Former Bolivian leader Morales holds rally in Argentina marking end of term

Bolivia’s former President Evo Morales delivers a speech during a celebration of Bolivia’s Plurinational State Foundation Day, in Buenos Aires, Argentina January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Mariana Greif

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Bolivian ex-president Evo Morales, who is looking to steer his party to a new election win from afar this year, held a “celebratory” event to mark the end of his presidential term on Wednesday from exile in Buenos Aires.

Morales is living under asylum in Argentina after he resigned the presidency under pressure in November, following a contentious election that sparked widespread protests.

Speaking before a crowd of thousands of people in a sports stadium in the Argentine capital, Morales maintained that he won the disputed October election and touted his policies as president, such as nationalizing Bolivia’s resources industries.

“It has not been an easy path and, it must be said, it has been necessary to make a profound change,” said Morales, who was at the helm of Bolivia for nearly 14-years.

“I thank the present listeners in this very important event, the 14-year anniversary of the plurinational state, for accompanying me, for not abandoning me.”

On Sunday, Morales, who is barred from running for president again, named his former economy minister Luis Arce Catacora as his Movement to Socialism’s (MAS) party’s presidential candidate, with former foreign minister David Choquehuanca as his running mate in Bolivia’s May 3 elections. [nL1N29O09O]

The new elections will serve as a re-run of the disputed October vote and be the first in some two decades without Morales.

Morales resigned on Nov. 10 after an audit by the Organization of American States found serious irregularities in the vote count. Morales denies any wrong doing and maintains he was ousted in a coup.

On Tuesday, Bolivia’s Congress formally accepted his resignation and that of his deputy, Alvaro Garcia Linera. [nL1N29Q1CF]

Reporting by Cassandra Garrison and Lucila Sigal, additional reporting by Horacio Soria; Editing by Michael Perry

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