Bolivia: protests paralyze Potosí

The southern Bolivian city of Potosí has been paralyzed by strikes and protests for over a week, with roads blocked, businesses closed and the airport under occupation. All flights are suspended, and some 100 foreign tourists trapped. Among other concerns, protesters are demanding construction of a new airport, a metal smelter and a cement factory; and recognition of the disputed community of Coroma, now within the jurisdiction of the neighboring department of Oruro, as part of Potosí department.

Potosi's governor from the ruling Movement to Socialism (MAS), Félix González, said there were 35 vigils where protesters are on hunger strike, and that he felt abandoned by President Evo Morales. The national minister for autonomy, Carlos Romero, in a La Paz press conference, accused "radical sectors" in Potosí of obstructing the initiation of a dialogue process in the city of Sucre, where Potosí's border conflict with neighboring Oruro and other issues were to be addressed. Rollando Villena, leader of the national human rights ombudman (Defensor del Pueblo), said two infants had been killed in Potosí during violent protests. (AP, HidrocarburosBolivia, El Universal, Caracas, Aug. 8)

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Potosí protests escalate

At least nine were injured in a clash between truck drivers and protesters blocking a highway in Potosí Aug. 15. The confrontation took place in the San Antonio area, about 20 kilometers from Potosí city. Drivers of the backed-up trucks and buses tried to clear the road by force, attacking a picket of peasants and miners, burning their mattresses and blankets and throwing away their food supplies. The protesters re-converged and counter-attacked, hurling stones and dynamite cartridges, destroying up to 40 buses and trucks. One protester lost a hand trying to throw a dynamite cartridge. (LAHT, Aug. 17)

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