Mechanical glitch cited for president’s helicopter mishap, which raised suspicions among his supports amid coup rumours.
A helicopter carrying Bolivia’s President Evo Morales made an emergency landing on Monday due to a mechanical problem, the military said, raising suspicions among his supporters after opponents promised to remove him.
No one was hurt in the incident, the air force said, but the incident fuelled tensions in the country where protesters have been rallying against the left-wing president for two weeks following his disputed re-election.
The mechanical glitch happened as the helicopter was taking off from a village in the Andes where Morales had been inaugurating a new road, it said. Video of the incident circulated on social media.
“Brothers, today, after opening the road in Colquiri, we had an incident with the helicopter that will be properly investigated,” Morales tweeted later after resuming work at government headquarters.
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The air force said it was investigating the causes of the fault.
The EC-145 helicopter “had a mechanical fault in the tail rotor during take-off, which prompted an emergency landing,” the Bolivian Air Force said in a statement.
On Saturday, a conservative opposition leader in the eastern Santa Cruz region, Luis Fernando Camacho, threatened to “take decisive action” on Monday night to drive Morales from power.
Deadly unrest has gripped Bolivia since Morales was named winner of an election on October 20 for a fourth term.
His opponents have branded the result a fraud, citing alleged irregularities in the vote count.
Morales’s rival in the polls, Carlos Mesa, has called for a new vote to be held.
Demonstrators returned to block roads in the capital La Paz on Monday in fresh protests.
In his address to supporters on Saturday, Camacho called on the military to “be on the side of the people.”
Morales responded by accusing his opponents of seeking bloodshed.
Interior Minister Carlos Romero said Monday the government had “absolute trust” in the armed forces.
Romero alleged on Sunday that “a violent confrontation is being prepared” for Monday night near the presidential palace in La Paz.
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