Popular Rebellion Left 16 Killed in Bolivia

Violent clashes between protesters and the Army in La Paz. The IMF and the Government wanted to tax salaries 12%
The Capital City of this Andean South American country turned into a battlefield yesterday, when a demonstration against an unpopular measure adopted by the neo-liberal administration of Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada ended in tragedy. Clashes turned deadly after students and rebel police forces gathered in the main square of La Paz to protest against Government.

Therefore, President Sanchez de Losada had no better idea than to call the Army to repress the protest and the results are evident: at least 16 killed, 80 wounded and millionaire material damages in the Capital. Then, rioters looted shops and supermarkets in the outskirts of La Paz, while many others attacked public buildings, setting fire to the Ministry of Labor and political parties' headquarters. As per the last reports from La Paz, the Government and the police reached to an agreement to stop violence. At the same time, the leader of the coca growers and second in the last elections, Evo Morales called on a national blockade of roads, while the national confederation of unions announced a general strike for today.

The continuous aggravation of the social situation and the increasing in the number of protests harass the liberal Government of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada since the begining. Rural clashes between the powerful farmers and the Security Forces have turned South America's poorest country into a battlefield.

Armed Forces cannot take control of the extended rural areas where peasants backed by indigenous groups and left-wing forces have launched an offensive to eject Lozada from office. "If the Government maintains its intransigent position, we'll paralyze the nation until the Government is forced from office", had recently said Evo Morales.

Washington funds a program to eradicate coca farms, as says it is used to produce cocaine. However, peasants survive thanks to this production and say the coca is intended for traditional uses. Their indigenous ancestors have chewed coca leaves for centuries. Indeed, the personal consumption is allowed inside Bolivian territory, as well as in the neighbor areas of Chile and Argentina.

To keep on funding programs and the National Treasury, the IMF imposed to the Government, recessive measures as the salaries' reduction of 12%. Now, the Government was forced to nullify the rule, but it will be probably too late. President Sanchez de Lozada has lost the confidence of his electorate and cannot control the situation in the streets.

Bolivia is also one of the poorest countries in South America. Whereas wealthy city elites, who are mostly of Spanish ancestry, have traditionally dominated political and economic life, the majority of Bolivians are low-income subsistence farmers, miners, small traders or artisans.

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina

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