Eight dead in Bolivia protests calling for return of ex-president

16 November 2019, 10:44 | Updated: 16 November 2019, 22:42

At least eight people have been killed in violent clashes in Bolivia after security forces opened fire on supporters of the former president.

Evo Morales stepped down following allegations of electoral fraud in the 20 October presidential election that he claimed to have won.

An Organisation of American States audit of the vote found widespread irregularities but Mr Morales has denied any fraud.

Those demonstrating said police fired when protesters, including farmers supporting Mr Morales, tried to cross a military checkpoint.

Angry protesters, along with relatives of the victims, gathered at the site of the attacks and could be heard chanting: "Civil war, now!"

Witnesses reported several dead bodies and more than 20 injured people being rushed to hospital covered in blood.

Those who died or were injured in Sacaba, in the centre of the country, mostly suffered bullet wounds, with a hospital director saying it is the worst violence he has seen in 30 years.

Mr Morales, who sought asylum in Mexico, tweeted describing the events as a "massacre", and said that interim president Jeanine Anez was a dictator.

He added: "Now they are killing our brothers in Sacaba, Cochabamba."

Ms Anez had previously said that Mr Morales could face legal action for election fraud if he returned to the country, and be blocked from taking part in fresh elections.

She proclaimed herself the leader of Bolivia, claiming that everyone else in the line of succession had resigned.

But Mr Morales argues that he remains the country's president, due to the Bolivia's legislature not yet approving his resignation.

The ombudsman's office in Bolivia said it "regretted" the joint military and police operation in the country, and has called on the interim leadership to investigate whether security forces had acted within the constitution, as well as global protocols on human rights.

"We express our alarm and concern over the result of an attempt to stop a demonstration by coca leaf growers from entering the city of Cochabamba," it said.

Presidency minister Jerjes Justiniano has called for dialogue between all sides involved in the conflict, adding that he believes military weapons were used.