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Mexico grants asylum to Bolivia's Morales

Mexico said Monday it has granted asylum to Bolivia's Evo Morales, after the leftist president's resignation left the South American nation reeling amid a power vacuum.

Hand out picture released by the Bolivian Presidency showing former Bolivian President Evo Morales at a press conference in El Alto, on 10 November, 2019. Picture: AFP

MEXICO CITY - Mexico said Monday it has granted asylum to Bolivia's Evo Morales, after the leftist president's resignation left the South American nation reeling amid a power vacuum.

"Several minutes ago I received a phone call from (former) president Evo Morales in which he responded to our offer and verbally and formally requested political asylum in our country," Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told a news conference.

"The Mexican foreign ministry, after consulting Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero, made the decision to grant him asylum... for humanitarian reasons."

Morales's "life and physical integrity are at risk in Bolivia," added Ebrard, saying Mexico had asked the Bolivian foreign ministry to grant the former president safe conduct.

Ebrard did not answer journalists' questions on whether Morales would travel to Mexico, and if so when he would arrive.

A Peruvian military source said a Mexican air force plane had arrived in Peru's capital, Lima, en route to get Morales in Bolivia.

Peru's foreign ministry later said in a statement that a "Mexican government plane" had been granted permission for overflight and to refuel and had departed for Bolivia at 6:30pm (2330 GMT).

Mexico had said Sunday it was prepared to grant Morales asylum, after he stepped down amid massive protests and growing unrest over his fraud-stained re-election to a fourth term on 20 October.

Morales, 60, had been in power since 2006.

Mexico, currently led by leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has repeatedly said Morales was the victim of a "coup."

The country is already hosting a large group of Morales government officials and allied lawmakers in its embassy in Bolivia. Originally, there were 20 of them, but Ebrard said earlier Monday that there are now "many more."

Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, was a member of the "pink tide" of leftist leaders who held sway across much of Latin America in the 2000s.

However, he was forced to step down after losing the backing of the military amid weeks of increasingly violent protests over his constitutionally questionable re-election.

A host of top officials resigned along with him, including his vice president and the heads of both houses of Congress, leaving the country with no clear leader and torn by looting and riots.

The constitutional next-in-line, deputy senate speaker Jeanine Anez, said Monday she would call fresh elections.

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