January 19, 2020 / 4:31 PM / 3 months ago

U.S. official accuses ex-leader Morales of fostering violence in Bolivia

LA PAZ (Reuters) - Former Bolivian leader Evo Morales is fostering instability and violence from inside Argentina and the United States had warned the South American nation that he would be a “headache,” a senior U.S. official said in an interview published on Sunday by Bolivian media.

FILE PHOTO: Former Bolivian President Evo Morales attends a news conference, in Buenos Aires, Argentina January 2, 2020. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo

Mauricio Claver-Carone, a senior adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, said in an interview with Bolivian newspaper Pagina Siete that Morales was a “headache” for Argentina, which granted him asylum, at a time it should be focusing on other issues including its economic crisis and its relationship with the International Monetary Fund.

“(Morales) had sold himself like a caricature that was peaceful, but what we have seen is an Evo Morales who sponsors and fosters violence and wants to foster militias. We warned the Argentine government that this was going to happen. I warned then President-elect Alberto Fernandez before these events occurred,” Claver-Carone said in the interview.

“I wish I had been wrong, but now Argentina is seeing the problem that Evo Morales means,” he said.

A spokesperson for Fernandez, who was inaugurated on Dec. 10, did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Morales said on Jan. 13 that Bolivians had the right to organize and defend themselves, without firearms, from what he said were attacks by Bolivia’s interim government, which he says took power in a coup late last year.

Days later, Morales retracted his call for the organization of militias after it prompted Bolivia’s interim government to send a letter to Argentina asking that the government disavow his comments.

A spokesman for Argentina’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment at the time on whether the government spoke to Morales about his comments.

Morales, a socialist leader who was at the helm of Bolivia for nearly 14 years, stepped down on Nov. 10 after a disputed election victory sparked protests and led to allies, the police and the military pulling their support. A caretaker government led by interim President Jeanine Anez then took control of the country.

After initially fleeing to Mexico, Morales arrived in Argentina after Fernandez’s inauguration and has been living there under asylum.

Claver-Carone, who visited Bolivia earlier this week for meetings with Anez, also took aim at Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, saying he tried to destroy the country’s armed forces to pave the way for armed militias in an act of “gangsterism.”

“The same thing that Nicolas Maduro did with that gangsterism, is what Evo Morales tried here in Bolivia,” Claver-Carone said.

Maduro claims the Trump administration has tried to precipitate a coup in Venezuela and has praised the armed forces for their loyalty.

Argentina’s Fernandez faces a diplomatic juggling act between the United States, which has called for Maduro to step down as president, and leftist allies including Venezuela and Morales.

In December, Claver-Carone left Fernandez’s inauguration events early, unhappy with the presence of Venezuelan officials from Maduro’s government.

Reporting by Cassandra Garrison in Buenos Aires and Monica Machicao in La Paz; additional reporting by Angus Berwick in Caracas; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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