La Paz (AFP) – Bolivia’s opposition on Monday stepped up its demands on leftist President Luis Arce with a call for the repeal of more laws after a week of protests.
The opposition mayor’s office in the capital La Paz, civil organizations and a powerful retail sector trade union met to demand the annulment of regulations approved by the Arce government this year, including a development plan which they say ignores the powers of local mayors, regional governments and public universities.
La Paz mayor Ivan Arias read out the new demands at the meeting and said it was agreed a march would be held in the capital on Wednesday.
The meeting, held at the premises of the local government, was harassed by officials who threw eggs and tomatoes at the front of the building.
Tensions rose with the arrival of more government supporters, and police used tear gas to disperse the crowds. [Bolivian Thoughts opinion: Two nights ago, I spoke with a female technician, working in a major ministry unit. She told me that their bosses, instructed, mainly men young employees, to dress “casual” and go out in the streets and pose as bystanders. And start harassing those who blockade or intend to meet and the Mayor’s meeting. “Do not worry if you get arrested, we will set you free in no time,” their bosses told them as well as they should use violent force, hitting, punching and verbally attacking those who oppose the MAS. That is what is happening, like it did in Venezuela and Nicaragua, those Cuban “advisors” are pushing their agenda relentlessly. Bolivia is in peril.]
The opposition and union of retail traders last week launched protests against a law on money laundering, which Arce decided to repeal.
The bill would have allowed the government to investigate the assets of any citizen without a court order and would have forced lawyers and journalists to reveal client information.
The protesters also demanded that the government bring back a legislative regulation that requires some laws and appointments to be approved by two-thirds of Congress, forcing the administration to negotiate with the opposition.
In Santa Cruz, the economic capital of Bolivia and a stronghold of the opposition, a blockade of the streets remained in force. Roads were also closed off in other cities such as Sucre, Cochabamba and Potosi.
Meanwhile, pro-government unions of farmers, miners and indigenous people announced they would hold a march to La Paz to defend Arce’s administration.
The leader of the country’s largest union, Juan Carlos Huarachi, accused the opposition of seeking “to destabilize the government.”
Bolivia has been wracked by political crisis since the resignation of socialist president Evo Morales in November 2019 following weeks of protest at his controversial re-election to an unconstitutional fourth term.
His party is back in power following the 2020 election victory of his protege Arce, who has vowed to punish those he accuses of staging a coup against Morales.
© 2021 AFP