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Bolivia's hard message to power drunk leaders


[OPINION] Frida Ghitis: One thing is clear: Evo Morales could have left his position as president after almost 14 years in power as a character still revered by most Boliv ...

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Editor's Note: Frida Ghitis, ex-producer and former CNN correspondent, is now a columnist for international affairs. He frequently contributes to CNN publishers and a contributor to the Washington Post and World Politics Review. You can follow her on Twitter @fridaghitis. The opinions expressed in this comment belong to its author. You can read more opinions on CNN.

(CNN) - We still need to know a lot about what happened in Bolivia. But one thing is clear: Evo Morales, who resigned from the presidency last Sunday under great pressure - some say it was a coup, others that the restoration of democracy - could have left his position as president after almost 14 years in Power as a character still revered by most Bolivians. But he refused to accept the democratic limits of his power.

Morales tried to stay in command against the will of his people. Now his legacy is in embers, as is the future of Bolivia.

The story of Morales, the country's first indigenous president, was the beginning of a period of hope and optimism that was later overwhelmed by ego and disappointment.

And it is a reminder that Latin Americans are not looking for saviors. The era of the caudillos is over. They want a government for all the people and a democracy that produces results.

Morales assumed the presidency in 2006, in full "pink tide", in which left presidents were winning elections throughout the region. He promised to eliminate centuries of exploitation, racism and inequality and, to a large extent, kept his word. Their policies reduced poverty and brought economic growth. But even those who supported him most began to worry about his attachment to power.

Under his leadership, Bolivia put into effect a new Constitution in 2009 that limited presidential reelections to two. He was re-elected in 2009 and for the third time in 2014, with the excuse that his first term under the old Constitution did not count. He also promised that he would not run again, but this year he broke that promise.

He had never lost an election and increasingly accumulated more power, increasing his self-esteem in tandem. His Movement to Socialism (MAS) had achieved control of all branches of government and much of the media.

Some Bolivians began to see him with suspicion when he built a dazzling 29-story presidential palace in the impoverished capital of the country, and then a multi-million dollar museum in his honor.

After 10 years in office, many wondered if their president would agree to leave power. They had seen the destruction of democracy in Venezuela and Nicaragua. The supermajority of the MAS in Congress, submitted to the president, began trying to allow him to have another period. An Aymara legislator protested intensely, putting on a cardboard crown in the National Assembly and campaigning with the sarcastic motto: "I want to be the king."

Morales, who insists that he is a man of the people, decided to submit the question to the electorate, sure they would support him. But in a 2016 referendum, the "No" to a fourth period won by narrow margin.

But the president refused to accept the refusal. He appealed to the Constitutional Court, also considered in favor of the president, who offered a novel argument that could potentially keep Morales in power forever. It failed that the limits to the charge were a violation of human rights.

But Morales still had to win the elections. According to the rules, if he did not win with an absolute majority - he needed 10% more votes than his opponent - there would have to be a second round. After closing the polls last month, Morales was winning, but not with enough votes to avoid a second round, which he would probably lose.

Suddenly the count stopped and for 24 hours nobody knew what was happening. When counting resumed, Morales had the necessary margin and declared victory.

Clamor of fraud erupted in the streets. International observers agreed. The former foreign minister, leading an observation mission of the Organization of American States, described it as an "unexplained change in trend." The European Union, the United Nations, USA and other countries supported the OAS.

With mass protests across the country, an OAS audit discovered "manipulations in computer systems" in preliminary results and vote totals in places that exceeded the number of registered voters. According to the OAS, the evidence that the count was not credible was irrefutable.

At that point, Morales accepted that other elections will be held, but his loss of confidence was irreparable.

In an ideal situation, Bolivia would have carried out a more complete investigation and new elections with more credible results. But the armed forces have removed Morales from power. He insists that it has been a coup d'etat. But critics say taking it out will save democracy in Bolivia. In the next few days it will be seen if the country can return to peace and a democratic path, or not.

The saga of Bolivia and Morales is a reminder to the rest of Latin America - and indeed to the world - that, despite all its defects, democracy remains the system that the majority prefers. Even a president who has had good results can spoil them if he ignores that fact. Very few want an almighty president. No one, however charismatic, skillful or beloved, can remain in power forever.

Evo Morales

Source: cnnespanol

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