Bolivia, Oct 21 (AP/UNB) — President Evo Morales led in early returns from the first round of Sunday's presidential election, but he appeared to have failed to get enough votes to avoid a runoff in the tightest political race of his life.
The Andean country's top electoral authority said Sunday night that a preliminary count of 84% of the votes showed Morales on top with 45.3%, followed by 38.2% for his closest rival, former President Carlos Mesa. If the results hold, the two men will face off in December and Morales could be vulnerable to a united opposition in the first runoff in his nearly 14 years in power.
Mesa told supporters shortly after the first results were announced that his coalition had scored "an unquestionable triumph," and he urged others parties to join him for a "definitive triumph" in the second round.
Morales claimed a victory for himself, saying that "the people have again imposed their will."
"We are not alone. That is why we have won again," he told supporters at the presidential palace.
To avoid a runoff and win outright, Morales would have needed to get 50% of the votes plus one or have 40% and finish 10 percentage points ahead of the nearest challenger.
Morales came to prominence leading social protests in the landlocked country of 11 million people and rose to power as Bolivia's first indigenous president in 2006. The 59-year-old leftist is South America's longest-serving leader.
Mesa is a 66-year-old historian who as vice president rose to Bolivia's top office when his predecessor resigned the presidency in 2003 amid widespread protests. Mesa then stepped aside himself in 2005 amid renewed demonstrations led by Morales, who was then leader of the coca growers union.
Voting, which was mandatory, was mostly calm, though police said they arrested more than 100 people for violating the country's rigid election-day rules against drinking, large gatherings or casual driving. In a surprise result, Chi Hyun Chung, a physician and evangelical pastor of South Korean ancestry, was in third with 8.8% of the vote.
Bolivians also elected all 166 congressional seats. Morales' Movement Toward Socialism party lost seats although it retained a majority in Congress.
Morales voted early in the coca-growing region of El Chapare, where residents threw flower petals at him and he said he remained confident of his chances.
In his years in office, he allied himself with a leftist bloc of Latin American leaders and used revenues from the Andean country's natural gas and minerals to redistribute wealth among the masses and lift millions out of poverty in the region's poorest country. The economy has grown by an annual average of about 4.5%, well above the regional average.
Morales, the son of Aymara Indian shepherds, has also been credited for battling racial inequalities.
Many Bolivians, such as vendor Celestino Aguirre still identify with "Evo," as he's widely known, saying people shouldn't criticize him so much. "It's not against Evo, it's against me, against the poor people, against the humble."
But Morales also has faced growing dissatisfaction even among his indigenous supporters. Some are frustrated by corruption scandals linked to his administration — though not Morales himself — and many by his refusal to accept a referendum on limiting presidential terms. While Bolivians voted to maintain term limits in 2016, the country's top court, which is seen by critics as friendly to the president, ruled that limits would violate Morales' political rights as a citizen.
"I'm thinking of a real change because I think that Evo Morales has done what he had to do and should leave by the front door," said Nicolás Choque, a car washer.
Mauricio Parra, who administers a building in downtown La Paz, said he voted for Morales in 2006 as a reaction against previous center-right governments, but this time, he voted for Mesa.
Morales "did very well those four years. ... (But) in his second term there were problems of corruption, drug trafficking, nepotism and other strange things," Parra said, saying that led him to vote against repealing term limits in the 2016 referendum. "He hasn't respected that. That is the principle reason that I'm not going to vote for Evo Morales."
"A runoff will be a heart-stopping finish," Bolivian political analyst Franklin Pareja said ahead of the results. "It would break with the myth that it's hard to beat Evo Morales."
Santiago, Oct 21(AP/UNB) — Protests and violence in Chile spilled over into a new day and raged into Sunday night despite the president cancelling a subway fare hike that has prompted violent demonstrations.
Officials in the Santiago region said three people died in fires at two looted supermarkets early Sunday — among 60 Walmart-owned outlets that have been vandalized, and the company said many stores did not open during the day. Five more people later were found dead in the basement of a burned warehouse and were not employees, authorities said.
At least two airlines cancelled or rescheduled flights into the capital, affecting more than 1,400 passengers Sunday and Monday.
"We are at war with a powerful, relentless enemy that respects nothing or anyone and is willing to use violence and crime without any limits," President Sebastián Piñera said late Sunday in an unscheduled talk from the military headquarters.
Piñera, who is facing the worst crisis of his second term as head of the South American country, announced Saturday night that he was cancelling a subway fare hike imposed two weeks ago. The fare boost touched off major protests that included rioting that caused millions of dollars in damage to burned buses and vandalized subway stops, office buildings and stores.
