Ex economy minister is Morales party pick in Bolivia president race


Buenos Aires (AFP)

Luis Arce, credited with steering Bolivia through years of economic growth, will be a presidential candidate in May elections, Bolivia's exiled former leader Evo Morales said on Sunday.

Bolivians will choose a new president May 3, more than six months after a disputed ballot sparked violent street protests and the resignation of Morales, who fled to Mexico and then Argentina.

Bolivia's interim government has banned Morales himself from standing and has issued a warrant for his arrest should he return.

Arce, 56, who also fled his homeland after Morales's downfall, was a major part of successive Morales governments after 2006 that slashed the poverty rate and presided over rapid economic growth fuelled by gas exports.

Bolivia became one of Latin America's fastest-growing economies, but Arce had to temporarily step aside in 2017 for health reasons.

He will be backed in the election by Morales's Movement for Socialism (MAS) party, the former leader said in Buenos Aires.

Arce's vice presidential candidate running mate will be former foreign minister David Choquehuanca, 58, Morales said.

Arce is "a combination of the city and the countryside to continue the process of change," said Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president.

"Our peasant movement does not exclude people and does not marginalize people."

He led the country for almost 14 years until his resignation on November 10, but in December said he was convinced his party would win the next ballot.

Recent polls have shown the MAS has about 21 percent support, followed by centrist former president Carlos Mesa with about 14 percent.

Morales, a socialist, told AFP on December 24 that he was forced from power by a US-backed coup d'etat aimed at gaining access to the South American country's vast lithium resources.

The government of interim President Jeanine Anez said it would launch a corruption probe into nearly 600 officials of Morales's administration, including ministers.