trying to pray to the lord, and she was trying to start the car up to get out of there."

Dawna Langford, his mother, and his younger brothers, Trevor, 11, and two-year-old Rogan, were among the nine women and children killed in the brazen midday attack.

 

“They just started hitting the car first, like with a bunch, a bunch of bullets,” he said.

“Just start shooting rapidly at us. The car didn’t work. So she was just trying right there, starting the car as much as she could, but I’m pretty sure they shot something so the car wouldn’t even start."

Mexico’s government has vowed to track down the perpetrators, but no arrests have yet been made. One man was detained last week, after being found with rifles, ammunition and two hostages, but was later found to be unconnected to the massacre.

Relatives of the Mormon families murdered in northern Mexico inspect the bullet-riddled car

Alfonso Durazo, Mexico’s security minister, said perhaps the victims were mistaken for cartel operatives, but members of the LeBaron family said they believe they were deliberately targeted for their comparative wealth and refusal to submit to cartel demands.

Devin said the seven surviving children were left on the side of the road.

"Afterward, they got us out of the car, and they just got us on the floor and then they drove off," he added.

The teenager, who was not physically harmed in the attack, then set off to seek help, covering his injured siblings with branches and hiding them in the bushes.

Soldiers outside the Mormon community of La Mora, in northern Mexico

"We walked a little while until we couldn’t carry them no more,” he explained.

“And so we put them in the bushes so they wouldn’t get hit or nothing. So I started walking. Every one of them were bleeding really bad. So I was trying to get in a rush to get there."

He walked for about 14 miles, through the night, to raise the alarm. He said the gunmen had long guns and he feared for his life the entire time.

As he made the trek for help, he said he wondered "if there was anybody else out there trying to shoot me or following me" and he thought about "my mom and my two brothers that died."

Devin’s father, David, said his son had saved the others’ lives.

"Every one of my children that survived that are living miracles," he said.

"How many bullet holes were fired into that vehicle… at that horrific scene and how many children were involved. It’s amazing. It’s amazing. It’s beyond amazing that they survived.

"To be honest with you, my boy’s a hero simply because he gave his life for his brothers and sisters."

Funerals were held on Thursday, and Mr Langford and much of his extended family now say they are leaving northwest Mexico.

"It’s not worth living in fear," he said. "The toughest part for me was saying goodbye – saying goodbye to two innocent lives that were cut short and a vibrant wife that lived a life to its fullest that had many friends and was loved by everybody."

Devin said he is now focusing on helping his siblings heal, and keeping his mother’s memory alive.

"She was a nice person,” he said. “And a brave woman that tried to save her kids."