Former President Evo Morales said in an interview with EFE that he feared that a civil war might break out in Bolivia and called on his countrymen on Sunday to end the clashes in the streets.
"I'm very afraid. Under our administration, we united countryside and city, east and west, professionals and non-professionals. Now, the violent groups have come," Morales said in response to a question about the chances of a civil war in his country.
The 60-year-old Morales, who was granted political asylum in Mexico on Nov. 12, said he had "firsthand information" that "organized paramilitaries" and "paid gang members and drug addicts" working for the Bolivian right were committing acts of violence in the streets.
Since the disputed Oct. 20 presidential elections, which set off the political crisis in Bolivia, at least 20 people have been killed and more than 500 others injured in clashes between supporters and opponents of Morales, the Andean nation's first indigenous president.
Morales, who resigned on Nov. 10, said the death toll could be higher, claiming that 23 people died "from gunshots."
"I'm calling on my people, from the countryside and the city, poor, the humble, and those who exercise economic power, to say that we cannot be fighting. I want them to stop these confrontations," Morales said during the interview at EFE's Mexico City bureau.
The former president, who was first elected in 2006, said he regretted "having provided equipment to the armed forces," adding that the military had just "one helicopter" when he first took office and were now using their weapons "against the people."
Morales alleged that certain powerful groups were paying workers between 200 and 300 pesos to "do violence" in a country where the average salary is around 120 pesos ($17).
"These construction workers have preferred to put up barricades and engage in (acts of) aggression instead of earning 120 Bolivian (pesos) working with dignity in construction," the former president said.
Morales said professors at public and private universities were urging students to "block roads all day" and giving them grades for assignments in courses that had been suspended.
Last Sunday, Morales said a new presidential election would take place and the results of the vote held last month would be annulled in response to the findings of the Organization of American States (OAS), which released a report recommending that a new presidential election be held due to the irregularities in the Oct. 20 vote that he won.
Later in the day, Morales was forced to resign amid pressure from the political opposition, military and police.
Morales was seeking a fourth term in office and his mere participation in this year's election was seen as illegitimate by the opposition.
Morales secured a third term in office in 2014 after winning a Constitutional Court decision a year earlier.
That tribunal had ruled that because his initial term began three years prior to the enactment of the new constitution it did not count toward term limits restricting presidents to two five-year periods in office.
It then appeared Morales would be barred from running for yet another term this year after voters narrowly rejected his plans to do so in a 2016 referendum, but the Constitutional Court in late 2017 abolished term limits for all elected officials on the grounds that they violate candidates' human rights.
Morales told EFE that he wanted his supporters to engage in a "national dialogue" with the transitional government to avoid violence.
"The position that is growing is the 'out with the dictatorship and let democracy live' one. My great wish is that there be a dialogue with mediators," Morales said.
The former president said his participation in the "national dialogue" would be essential to "pacify Bolivia" since he has "much authority to speak" with the disaffected groups.
Morales said he would welcome mediation by Spain and the European Union to end the political crisis in Bolivia.
The former president, however, said he had not been in touch with Spanish or European diplomats since resigning last Sunday, but he said Spain and certain EU members could play a positive role in resolving the crisis.
Morales said the EU could play an important role in Bolivia because "dialogue is important."
"Not just the European Union, but also the Catholic Church and the United Nations," the former president, leader of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party, said.
"Before, yes, we were in touch with the embassy of Spain and we inaugurated a technical institute at the Uyuni Salt Flats," Morales said, referring to the assistance provided since 2017 by the AECID, the Spanish international aid agency.
The AECID created a $4.4 million fund via a debt swap to help launch three technical institutes in Bolivia.
"It would be so good if Spain or (former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez) Zapatero, an expert in mediation, (former Uruguayan President) Pepe Mujica or other governments would join the mediation (process) for pacification," Morales told EFE.
The former Bolivian president, however, criticized "some members of the European Union that took a position" in the crisis, a reference to Britain, which joined the United States in supporting the new government in the Andean nation.
"I didn't like it, but if they play a role (as mediators), (then they are) welcome," Morales said.
The former president took a shot at Washington, saying that he always valued the assistance provided by Spain and the EU because they offered aid without conditions and not demanding anything in return, while "the aid offered by the United States ... always has conditions."
The Mexican government offered Morales political asylum because the former president feared for his life if he stayed in Bolivia. EFE