President Evo Morales of Bolivia yesterday likened a general strike called to protest his apparent re-election victory a right-wing "coup d'etat." Speaking to reporters, Morales also said he will take measures to "defend" democracy and is confident he will be declared the winner of Sunday's election with no need for a runoff.
Morales is seeking a fourth straight term. The opposition has reported fraud in the counting of votes from the weekend election, and launched a general strike yesterday.
"A coup is under way. I want the people of Bolivia to know. Until now, humbly, we have put up with it in order to avoid violence and we have not entered into confrontation," Morales said in his first public remarks since the election.
With more than 95% of the vote counted, Morales had 46.4% compared to 37% for his main rival, centrist Carlos Mesa, just shy of the 10-point lead necessary to avoid a runoff. Opposition supporters reacted with fury on Monday to delayed results that showed Morales, Latin America's longest-serving president, edging towards the 10 percentage-point margin.
Meanwhile, an umbrella organization of pro-Morales labor and farmers' unions, CONALCAM, called on its members to defend the official results. "We will go out on the streets and on the roads to firmly defend democracy and the votes of Bolivians," said the leader of the main union, Juan Carlos Guarachi, after a meeting with Morales.