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Bolivian senator: Evo Morales fell due to betrayals, errors

LA PAZ – Evo Morales fell from power in Bolivia due to betrayals by those he trusted and mistakes in his own party and because some people “got drunk with power," the president of the country’s Senate, a member of the exiled leader’s political movement, said Tuesday.

Monica Eva Copa, a young legislator who rose from relative anonymity to the highest post currently held by a member of Morales’ Movement Toward Socialism, said the former president and the main actors in the leftist party “must answer for what happened in the party.”

“I think the former president was living with the enemy, but mistakes were also made, and one of them was that some people got drunk with power,” Copa said in an interview with The Associated Press, without saying which people she was referring to.

She said Morales used to meet every Monday with his military and police commanders, who turned on him amid widespread protests over Bolivia’s disputed Oct. 20 president election.

“That the armed forces asked him to resign is treason, that the police mutinied is treason. This surprised me,” she said.

These events reinforced the argument that Morales was toppled by a coup d'etat, Copa said, though she added in the end "history will tell us what it was."

Opposition protests broke out after Morales claimed victory in the election that international observers invited in by the government said was flawed by numerous irregularities.

Prodded by police and the military, Morales resigned on Nov. 10 amid the turmoil and went into exile in Mexico, which set off protests by his own supporters. At least 33 people died in the 35 days of demonstrations by both sides.

At age 32, Copa is one of Bolivia’s youngest senators. The social worker emerged from obscurity in the disarray after Morales’ resignation and helped direct passage of a law allowing new elections to be called, which calmed the protests.

Copa lives in the city of El Alto, a Morales bastion that neighbors La Paz. In recent weeks she was not able to return home to sleep or look after her 7-month-old daughter because of meetings that lasted until dawn.

“We now have to show our faces, people elected by the people who never thought they’d reach the Legislative Assembly,” she said.

Morales has said he hoped his party’s legislators, being the majority, would reject his resignation, allowing him to return to Bolivia.

But Copa said that amid the unrest and protests the priority was no longer Morales’ resignation but to “stop the deaths and chaos.”

Speaking Tuesday at a meeting with students in Mexico City, Morales called for unity in the face of new elections and welcomed the Bolivian movement “that is emerging from the bases as resistance to the racist coup.”

“With the indigenous vote we are going to win the first round like we did on Oct. 20,” he said.

Morales governed for almost 14 years, the longest presidential reign in Bolivia’s history and dominated all areas of power. Less than a month since his fall, his presence is no longer felt in the halls of congress save for some portraits on its walls.

His party still sees him as its leader and its members believe he will show them how to rebuild the party and choose candidates. No one in the party sees an obvious candidate to replace him.

On Sunday, Bolivia’s interim president, Jeanine Áñez, formally enacted the law calling for new elections to replace Morales. The measure doesn’t set a date for the new vote. That will be up to a new electoral tribunal that hasn’t yet been named.

The law annuls the Oct. 20 election and bars Morales from participating in the new one. Morales, who was the nation’s first indigenous president, ran in that contest despite Bolivian voters upholding term limits.

While Morales insists he was pushed out by a coup, the interim government has said it is moving to charge him with sedition and terrorism for allegedly trying to block supplies reaching cities during the protests based on a recording he has called “a setup.”

On Tuesday, the interim government named a new ambassador to the United States after an 11-year diplomatic rupture.

Karen Longaric, the foreign minister in the interim government, picked Walter Oscar Serrate Cuellar, formerly Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations. Serrate was appointed directly by Añez’s government without the approved of legislators.

In September 2008, Morales’ government expelled U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, accusing him fomenting civil unrest against his administration.