‘I’ll be back’ within a year, ousted Bolivian leader Morales vows

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Ousted Bolivian leader Evo Morales told Reuters he plans to return to his home country by next Christmas, after going into exile in neighboring Argentina following a disputed election.

In an interview in Buenos Aires, where Morales found refuge after a highly-contested bid for a fourth term in October, the South American socialist icon said he is helping his party prepare for an upcoming special election.

Members of his Movement for Socialism (MAS) coalition will get together in Buenos Aires on Sunday to start choosing their candidates. Asked about his own plans, and whether he would return to Bolivia by this time next year, Morales said there was no doubt about it: “I’ll be back.”

“For reasons of security I can’t go into detail about the plan we have for returning to Bolivia. But one has to go back to one’s country,” he said.

He said he was sure his coalition would win back the presidency. Morales’ victory in the October election was annulled because of irregularities detected by international auditors. The scandal sparked deadly riots and forced Morales to resign and leave Bolivia in mid-November.

He denies any wrongdoing and said his only regret was not having early intelligence about the what he calls the coup that ousted him. “We were surprised due to lack of information,” he said.

“I’m very sorry that neither the intelligence of the Bolivian police nor the armed forces warned us that there was a coup on the way,” Morales added.

Lawmakers have appointed an electoral tribunal expected to set a date by January 2 for new elections within 120 days.

Prosecutors have meanwhile issued an arrest warrant against Morales for sedition, terrorism and terrorist financing, promoted by the government of interim President Jeanine Anez, a former senator and opponent of Morales.

Morales has ruled out running as a candidate himself and has named Luis Arce Catacora, his former economy minister, and Andronico Rodriguez, a key coca farmer union boss, as potential MAS presidential candidates.

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