WHITE HOUSE - Updated at 9:40pm
The United States government is applauding the resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales and rejecting assertions by several countries, including Mexico, that he was forced out by a coup.
U.S. President Donald Trump, in a statement, calls Morales' departure "a significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere. After nearly 14 years and his recent attempt to override the Bolivian constitution and the will of the people, Morales's departure preserves democracy and paves the way for the Bolivian people to have their voices heard."
The White House statement adds that the events in Bolivia "send a strong signal to the illegitimate regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua that democracy and the will of the people will always prevail. We are now one step closer to a completely democratic, prosperous, and free Western Hemisphere."
A senior State Department official told reporters Monday afternoon on a conference call that Washington does not consider the resignation of Morales to have resulted from a coup, but rather from an expression of the Bolivian people fed up with government ignoring their will.
"There were protesters from all walks of life," said a senior administration official, denying that it was mainly the Bolivian middle class on the streets demanding Morales' ouster. "It's probably a little bit simplistic to boil this down to class or perhaps ethnicity in a complex set of circumstances."
A senior U.S. official added that "there's been too much violence on both sides."
But, Mexico is describing the ouster of Morales as a military coup and on Monday granted his request for asylum. Late Monday, Morales tweeted he was on his way to Mexico and was "grateful for the openness of these brothers who offered us asylum to protect our life. It hurts me to leave the country, for political reasons, but I will always be concerned. I will return soon, with more strength and energy.''
Some of Morales’ ministers and senior officials who stepped down are also seeking refuge in the Mexican ambassador's residence.
At the request of United States, as well other countries, including Brazil, Canada, Colombia and Peru, the Organization of American States is to hold a special meeting on the Bolivian situation on Tuesday afternoon.
The Morales presidency abruptly ended Sunday, hours after he had accepted calls for a new election by an OAS team that found a "heap of observed irregularities" in the Oct. 20 election.
The delayed results of the balloting, which fueled suspicion of vote rigging, showed Morales getting just enough votes to avoid a runoff against a united opposition trying to prevent him from winning a fourth term.
Morales on Monday called on the opposition to keep the peace.
Mesa y Camacho, discriminadores y conspiradores, pasarán a la historia como racistas y golpistas. Que asuman su responsabilidad de pacificar al país y garanticen la estabilidad política y convivencia pacífica de nuestro pueblo. El mundo y bolivianos patriotas repudian el golpe— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) November 11, 2019
According to the Bolivian constitution, the vice president is next in line to take power when the president steps down. The head of the country's Senate is third in line, but both of them, as well as a number of other top ministers, resigned shortly after Morales, leaving a power vacuum.
Opposition leader Jeanine Anez said Sunday she would assume the interim presidency of Bolivia, but Congress must first be convened to vote her into power.
The U.S. government is calling for Bolivia's legislative assembly to quickly convene to accept Morales' resignation and follow the constitution to fill the political vacuum.
"What's important is to reconstitute the civilian government," said a senior State Department official.
Morales, the first member of Bolivia's indigenous population to become president, announced his resignation on television shortly after the country's military chief, General Williams Kaliman, called on him to quit to allow the restoration of peace and stability.
Bolivian opposition leader Carlos Mesa credits a popular uprising, not the military, for forcing Morales to step aside.
The military made a decision not to deploy in the streets because "they didn't want to take lives," according to Mesa.
Mexico is describing the ouster of Morales as a military coup and offering him political asylum. Some of his ministers and senior officials who stepped down are currently seeking refuge in the Mexican ambassador's residence.
"What happened yesterday is a step back for the whole continent," Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said. "We're very worried."
A high-profile freshman opposition member of the U.S. House is also rejecting the Trump administration's characterization of events in Bolivia.
"What's happening right now in Bolivia isn't democracy, it's a coup," tweeted Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday.
What’s happening right now in Bolivia isn’t democracy, it’s a coup.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 11, 2019
The people of Bolivia deserve free, fair, and peaceful elections - not violent seizures of power.