After meeting with the heads of the legislature and judicial system earlier Sunday, Piñera said they discussed solutions to the current crisis and that he aims "to reduce excessive inequalities, inequities abuses, that persist in our society."
Jaime Quintana, president of the Senate, said that "the political world must take responsibility for how we have come to this situation."
Authorities said 10,500 soldiers and police officers were patrolling the streets in Santiago as state of emergency and curfew remained in effect for six Chilean cities, but protests continued during the day. Security forces used tear gas and jets of water to try disperse crowds.
Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick reported that 62 police officers and 11 civilians were injured in the latest disturbances and prosecutors said nearly 1,500 people had been arrested. He said late Sunday that there had been more than 70 "serious events" during the day, including more than 40 incidents of looting.
With transportation frozen, Cynthia Cordero said she had walked 20 blocks to reach a pharmacy to buy diapers, only to find it had been burned.
"They don't have the right to do this," she said, adding it was right to protest "against the abuses, the increases in fares, against bad education and an undignified pension, but not to destroy."
Long lines formed at gas stations as people tried to fill up for a coming workweek with a public transport system disrupted by the destructive protests. Santiago's subway, which carries an average of 2.4 million riders on a weekday, had been shut down since Friday.
Subway system chief Louis De Grange said workers would try to have at least one line running Monday, but he said it could take weeks or months to have the four others back in service. He said 85 stations and more than three-fourths of the system had been severely damaged.
Quito, Oct 10 (AP/UNB) — An indigenous leader and four other people have died in unrest in Ecuador since last week, the public defender's office said Thursday.
The state agency, which monitors human rights, identified the indigenous leader as Inocencio Tucumbi of Ecuador's Cotopaxi region.
The office of President Lenín Moreno, however, said the number of deaths was lower. It said two people had died in accidents linked to the violence across the country.
One person was hit and killed by a car, and another person suffered fatal injuries after a fall during protests in Quito, said José Briones, secretary general of the president's office.
There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy in the reports on the death toll.
Also Thursday, indigenous demonstrators were holding captive at least eight police officers following anti-government protests.
The uniformed officers were brought onto a stage by protesters who are based at a cultural center in the capital, Quito.
One of the officers was forced to drape a national flag around his shoulders and don a hat of a style worn by some indigenous people.
Indigenous leader Jaime Vargas invited the captive police to join the anti-government campaign of the protesters.
Elsewhere in Quito, security forces patrolled after a day of protests that included clashes with police.
Ecuador's indigenous groups as well as labor organizations and other demonstrators mobilized after the removal of fuel subsidies, a step announced by Moreno last week.
The announcement led to a sharp increase in fuel prices and unrest in many parts of the country. The discontent widened to include calls for the resignation of Moreno, who has refused to quit.
Indigenous protesters played a major role in the 2005 resignation of Ecuador's president at the time, Lucio Gutiérrez, though the military's tacit approval was key to his removal.
Ecuador's cuts in fuel subsidies were among measures announced as part of a $4.2 billion funding plan with the International Monetary Fund, which said the package will strengthen the economy and generate jobs.
Indigenous groups condemn the deal with the IMF, saying austerity measures will deepen economic inequality.
Brussels, Oct 10 (AP/UNB) — Former Ecuador President Rafael Correa is dismissing as "nonsense" allegations that he is plotting with Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro to destabilize the current Ecuador government amid violent unrest sparked by fuel price hikes.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Correa called for a new election to solve the crisis. He has been accused by his successor, Lenin Moreno, of trying to foment a coup. Correa said "Moreno says whatever he wants, but this is irrational ... it's ridiculous."
Correa, who settled in Belgium after he left office in 2017, faces an arrest warrants issued last year in Ecuador for alleged corruption.
Correa said "the solution is very clear ... to call for anticipated election in the case of very strong political crisis or social unrest. Exactly the situation that we have right now."
Sao Paulo, Oct 8 (AP/UNB) — Brazil's environment minister says more than 100 tons of oil has been spilled along the northeastern coast since the beginning of September.
Ricardo Salles said Monday on Twitter that 42 cities have been affected by the spills. He did not say how he reached those figures.
Brazilian police are investigating the origin of the oil, which has killed at least seven turtles and forced swimmers and fishermen to stay away from contaminated areas.
State-run oil giant company Petrobras said last week that the spilled oil isn't the type it produces.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is expected to receive a preliminary assessment on the spills this week.