Bolivian 'state of siege' declared

Other News Materials 13 September 2008 14:14 (UTC +04:00)

Bolivian authorities declared a state of siege to begin at midnight Friday in the eastern department of Pando, which has been the site of recent unrest, reported dpa.

Defense Minister Walker San Miguel and Minister of Government Alfredo Rada announced the move, which begins at midnight and lasts until 6 a.m.

Under the siege, constitutional guarantees are suspended, private vehicles without authorization are banned from the streets, groups are not allowed to meet; bars, restaurants and discos must close at midnight and residents are prohibited from carrying firearms, the officials said.

The announcement was made as a C-130 plane carrying federal troops landed in Santa Cruz at the civilian airport, which had been controlled for the past week by pro-autonomy forces.

An insurrection against Bolivian President Evo Morales in the eastern part of the country entered its second week Tuesday, with groups backed by local governors seizing control of government offices and airports and threatening to shut off a gas pipeline that feeds strategic fields in Argentina and Brazil.

On Tuesday, in the nerve center of Santa Cruz, mobs rampaged into the main telephone office. The office had recently been nationalized, and took control of the internal revenue and agrarian reform offices in the town center.

Pando's governor, Leopoldo Fernandez, confirmed the arrival of the C-130, and a local official, Ricardo Shimotagua, told Notivision Television that there was shooting at the airport.

Sasaha Llorenti, a Bolivian government spokesman, said the military was fired on when the plane landed and responded with its own fire.

The ensuing gunfire left one person dead and three wounded, according to Carlos Suzuki, a member of the Civic Committee of Pando. He said the plane was initially able to land because it was rumored to be carrying U.N. aid.

Eight people died Thursday in Pando in clashes between pro-autonomy and pro-government demonstrators.

Meanwhile, in La Paz, the governors of the eastern departments -- wealthier parts of the nation that are seeking autonomy -- were meeting with Morales.