Bolivian President Evo Morales resigned on Sunday, giving in after three weeks of sometimes violent protests over his disputed re-election after the army and police withdrew their support.
"I resign from my position as president," said leftist Morales in a televised speech, culminating a day of rapid events in which many ministers and senior officials resigned when support for the oldest president in Latin America collapsed.
The streets of La Paz immediately exploded in celebration, with jubilant Bolivians lighting firecrackers and waving the country's red, yellow and green flag.
The main opposition candidate in the elections, former President Carlos Mesa, said Bolivians "have taught the world a lesson. Tomorrow Bolivia will be a new country."
Cuba and Venezuela, former allies of the leftist leader, as well as Brazilian leftist leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, denounced a "coup d'etat."
Morales, a former coca grower and first indigenous president of Bolivia, was declared the winner of the October 20 presidential election with a narrow margin, which gives him a controversial fourth term, having assumed power for the first time in 2006.
But the opposition said there was fraud in the vote count and there were three weeks of street protests, during which three people died and hundreds were injured.
The Organization of American States conducted an audit of the elections and on Sunday reported irregularities in almost every aspect it examined: the technology used, the chain of custody of ballots, the integrity of the count and statistical projections.
While Bolivians sang and held demonstrations in the street, Morales, 60, called for new elections, but this was not enough to calm the uproar. The commanders of the armed forces and the police joined the calls for the president's resignation.
The head of the Armed Forces, Williams Kaliman, told reporters that he was asking Morales "to renounce his presidential mandate to allow for peacekeeping and the maintenance of stability, for the good of our Bolivia."
Cracks had already appeared within his own government, with the head of the lower house of parliament and the ministers of mines and hydrocarbons announcing their resignations.
These were followed by a series of other ministerial resignations after Morales' announcement and raised the question of who was in charge, since Vice President Álvaro García Linera also resigned.
According to the constitution, the power passes to the president of the Senate and the president of the lower house of Congress in that order. But both have also given up.
Constitutional lawyer Williams Bascope, close to the opposition, said lawmakers "should meet immediately to elect their presidents."
Therefore, a new Senate leader would have the task of appointing a consensus cabinet and leading the country toward elections and a transition period.
& # 39; Political decision & # 39;
Morales lashed out at the OAS mission after his announcement, accusing her of making a "political decision" instead of a technique.
"Some OAS technicians are at the service of […] power groups. "
To make the announcement that he would resign, Morales traveled by plane to the Chimore region, in central Bolivia, where coca is grown, the cradle of his career in politics.
It was there in the 1980s that the first indigenous president of Bolivia made a name for himself as a combative union leader who defended coca growers, which in the Bolivian countryside is used for medicinal and other purposes. It is also the raw material to make cocaine.
On Sunday night, police announced that they had arrested María Eugenia Choque, president of the electoral court who counted the ballots in the elections.
Morales insisted that he was not running from his responsibilities.
"I don't have to escape. I haven't stolen anything," he said.
"My sin is being indigenous. Being a coca grower.
"Life does not end here. The fight continues," he said.
"I quit so they (the opposition leaders) don't keep kicking our brothers," he said, referring to the violent protests that have tarnished the weeks since his election victory.
Morales insisted that his government was leaving behind "many social triumphs."
The World Bank has accredited its government for a decrease in the poverty rate from 45 percent of the population in 2010 to 35 percent in 2018.
In social networks, Bolivians speculated that Morales could leave the country, perhaps going to Argentina, who has just elected a center-left government.
Allies denounce & # 39; blow & # 39;
With the situation in Bolivia unclear after the rapid events, the Colombian regional heavyweight convened an urgent meeting of the OAS permanent council "to seek solutions to a complex institutional situation" in Bolivia.
Immediately after the surprising announcement, the Latin American leftist allies demonstrated to denounce a coup against one of their own.
The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, called for a mobilization of political and social movements "to demand the preservation of the life of the Bolivian native peoples, victims of racism."
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez described Morales, an Aymara indigenous, as "a protagonist and a symbol of the rights of the indigenous peoples of our Americas."
Lula, from Brazil, insisted that "my friend Morales" had been removed in a coup d'etat, evidence of "an economic elite in Latin America who did not know how to share democracy with the poor."