Monica Machicao, Daniel Ramos report for Reuters:
LA PAZ (Reuters) – A protest leader traveling to Bolivia’s capital to push for President Evo Morales’ resignation reversed course on Tuesday after government supporters staked out an airport chanting for his removal, authorities said.
Luis Fernando Camacho had flown from his base in Santa Cruz to the international airport outside La Paz with a pre-written resignation letter for Morales in an attempt to raise the heat on Bolivia’s long-standing leftist leader.
But Camacho said on Twitter in the early hours of Tuesday that he was unable to leave the El Alto airport due to potential threats from Morales supporters waiting outside.
Some of the pro-government demonstrators carried sticks and entered the airport. But police told them Camacho, who has become an influential opposition figure in more than two weeks of protests over a disputed vote, was flying back to Santa Cruz.
“These people will arrive in the next few minutes in the city of Santa Cruz, with all security measures,” government minister Carlos Romero told a news conference, adding that the air force had transported him with police protection.
Morales’ contentious election win last month has pushed the poor landlocked South American country into a snarling democratic crisis with increasing pressure for him to step down or allow a new vote.
Luis Almagro, head of the Organization of American States (OAS) which is auditing the Oct. 20 vote, had called on Bolivian authorities to ensure Camacho’s free movement.
The state-run airport body and government said security protocols had been applied to guarantee Camacho’s safety, including keeping him in a protected area.
Reuters was unable to immediately reach Camacho for comment.
Morales won last month’s vote with a lead of just over 10 points, giving him an outright win, but the victory was marred by a near 24-hour halt in the count, which, when resumed, showed a sharp and unexplained shift in his favor.
The OAS has previously recommended a second round vote.
Bolivia’s first indigenous leader, who came to power in 2006, has defended his election win and backed the OAS audit to resolve the crisis, which has seen blockades in cities and street clashes that have caused some deaths.