Bolivia Calls An Emergency After Protest Over Water
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LA PAZ, Bolivia,
April 8 -- Bolivia's president declared a state of
emergency today, fueling a week of widening unrest that left three
people dead in fresh clashes between police and demonstrators.
The move came
after a week of protests over rising water rates,
unemployment and other economic difficulties plaguing the Andean
country of eight million people.
people were involved in the protests, which began in
Cochabamba, the country's third largest city, but quickly spread
elsewhere. Today, police used tear gas and rubber bullets against
demonstrators who battled back with rocks and Molotov cocktails.
were reported killed in separate clashes with police, and
Government Minister Walter Guiteras said scores of protest leaders were
detained and confined to San Joaquin, a remote town on the border with
Brazil, 460 miles from La Paz.
The body of one
of the victims, reportedly shot and killed by police, was
carried through the streets of Cochabamba, where police seized radio
stations to prevent independent reporting on the situation.
the emergency, the government of President Hugo Banzer
said that the protesters, who have blocked key roads for days throughout
much of the country, were threatening democracy. The disruptions had
already begun to cause food shortages in La Paz and other cities.
The crisis intensified
when officers in four La Paz police units mutinied
after they were ordered to arrest an officer and 13 officers' wives who
had gone on a hunger strike to demand higher wages.
"We find ourselves
with a country with access roads to the cities
blocked, with food shortages, passengers stranded and chaos beginning
to take hold in other cities," Information Minister Ronald McLean said.
The state of
emergency allows for arrests and confinement of protest
leaders without a warrant, imposes restrictions on travel and political
activity and establishes a curfew. It was called for up to 90 days.