Bolivia's military, police chiefs call for easing of tensions

·2 min read
Bolivian peasants and indigenous people, supporters of former Bolivian president Evo Morales, take part in a protest against a second postponement of the general election due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in El Alto, Bolivia on July 28, 2020 Bolivia postponed its general elections for a second time -originally supposed to be held in May, then rescheduled for September 6- because of the coronavirus pandemic, putting it off until October 18, officials said.

Bolivia's top military and police chiefs on Monday called on political leaders to hold a dialogue to ease tensions and lift a week-long blockade over postponed elections.

"On social media there are videos of armed people and groups of people," said armed forces General Sergio Orellana.

"This is terrorism and terrorism directly affects state security."

Supporters of exiled former president Evo Morales have blocked roads in six of Bolivia's nine departments in protest at the general election being postponed from September 6 to October 18 due to rising coronavirus infections.

On Friday the government threatened to use force to clear the road blocks after hospitals in La Paz and its sprawling satellite town El Alto complained of a lack of oxygen deliveries.

Speaking alongside Orellana, deputy police commander General Ronald Suarez called for "an immediate solution to the conflict through means of dissuasion and dialogue, avoiding confrontational action that could increase the levels of conflict."

Demonstrators, mostly peasants and indigenous people, claim the election has only been delayed because Luis Arce, the candidate from Morales's Movement for Socialism (MAS) party, is leading the polls.

Experts predict Bolivia's coronavirus peak will arrive around the beginning of September.

"Have we learnt nothing from history? Have we not seen how a neighboring country like Peru suffered" during 20 years of internal strife from 1980-2000, said Orellana.

The two generals urged MAS supporters to end their road blocks.

The elections have twice been suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has caused more than 3,600 deaths and 90,000 infections in Bolivia, a country of 11 million.

Arce blames the government of interim President Jeanine Anez -- who sat third in the most recent opinion poll -- for the instability and claims "armed groups mobilized by the de facto government are looking to disrupt the country."

Anez called for a dialogue last weekend but it was boycotted by leaders of the main political parties and social organizations.

Bolivia is on the brink of a new round of social conflict similar to that which met Morales's controversial re-election in October, which prompted him to quit and flee the country.


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