After he went into exile in Mexico last November following disputed presidential elections, many thought his political life stood at the precipice.

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales, a native son of the country’s long repressed Indigenous community, was forced into exile last November following a turbulent presidential election. 

In January, Jeanine Anez, the leader of the right-wing interim government, urged Bolivians not to allow Morales and his socialist party to make a comeback, describing them as “the savages”.

But much to the dismay of Anez, who is infamous for her anti-Indigenous statements, and the white establishment, Morales' protege, Luis Arce, was elected to the presidency in a landslide victory last month. 

With the shifting political winds, Morales returned to his home country from exile in jubilant fashion.

“The Bolivian right and the global right should know: the savages are back in government,” Morales said, while addressing tens of thousands of his supporters on Wednesday. 

“We’re in power now,” said the former union leader, who began his career as a simple coca farmer, rising to the top echelons of power in 2006. Until October 2019, he had won back-to-back elections, boasting the longest election winning streak across South America. 

Last year after the October presidential elections, Morales claimed victory again while his opponents and a prominent US-based election monitoring group alleged fraud in the first run-off of the polls. 

Morales and his supporters deny any wrongdoing in the elections. 

Following fraud allegations, the Bolivian political situation descended into chaos for several months as the right-wing establishment backed by the country’s powerful military forced Morales's government to resign. 

Houses of several former top officials of Morales were attacked, and dozens of supporters of the former president were killed by security forces as they were protesting peacefully across the country. 

A woman cries during Bolivia's former President Evo Morales's caravan after his return to the country, in Chimore, Bolivia November 11, 2020.
A woman cries during Bolivia's former President Evo Morales's caravan after his return to the country, in Chimore, Bolivia November 11, 2020. (Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters)

“I’m resigning so that our brothers don’t continue to be persecuted. I really lament this civilian coup,” said Morales, after his resignation. The core supporters of the country’s Indigenous population have suffered much under the country’s brutal military dictatorship in the past. 

While Morales offered to renew elections and pledged not to run for the presidential ticket, his right-wing opponents refused his resolution, forcing him to leave the country. 

Extraordinary return

During his exile, he did not call for an armed rebellion against the interim government, allegedly putting his bet on eventual democratic elections. 

But he continuously denounced violence against his supporters. 

“Stop this massacre of indigenous brothers who ask for peace, democracy and respect of life in the streets,” Morales wrote on Twitter after he left the country. 

“In Bolivia, they are killing my brothers and my sisters. This is the kind of thing the old military dictatorships used to do,” he also said during a press conference in Mexico City. 

Bolivia is one of Latin America’s poorest countries, trapped in a vicious circle of moving from one military dictatorship to another for decades until the mid-1980s. 

But nearly a year later, in an extraordinary, triumphant way, the socialist leader arrived back, travelling across the country from where he entered at the border with Argentina. He was welcomed by thousands. 

“We will never forget our president Evo. He identifies our roots. He represents the poor, the peasants, and this story will never be forgotten. He will always be our undisputed leader,” said Justina Choque, who coordinated the welcoming event in Cochabamba, according to the Guardian

Morales, a native Aymara, has been universally credited with lifting millions of Bolivians out of poverty through his economic policies of prioritising the poor and Indigenous against the country’s rich white-dominated elites. 

His former economy minister, Arce, who is now the president-elect, was absent from Morales’s colourful return celebrations, signalling that it was not only the right-wing forces but also some prominent figures in his party, the Movement For Socialism (Mas), were unhappy about the comeback. 

Besides the intricate calculations of politics, simple people have appeared to enjoy the moment that marked the return of their Indigenous leader. 

“It’s a joy for us that Evo has returned,” said Mark Frauz, one of Morales supporters, who came to participate in the welcoming party in Cochabamba. 

Source: TRT World