With eye on Bolivia vote, Evo Morales sets up Argentina base

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Bolivia's former President Evo Morales gives a press conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. Morales flew to Argentina, where the new center-left government said on Dec. 12 that it had granted him political asylum. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

BUENOS AIRES – Evo Morales is stepping up his efforts to shape Bolivian politics after his resignation from the presidency, even though he could face prosecution if he returns to Bolivia from exile.

Morales said Tuesday in Argentina, where he is based, that he would campaign for the presidential candidate of his party in elections expected within the next several months, though a date has not been set. The candidate from Morales' Movement Toward Socialism party is yet to be chosen, and the former president cannot run in the new elections.

Bolivia’s first indigenous president, prompted by the military and nationwide protests, resigned on Nov. 10. Morales left for political asylum in Mexico, saying he was the victim of a coup d’état.

Critics of the long-ruling leader had accused him of using fraud to win a fourth straight term in office in the Oct. 20 vote, An audit by the Organization of American States backed up the allegations, saying it found evidence of vote-rigging.

He arrived in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires on Dec. 12 along with several members of his former government, apparently planning to use Argentina as a base to try to influence events in neighboring Bolivia.

Morales, who was Bolivia's first indigenous president, retains a strong hold over the Movement Toward Socialism. He said there are many leaders in the party and that the idea is to select a unifying candidate to overcome splits that have emerged since Morales resigned.

Morales, a socialist, has an ally in the government of Argentine President Alberto Fernández, who was elected in October and took office two days before the former Bolivian leader arrived in the country.

Bolivia's interim government, led by President Jeanine Añez, is concerned that Morales could use Buenos Aires as a campaign headquarters and might plot his return home.