April 13, 2000
Bolivian Congress ratifies emergency decree

                   From staff and wire reports

                   LA PAZ, Bolivia -- The Bolivian Congress on Thursday voted along party lines
                   and upheld an emergency decree that allows the government to suspend its
                   Constitution -- even though protests over water costs that led to as many as six
                   deaths and sparked the decree had subsided.

                   The decree remains in force for 90 days. It can be ended by the government or
                   extended by congressional authorization.

                   Under the decree declared by President Hugo Banzer, police can detain people
                   without a warrant, restrict travel and political activity and impose curfews.

                   The Democratic Action Party, which holds a majority in both the Chamber of
                   Deputies and the Senate, was the only party to vote in favor of the decree after a
                   10-hour heated debate.

                   "This state of emergency is a whim," said Deputy Carlos Sanchez Berzain of the
                   opposition National Revolutionary Movement. "It does not defend any economic
                   plan, because the government does not have a plan."

                   The Banzer administration maintains the decree was implemented chiefly to
                   protect the country's economic programs.

                   Banzer, Bolivia's dictator in the 1970s, is the fourth consecutive democratically
                   elected president to declare a state of emergency.

                   Water protests sparked demonstrations

                    The president declared the decree on Saturday in the wake of protests that
                    began April 3 in Cochabamba, some 350 miles east of La Paz, over a 35
                    percent increase in the price of drinking water because of a planned $200
                    million water and power project. The protests, fueled by the country's
                    economic crisis, spread to rural regions.

                   Roadblocks were set up across the nation by farmers opposed to the
                   proposed water rate hike.

                   Some routes were still cut off as those controlling them were considering
                   negotiations with the government on agricultural reform.

                   "The economic crisis Bolivia and the region has been going through no doubt
                   contributed to the problems here," Information Minister Ronald MacLean told
                   The Associated Press. "When a crisis hits us, we do not have a cushion to
                   absorb its impact."

                   Protests subside after water project canceled

                   The consortium of investors that had planned to build the plant backed out of the
                   deal on Monday.

                   Businesses and schools reopened Thursday in Cochabamba, and La Paz was
                   calm after several hundred students clashed with police on Wednesday. A
                   planned strike across the country did not occur.

                   However, the clashes took their toll on the nation's economy, causing
                   multimillion-dollar losses.

                           The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.