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Mass Protests Continue in Bolivia

HeadlineJun 03, 2005

Massive protests continue to spread across Latin America’s poorest country, Bolivia. Late yesterday, the embattled US-backed president, Carlos Mesa, signed an emergency decree ordering a referendum on greater autonomy for the richest area of the country and a vote in mid-October to elect members for an assembly to rewrite the constitution. Mesa made the announcement late yesterday after the country’s Congress failed to reach a consensus for the third day in a row and with indigenous-led protests raging in the streets of La Paz, bringing the capital to a standstill. The protests have cut off the capital from the airport and blockades have shut down two-thirds of the country’s highways. Meanwhile, the Bolivian Foreign Ministry rejected what it called “international mediation” after the US State Department said Bolivia would be discussed at the Organization of American States general assembly next week. Riot police armed with tear gas continue to guard Congress and protests have spread to other areas in the country. Jim Shultz of the Democracy Center in Cochabamba reports that there are rumors of a coup in the air and said the protests “show all the signs of growing more intense and bold in their willingness to shut the country down.”

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