Mass protests paralyze Bolivia

Bolivia protest

Protesters have launched blockades across main roads through Bolivia over the past days, effectively cutting off La Paz and other cities, to oppose the government’s postponement of new presidential elections. The blockades have raised fears of food and gasoline shortages, with throngs of La Paz residents lining up outside markets and petrol stations. Chancellor Karen Longaric portrayed the protests as being masterminded from exile by ousted president Evo Morales, saying “Ex-president Morales and groups aligned with the Movement Toward Socialism have initiated violent and inhuman acts.”

The government’s perceived inaction on the COVID-19 pandemic is another grievance of the protesters. But the Organization of American States General Secretariat issued a statement accusing some protesters of “preventing the passage of oxygen tankers and ambulances necessary to attend the pandemic.” One such incident was reported from Tiraque, Cochabamba department, where three tanker-trucks carrying oxygen were halted at a roadblock. Government sources said the drivers were threatened and had to flee. (Eju!, Aug. 9; FT, Aug. 8; NYT, Erbol, Aug. 7)

Counter-protesters are beginning to mobilize, attacking the roadblocks and attempting to clear the thoroughfares. A particularly violent clash was reported from Samaipata, Santa Cruz department, where rocks were hurled and dynamite set off. (Pagina Siete, Aug. 10; Los Tiempos de Cochabamba, Aug. 8)

People infected with the coronavirus are dying before they can access medical care across Bolivia. The country’s overwhelmed hospitals are turning critically ill patients away, leaving anguished families to watch their loved ones die. (DW, Aug. 8)

Photo: Página Siete

  1. Bolivia government files ICC complaint against opposition

    The interim government of Bolivia sent a referral to International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, asking for an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed by members of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) during protests in August. 

    The government claims that MAS plotted to harm the civilian population by preventing access to

    public health supplies and services with the direct consequence of causing the death of several people and anxiety in the rest of the population due to the possibility of dying without being able to be treated in public hospitals, or in conditions that allow them access to medical supplies, treatments, and, above all, medical oxygen.

    The government also asserts that the protests and blockades were intended to create “serious social upheaval” as a way to force the government to move up the presidential elections. (Jurist)