Bolivia military 'outraged' over exiled Morales militia claim

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales looks on during a visit to a group of Argentinian priests called "Curas en la Opcion por los Pobres" and the Bolivian community in Buenos Aires. -Courtesy photo

LA PAZ - Bolivia's armed forces hit out at exiled former president Evo Morales on Monday after he said he would introduce armed local militias similar to those in Venezuela if he returns home.

"Bolivia's people are hurt and our armed forces outraged," said Defense Minister Luis Fernando Lopez in a press conference.

He said the military rejected "an absolutely terrorist and seditious logic."

Morales has been accused of terrorism and sedition by the interim government and an arrest warrant has been issued against him.

Morales fled Bolivia -- initially to Mexico before settling in Argentina -- on November 10 after three weeks of protests against his controversial re-election in a poll widely denounced as rigged.

The interim government of right-wing President Jeanine Anez has banned him from standing in new elections to be held on May 3, but Morales has been angling for a return to political life in Bolivia.

In a recording played on Sunday on Bolivia's Radio Kawsachum Coca (RKC) -- owned by the coca planters union to which he belongs -- Morales repeated his belief that he had been the victim of "a coup".

Morales said it had been a "colossal mistake" for his government not to have a "plan B" that would have allowed his Movement for Socialism party to hold onto power in the face of mounting pressure from opposition demonstrators.

He said he intends to return to Bolivia when campaigning for the elections starts, despite the risk of arrest.

"Before long, if I return to Bolivia, we will have to organize popular armed militias, as Venezuela has done," Morales told RKC.

He confirmed to Reuters that the recording was genuine, but added that he did not want people to arm themselves with guns.

Lopez, who was previously in the military, insisted: "We're not going to allow anything."

Anez said on Twitter that Morales's statements showed that "peace, reconciliation and democracy were never options for him."

Morales tweeted that indigenous peasant movements had defended themselves in the past.

"In some regions it was called a communal guard; In other times: militias. Now, union police or union security. All within the framework of our uses and customs, and respecting the Constitution," he tweeted.

In Venezuela, about 3.2 million civilians belong to a militia created by former president Hugo Chavez, an ally of Morales and mentor of the country's current socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Those militias -- known as "colectivos" in Venezuela -- have been accused by NGOs of carrying out violent oppression against opposition protesters. -AFP