Death Toll Rises in Anti-Government Protests in Bolivia
LA PAZ, Bolivia, Feb. 13 — The death toll in two days of antigovernment
protests in Bolivia mounted to 27 tonight after 9 people, including looters,
civilians and a
nurse, were killed in clashes with security forces.
Demonstrators blocked roads and skirmished with soldiers in La Paz as
thousands took to the streets across this impoverished nation for union-led
marches and a 24-hour
strike to demand that the new president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, step down.
By early evening, the violence had died down. Thousands of police officers,
confined to quarters on Wednesday after a deadly shootout with soldiers,
were back on
The clashes are the latest in a series of protests against the policies of the president, one of Washington's allies in the fight against drug trafficking.
In Washington, a White House spokesman said President Bush was deeply
concerned about the violence and reaffirmed his strong support for the
The deputy presidency and social development ministry buildings were
left gutted after protesters marauded through the city center Wednesday
night, setting public
buildings on fire.
Hospital officials confirmed that four suspected looters were shot dead
in the city of El Alto near La Paz. Soldiers opened fire on crowds raiding
a local government
building, customs warehouse and dozens of small shops, a journalist at a local newspaper said.
The government said a 21-year-old nurse was shot dead as she tended
the wounded in central La Paz. Four other civilians, including a farmer,
were shot dead in protests
in the Chapare region, where the government is trying to stamp out illegal coca crops.
Those deaths followed 18 confirmed by the government on Wednesday when
soldiers fired on police officers after tear gas canisters were fired at
them. Dozens more
people were injured.
Mr. Sánchez de Lozada, who has ignored calls to resign, tried
to calm the crowds on Wednesday by discarding hated new income tax measures
intended to cut the
country's budget deficit and qualify for aid from the International Monetary Fund.