Mexico says it would offer asylum to Bolivia's Morales if he sought it

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Sunday that the country would offer asylum to outgoing Bolivian President Evo Morales if he sought it, in a sign of Mexico’s new prominence among left-leaning governments in Latin America.

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 28, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Led by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the government delivered a strong defense of Morales, who said on Sunday that he would resign after the country was rocked by protests over a disputed election and the military called on him to step down.

“We recognize the responsible attitude of the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, who preferred to resign rather than to expose his people to violence,” Lopez Obrador wrote on Twitter, adding that the Mexican government would explain its views in more detail on Monday.

Mexico was among the first countries to congratulate Morales after his victory in late October, despite questions surrounding the results.

Latin American countries have oscillated over the past few decades between left-wing and conservative governments, often with radically different economic and social policies.

Since last year, anger at corruption, inequality and poverty have pushed conservatives out of office in Mexico and Argentina, while fueling protests in recent weeks that forced Ecuador and Chile to water down economic policies.

Mexico has a long history of giving refuge to left-wing exiles fleeing military rule and repression in the region, a history that Ebrard nodded to on Sunday.

In a series of tweets, he denounced what he called a “military operation” in Bolivia. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on what Ebrard meant.

“We reject this, it is similar to the tragedies that bloodied our Latin America last century,” he said. “Mexico will maintain its position of respect for democracy and institutions. No coup.”

Ebrard added that the country had received 20 Bolivian officials and lawmakers at its diplomatic residence in La Paz.

“We are in solidarity with the inviolability of diplomatic representations, now we require the same international solidarity so that the integrity of the Mexican embassy and residence headquarters in Bolivia is respected,” he wrote.

Reporting by Sharay Angulo and Julia Love; Writing by Julia Love; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney