By Linda Bordoni
Following the resignation on Sunday of Bolivia’s President, Evo Morales, triggered by popular discontent and a wave of protests, the Bolivian Catholic Bishops’ Conference released a statement urging citizens to refrain from acts of violence and calling on political leaders to work for a peaceful and constitutional solution in view of new elections.
The bishops’ statement comes on the heels of Pope Francis’ appeal to Bolivians to calmly await the outcome of a disputed election review the embattled President had promised to authorize before stepping down.
Shortly after the Pope’s appeal, President Morales announced his resignation and thousands took to the streets of the capital, La Paz, to celebrate. The protests had been triggered by allegations of electoral fraud during the 20 October election and the self-proclaimed victory of the outgoing President.
The bishops say the statement results from a constructive dialogue between members of the Episcopal Conference, representatives of civil society and of CONADE (the National Committee for the Defense of Democracy in Bolivia).
It’s not a coup d’état
The first point they highlight is that “What is happening in Bolivia is not a coup d'état: we say this before Bolivian citizens and before the entire international community”.
Stop to violence
The second point is an appeal to all Bolivians to commit to peace and to refrain from perpetrating acts of vandalism or revenge. The bishops highlight the grave obligation, for all, to defend the lives of all citizens.
“In the name of God we say: stop actions of violence and preserve life and peace. Let us maintain the peaceful spirit that has reigned in the country at this time,” they say.
Appeal to Police and Armed Forces
Thirdly, they call on the National Police and on the Armed Forces to urgently fulfill their constitutional role of defending property and people, preserving life and freedom for all.
Finally, the statement declares that all parties agree in calling for the pursuit of a constitutional and peaceful solution to the National Assembly of Bolivia, that an interim governor may soon be charged with forming a new electoral commission leading to new elections “so that all are able to express their opinion in freedom and peace”.
Just hours before the resignation of Morales, Pope Francis addressed pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus and asked for prayers for the beloved nation of Bolivia. He also invited all Bolivians, "in particular political and social players, to await with a constructive spirit, and without any previous condition, in a climate of peace and serenity" the results of the election review.