February 8, 2023

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Protesters in Bolivia burn cars and clash with police after the governor’s arrest

Protesters in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz, a relatively wealthy agricultural region, attacked buildings, burned cars and blocked highways as part of a 24-hour strike on Friday after the region’s governor, a right-wing opposition leader, was arrested.

As night fell, protesters in parts of the provincial capital set cars and tires on fire and threw fireworks towards police, who used tear gas to try to disperse the crowds.

Pedro Vaca, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), said in a Twitter post that he was receiving reports of “severe attacks” on the media, which he attributed to the police deployment.

“I call on the authorities to give general instructions to their clients about the duty to guarantee freedom of the press, peaceful assembly and association,” he said.

A man tries to put out a car fire during the 24-hour strike in Bolivia.
AFP via Getty Images

During the day, largely peaceful groups protested across the city by blocking roads with tires, rocks and flags across the streets as blockades.

The protests are the latest confrontation between Santa Cruz, led by Governor Luis Fernando Camacho, and the government of leftist President Luis Arce.

Smoke rises from fires set by protesters in Santa Cruz on Friday.
Smoke rises from fires set by protesters in Santa Cruz on Friday.
Reuters

Camacho has been arrested Wednesday On charges of “terrorism” for his alleged involvement in the 2019 political turmoil that saw then-President Evo Morales flee the country.

sentenced b four months He was released from remand custody late Thursday and was transferred to a maximum security prison early Friday morning.

Clashes between police and protesters in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Clashes between police and protesters in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
AP

Camacho maintained his innocence and described his arrest and transfer to La Paz, the country’s capital, as a kidnapping. Prosecutors denied that the arrest was a kidnapping or politically motivated.

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The governor became the face of the right-wing opposition movement as a civilian leader who called on Morales to step down in 2019. On Twitter Friday morning, Camacho’s communications team said the fallout from the disputed election “wasn’t a coup, it was fraud.”

Camacho also led weeks of protests that blocked trade from the region until last month, calling on the government to push back a census date that is likely to give Santa Cruz more political representation and tax revenue.

The protests come after the arrest of Luis Fernando Camacho, the opposition governor.
The protests come after the arrest of Luis Fernando Camacho, the opposition governor.
Reuters

The government did not say how it would respond to the roadblocks on Friday, although some military forces were deployed around Santa Cruz late Thursday. In the latest round of protests, groups aligned with the government clashed violently with Camacho’s supporters.

Meanwhile, some companies have said they will pause sales while Camacho remains in jail.