Mass protests paralyze Bolivia
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)