A 24-hour general strike in Bolivia’s opposition-controlled departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija and Chuquisaca Aug. 19 paralyzed a large swath of the country’s east. Clashes broke out in the city of Santa Cruz, where protesters armed with sticks and stones fought with loyalists of President Evo Morales, and police fired tear gas. Young strike enforcers were reported to be patrolling the streets of Santa Cruz with baseball bats, while Morales supporters stood guard outside the working-class district of Plan 3000. Schools, shops, airports and private vehicular traffic were largely shut down in the five departments. Morales accused opposition leaders of using demands for the return of funds from the Direct Hydrocarbon Tax (IDH) as a “pretext” to try to divide the National Police force. But Cabinet Minister Juan Ramon Quintana lauded authorities in Tarija and Chuquisaca for not supporting the strike, despite being part of the regional opposition alliance, the National Democratic Council (CONALDE). (LAT, Aug. 21; InfoBae, Argentina, Prensa Latina, Aug. 20)
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