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Luis Arce sworn in as Bolivia's new president; Morales returns from exile

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Bolivia's President Luis Arce (R) and Vice-president David Choquehuanca attend a parade from the balcony of the Presidential Palace in the capital La Paz, November 8, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

Luis Arce is now officially Bolivia’s new president after taking the oath at an inauguration ceremony, which marked the return to power of the powerful socialist party, more than one year after former left-wing leader Evo Morales renounced office amid violence and political crisis.

Heads of state from Iran, Venezuela, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Colombia attended Sunday's swearing-in ceremony that was held in the capital La Paz.

"We have before us the great challenge of rebuilding our economy again, of generating certainty, of generating growth," Arce told an assembly of lawmakers and guests in Congress alongside his Vice-President, David Choquehuanca.

He also pledged to "defeat" the coronavirus pandemic in the country, which has one of the worst death tolls per capita.

The new president promised to try to heal political rifts and "put an end to fear" after the deadly violence that erupted in the wake of last year's election.

“The left is not defeated in Bolivia – on the contrary, we have a new opportunity now to work for the Bolivian people,” he added.

People watch as Bolivia's President Luis Arce stands on the balcony of the presidential palace during his inauguration, in La Paz, November 8, 2020. (Photo via Reuters)

The country was plunged into chaos last year, after the opposition disputed the results of the presidential election, in which Morales — Bolivia’s first indigenous leader — won a fourth term.

His rival and the head of the Civic Community opposition party, Carlos Mesa, refused to recognize the results of the vote, however.

The leftwing leader renounced his office and left the country in June 2019, amid angry protests.

A conservative interim government took over after his resignation.

Morales returned to Bolivia on Monday from Argentina, where he had sought refuge after first going to Mexico.

He then headed to his rural stronghold in El Chapare, where he has strong support among the peasant population.

The return of the former leader, who is still a dominant figure in the Movement for Socialism (MAS), has now become a major challenge for Arce, with politicians saying that he has to prove that Morales is not the true power behind the new government.

Morales, who led the country for almost 14 years, drew praise for presiding over the country’s "economic miracle" — with Arce, the UK-educated economist, serving as his finance and economy minister.

Arce, however, said that the former president would play no role in his government.

The new president also talked about improving relations with the United States following the election of Joe Biden as the country’s 46th president. 

"With a new government, we hope to improve relations that translate into the well-being of our people," he wrote on Twitter.

Morales had formerly accused the US of involvement in the unrest and military opposition that led to “a coup” in Bolivia last year.

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