Violent protests between Bolivian forces and indigenous people, loyal to former leftist President Evo Morales, have resulted in at least 30 deaths with no conceivable end is in sight.
Violent protests were held in Cochabamba and Sacaba, right outside of the main town. This is an area where the former President has many supporters.
In the city of El Alto, just outside of the capital of La Paz, indigenous people had been blocking a fuel plant for several days and had limited the access to the highway leading to the capital where food and fuel shortages were widespread. The government had flown in supplies to ease the burden on the people.
But the military moved in to lift the blockade and the situation in El Alto quickly turned violent. Bolivian troops moved in with helicopters, armored vehicles, and motorcycles. At least six to eight people were killed in the violence.
The protestors had constructed roadblocks from huge concrete slabs, signposts and burning tires. The tires created a thick black smoke that obscured the air and gave the impression of a Middle East war zone.
The Army claimed to have fired only tear gas and not regular ammo. However, the police were seen on video openly firing on the protesters in El Alto. The people there want the interim President Jeanine Áñez to step down.
The interim government has called for new elections.
Morales resigned after several claims of election fraud were uncovered by the Organization of American States (OAS) auditors. He sought asylum in Mexico.
The Bolivian government later played a tape recording in which he is ordering his supporters, from his location in Mexico city, to continue the protests and to keep the blockades going in an attempt to get back into power.
Interior Minister Arturo Murillo that played the recording to the media, called it a “crime against humanity,” accusing the ex-president of “terrorism.”
“In the coming hours we will file an international lawsuit on this,” he added.
Morales and his supporters want the government to withdraw the decree that says the army and police will not be held accountable in what is referred to as their effort to maintain security. “In Bolivia, they are killing my brothers and my sisters,” he said. “This is the kind of thing the old military dictatorships used to do.”
“This massacre is part of a genocide that is happening in our beloved Bolivia,” he added.
Morales had been in office since 2006. He defied constitutional law by seeking a fourth term. The election was rife with violations according to the OAS; and under increasing pressure, Morales, who shut down the polls for 24 hours, agreed to hold new elections.
The head of Bolivia’s armed forces, General Williams Kaliman, then urged Morales to step down from the Presidency in the interest of peace and stability. But since his arrival in Mexico City, Morales has said he was ousted by a coup and has urged his supporters to continue the protests.
After the Vice President and Head of the Senate resigned, Ms. Áñez, who was next in line for the presidency under the constitution, took over as interim president until the new elections, which she has been trying to push through, can be held.
American presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders, called the Bolivian situation a coup. “I oppose the intervention of Bolivia’s security forces in the democratic process and their repression of Indigenous protesters. When the military intervened and asked President Evo Morales to leave, in my view, that’s called a coup,” Sanders posted on Twitter.
But other than his fellow Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, from New York, few other members of Congress have joined in his condemnation. The Trump administration saw Morales’s ousting as a boon for democracy in the region.