Bolivia ends martial law in northern region

Other News Materials 23 November 2008 19:25 (UTC +04:00)

Bolivian President Evo Morales ended martial law in a northern province on Sunday more than two months after government supporters were killed in the region as a wave of political violence swept the country, Reuters reported.

The decision by Morales, a leftist and Bolivia's first Indian leader, clears a legal hurdle for the government to hold a January 25 referendum on a new constitution.

"As of midnight, martial law was lifted," said government minister Alfredo Rada.

Earlier this month, the Andean country's electoral court warned it would not allow the referendum to go forward if martial law was still in effect in the remote Amazon region of Pando.

The Bolivian leader hopes the new constitution will give more power to the country's Indian majority and expand the state's role in the economy.

The electoral court said the law calling for the referendum states the vote cannot take place if civil liberties are restricted anywhere in the country.

Morales decreed martial law on September 12. Pando was a flashpoint during clashes between pro- and anti-government demonstrators after unrest shook four provinces run by governors opposed to Morales.

He has described the violence in Pando and the wave of protests as an attempt to destabilize his government.

It is not clear how many people were killed in clashes between backers of Morales and anti-government groups in Pando, but local media estimates between 15 and 20.

The governor of Pando at the time, Leopoldo Fernandez, was later arrested, and Morales blamed him for the killings.