bolivia | by Miguel Centellas | 02 Jun, 2004 at 12:30 PM | comments (0) | trackback (0)
Three dead in Beni after clashes w/ military & police. Jose Galindo, Minister of the Presidency, worries there's an effort to overthrow Mesa brewing. Meanwhile, MAS leader Evo Morales threatened a responsibility trial for the Beni clash.
The conflict began after indigenous protesters in Beni blockaded a highway between Trinidad & Santa Cruz. At 6am, military & police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, then began clearing the highway. A half hour later, the campesinos returned, ambushing the military & police, killing a lieutenant & wounding 12 other soldiers & police. In return fire, two campesinos died, 9 were wounded. Another 12 were arrested.
The Beni conflict began w/ demand by some local residents to change the prefect (the department's presidentially-appointed governor), wanting to replace Erwin Romero w/ José Pessoa. The regional branch of the COB joined the protest, pushing for radicalized measures. After 5 days of bloqueo, the prefecture decided to re-open the highway in order to prevent a food shortage.
The Beni clash comes at a bad time for Mesa, who's also facing an increasingly radicalized teachers' strike just over a month before the national gas referendum. This includes a paro (strike) in El Alto (led by the COR) against the referendum questions — which common wisdom considers obliquely worded.
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