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Bolivia tries to return to normal after harsh protests


A woman wearing a mask to protect herself from COVID-19 takes a photo with her cell phone during a protest against the postponement of the presidential elections in El Alto, Bolivia, on Thursday, Aug.13, 2020.

AP Photo

Despite the announcement of a gradual withdrawal, protests with roadblocks continued in Bolivia on Friday after interim president Jeanine Áñez promulgated a law that sets October 18 as the unpostponable date for the presidential elections.

Coca growers, indigenous people and neighborhood councils from neighborhoods related to ex-ex-president Evo Morales, who have been supporting the protests for 12 days, were divided and in separate meetings defined the future of their demonstrations.

Meanwhile, the police arrested six suspects after detonations of dynamite and attacks with paint against the headquarters of the Central Obrera Boliviana hours after its leader Juan Carlos Huarachi rejected the agreement negotiated with the mediation of the European Union, the Catholic bishops and the representation of the UN in the country.

However, Huarachi called on those mobilized to suspend the protests which, he said, “were not in vain.”

Some 7,000 vehicles are stranded on the roads and the protest makes it difficult to supply hospitals with oxygen for seriously ill people with COVID-19 and other diseases, according to authorities.

Bricklayer Mario Limachi pleaded for oxygen in a video that shook social media this week. Hours later he died at home, said the doctor who treated him, Ericka Pérez.

The Ministry of Health has documented other cases for a possible criminal lawsuit, said the director of Epidemiology, Virgilio Prieto.

The mayor of La Paz, Luis Revilla, said that food “will run out” in the coming days if the protests continue. In Cochabamba, in the center of the country, affected farmers threw milk and dead chickens against the government. The government has enabled flights to transport food, housewives complain of shortages and high prices, and businessmen say they have suffered millions in losses.

They are the toughest protests since November last year when a seizure left 36 dead after controversial elections canceled due to alleged fraud that forced Morales to resign and go into exile after 14 years in power.

Áñez took office to call new elections but the pandemic forced them to be postponed. “Beyond our differences, Bolivians prefer democracy to dictatorship; the dialogue to block (routes), ”said the president, whose government has been weakened by the epidemic, the economy in recession and her decision to run for president.

Morales’ candidate, the former Minister of Economy, Luis Arce, appears first in the polls although the votes would not be enough to win in a first round.

The political crisis has plunged the country into ungovernability at a time when infections from the new coronavirus total 96,459 and deaths 3,884.