Morales pick returns to Bolivia to run for president
Arce is due to stand for MAS in the May 3 election aiming to extend the socialist party’s hold on the presidency for a fourth term.
Morales was in power for almost 14 years before resigning on November 10 following three weeks of at times violent protests against his controversial re-election in an October poll.
An audit from the Organization of American States found clear evidence of fraud. After resigning, Morales fled into exile in Mexico before settling in neighbouring Argentina a month later.
He is barred from standing in the May election and an arrest warrant has been issued for him — the interim government accuses him of sedition and terrorism — but Morales has vowed to return to his homeland to lead the MAS campaign.
Arce, a former economy minister, arrived at the El Alto airport just outside La Paz, where he was met by his running mate, former foreign minister David Choquehuance, amid cheering supporters waving the “Wiphala” indigenous flag.
Morales, 60, was Bolivia’s first-ever indigenous president and MAS derives much of its support from indigenous communities that were often marginalized under previous governments.
Arce, 56, left the airport without speaking to the press as his supporters chanted: “Arce, president,” and “Fight, friend, the people are with you.”
Arce is considered the brainchild behind Bolivia’s economic success under Morales but like many of his former colleagues has been accused of wrong-doing while in office.
Rafael Quispe, the director of the Indigenous Development Fund, has called on Arce to be “charged, arrested and taken to jail” for his “alleged responsibility in the embezzlement of millions” from an indigenous fund while he was economy minister.
However, no arrest warrant has been issued for Arce, according to Attorney General Heidy Gil.
MAS led the most recent opinion poll with 26 percent — although the survey was conducted before Arce was named as the party’s candidate.
Centrist Carlos Mesa, who came second to Morales in the disputed October election, and right-winger Luis Fernando Camacho each polled 17 percent.
Interim president Jeanine Anez — who controversially announced her candidacy on Sunday despite having previously insisted her role was only to lead the country into elections — was in fourth place with 12 percent.
Candidates have until February 3 to register.
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