Bolivians Turn Out for Opposition-Backed ‘National Assembly’ as Protests Could Return – US NEWS

LA PAZ/SANTA CRUZ (Reuters) – Bolivians nationwide are expected to participate in an opposition-led “national assembly” on Wednesday to discuss a slew of proposals, including whether to restart protests which ignited in December over the arrest of Santa Cruz Governor Luis Camacho.

Weeks-long protests broke out after Camacho, who has long challenged the left-wing federal government in La Paz, was arrested for his alleged role in unrest in 2019 which saw President Evo Morales flee the country.

The protests were suspended last week ahead of the assembly.

Camacho’s home base of Santa Cruz, a relatively wealthy agricultural stronghold, is expected to turn out the fiercest support in favor of reinstating roadblocks, which would snarl trade within the country.

Bolivians in La Paz are bracing for clashes with government supporters.

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Each region is also expected to debate local issues in the assembly. In Potosi, long faithful to the ruling MAS party, residents will discuss the area’s rich and largely untapped lithium reserves, leaders said.

Camacho, who remains in pre-trial detention, has appeared in court several times in recent days. Despite his appeals to be placed under house arrest while he awaits trial, judges have ruled he will remain imprisoned.

Prosecutors charge Camacho, who was then a Santa Cruz civic leader, with creating the “power vacuum” behind the resignation of former President Morales. Camacho denies the accusations. 

Morales declared victory in a disputed election which would have given him a fourth-consecutive term, but election monitors suspected fraud, sparking protests leading to his resignation.

Senate Vice President Jeanine Anez, a right-wing leader, was sworn in as interim president and led the country until Morales ally Luis Arce won elections in 2020.

Since then, the leftist government has prosecuted opposition leaders for the unrest, which they call a “coup.” Anez received a 10-year prison sentence last year.

(Reporting by Santiago Limachi, Sergio Limachi and Monica Machicao in La Paz and Juan Pablo Blacutt in Santa Cruz; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Chris Reese)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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