Former Bolivian leader Evo Morales crossed the border back into Bolivia on Monday and ended a year in exile after a close ally and member of his MAS Socialist Party was sworn in as president.
Morales, who led Bolivia for almost 14 years as the first domestic president, entered the country from Argentina after a farewell ceremony led by Argentine President Alberto Fernandez.
Morales, who left Bolivia under a cloud in November 2019 after international observers cited irregularities in an election that gave him a fourth term, said being able to return filled him “with happiness.”
“Today is one of the most important days of my life, returning to the country I love so much fills me with happiness,” he wrote on Twitter.
New President Luis Arce has said Morales will not play a role in his government.
Morales crossed the border from Argentina, where he has lived in exile, at 9 ET (1400 GMT) and is expected to go to his rural stronghold in Chapare.
About 2,000 supporters, including members of Argentine social and political groups, gathered at the La Quiaca crossing on Monday morning to meet him. They waved the flag of the Argentine indigenous people and played music on traditional instruments, according to Reuters reporters.
Fernandez told the audience that the unrest in Bolivia reminded all Latin Americans of the need for regional solidarity. “We are part of a great nation,” he said. “We do not want countries for some, we want countries for everyone. It is our duty to stand up for threatened people.”
On the Bolivian side of the border, in Villazón, a much larger crowd was waiting to welcome their exiled former leader.
Morales attended a domestic blessing ceremony before going to address the large crowds gathered in Villazon.
After 11 months of guard rule, Arce, 57, won the October election by landslide and swore in as president on Sunday at a ceremony in the highland city of La Paz in front of heads of state from Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia and Spain, as well as senior officials from Chile, Iran and the Venezuelan government. Nicolas Maduro.
The reserved former finance minister, acting as the architect of Bolivia’s rapid growth under Morales, promised to “defeat” the coronavirus pandemic, “put an end to the fear” of deadly electoral violence last year and generate growth after the kind of COVID-19 blockades.