UN en­voy slams po­lice killings

Pretoria News - - WORLD -

BO­LI­VIANS suf­fered long lines on the streets of La Paz yes­ter­day to se­cure chicken, eggs and cook­ing fuel as sup­port­ers of ousted Pres­i­dent Evo Mo­rales con­tin­ued to crip­ple the coun­try’s high­ways, iso­lat­ing pop­u­la­tion cen­tres from low­land farms.

Of­fi­cials said a mas­sive Her­cules mil­i­tary plane had touched down in the high­land cap­i­tal of La Paz on Satur­day with a cargo full of meat prod­ucts, by­pass­ing the bar­ri­caded high­ways that drop down out of the city.

Pres­i­dency min­is­ter Jer­jes Jus­tini­ano said the gov­ern­ment had estab­lished an “air bridge” to La Paz. He said of­fi­cials hoped to do the same with other ma­jor Bo­li­vian ci­ties cut off from sup­plies.

The An­dean na­tion erupted into cri­sis fol­low­ing the coun­try’s Oc­to­ber 20 elec­tion. Then-pres­i­dent Mo­rales, who won the elec­tion, re­signed last Sunday after an Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Amer­i­can States au­dit re­vealed ev­i­dence of vote rig­ging. He fled to Mex­ico.

Mo­rales’ sup­port­ers took to the streets shortly after, some­times armed with home-made bazookas, hand­guns and grenades, bar­ri­cad­ing roads and skir­mish­ing with se­cu­rity forces.

As vi­o­lence es­ca­lated, many in the poorer re­gions of La Paz have taken to cook­ing over fire­wood as long lines for gas, can­is­ters and scarce food com­pli­cated life.

“I hope things calm down,” said Jo­sue Pillco, a con­struc­tion worker from a work­ing-class La Paz neigh­bour­hood. “We’re not get­ting any food or gaso­line.”

Vi­o­lent protests on Fri­day around Cochabamba, a coca-grow­ing re­gion and strong­hold of Mo­rales’ sup­port­ers, left at least nine dead, of­fi­cials said.

The deaths have prompted al­le­ga­tions of hu­man rights abuses by po­lice forces.

UN en­voy Jean Ar­nault said a team would hold meet­ings with politi­cians and so­cial groups be­gin­ning yes­ter­day, to end the vi­o­lence and push for “free and trans­par­ent elec­tions”.

Mean­while Ar­nault met with Bo­livia’s in­terim pres­i­dent on Satur­day to find a way out of the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal cri­sis while the world body ex­pressed con­cern the sit­u­a­tion could “spin out of con­trol” amid a ris­ing death toll.

On leav­ing the meet­ing with in­terim leader Jea­nine Anez, Ar­nault said the UN hoped it could con­trib­ute to an “ac­cel­er­ated paci­fi­ca­tion process” lead­ing to new elec­tions fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion and ex­ile of Mo­rales.

Mean­while, an­other in­ter­na­tional body, the In­ter-Amer­i­can Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights, con­demned Anez’s gov­ern­ment for is­su­ing a de­cree it says “ex­empts from crim­i­nal re­spon­si­bil­ity” sol­diers who took part in ef­forts to break up protests and un­rest that have left at least 23 peo­ple dead.

The norm was ap­proved before the most vi­o­lent day since the cri­sis be­gan, when at least eight pro-Mo­rales coca grow­ers were killed dur­ing a demon­stra­tion.

Ear­lier on Satur­day UN hu­man rights chief Michelle Bachelet called the deaths “an ex­tremely dan­ger­ous de­vel­op­ment”.

“I am re­ally con­cerned that the sit­u­a­tion in Bo­livia could spin out of con­trol if the au­thor­i­ties do not han­dle it sen­si­tively,” she said.

Protesters said po­lice fired on Fri­day when they tried to cross a mil­i­tary check­point in Sacaba, a town near Cochabamba. Many of the protesters were coca leaf grow­ers loyal to Mo­rales, who had been Bo­livia’s first in­dige­nous pres­i­dent before be­ing pres­sured to step down by Bo­livia’s mil­i­tary chief after weeks of wide­spread protests over a dis­puted elec­tion.

Wit­nesses de­scribed see­ing bod­ies of sev­eral protesters and dozens of peo­ple rushed to hos­pi­tals, many cov­ered in blood. |

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