Friday, January 12, 2007

Political clashes kill 2 in Bolivia
By FERNANDO CARTAGENA, Associated Press WriterThu Jan 11, 9:57 PM ET
Protesters seeking the ouster of a Bolivian state governor for his opposition to leftist President Evo Morales battled with the governor's supporters Thursday in clashes that left two dead and more than 60 injured, authorities said.
Bolivian military officials estimated 30,000 demonstrators armed with sticks and rocks overran police in the streets of Cochabamba during the fourth day of protests to demand the resignation of governor Manfred Reyes Villa. They clashed at various spots throughout the valley city.
Authorities said a force of 1,500 soldiers has been dispatched to the city, 125 miles southeast of La Paz, to restore order.
In the Bolivian capital of La Paz, hundreds of protesters surrounded a hotel where five opposition governors, including Reyes, were meeting.
"I want us all to return to peace and to respect," Reyes told reporters at the meeting. But he said it was up to Morales' government to restore order. "I regret the violence that is now happening in Cochabamba, and put the responsibility on the government to solve this soon."
In a televised message Thursday night, Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera confirmed two deaths in the unrest, an opposition protester and a government supporter. There were 68 injured, mostly from sticks and rocks but also from gunshot wounds.
Bolivian media reported one of the dead was a coca farmer, one of thousands who had gathered in the state capital.
The vice president criticized Reyes and linked him to the violence.
"He left Cochabamba despite the severity of the conflict and came to La Paz to play politics, to conspire against the government, to prepare more demonstrations," Garcia Linera said. "The duty of the governor is to be with his people, back there in Cochabamba, seeking peace, seeking solutions."
The president was in Nicaragua Thursday after attending the inauguration of fellow leftist President Daniel Ortega, but administration officials said Morales was hastening his return in response to the violence.
Protesters continued Thursday to blockade highways leading in and out of Cochabamba, while Reyes, a former presidential candidate still widely considered to harbor national political ambitions, repeated vows not to leave his post.
Thursday's riots were the latest in a series of escalating protests that began last month in Cochabamba, the capital city of the Bolivian state of the same name that is also Morales' home state.
Reyes has backed opposition calls for greater autonomy for some states from the federal government and criticized the government's efforts to rewrite the constitution, angering Morales supporters.
Retrieved from Yahoo News

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