Martial law has been declared in northern Bolivia, as mounting violence between supporters and opponents of President Evo Morales claimed more victims. The army was told to take control of Pando province, after dead bodies were found in the Amazon forest. At least ten people are now known to have been murdered in the latest clashes.
Pando is just one of Bolivia’s rebellious provinces. The gas-rich east wants autonomy, an idea resisted by the poorer, mountainous west. President Morales banned demonstrations in Pando, and said anyone carrying weapons would be arrested. He ordered the army not to open fire on protestors, but his own army chief said he would do whatever is necessary to protect the state.
The two-week protest against the President’s plans to redraw the constitution and redistribute Bolivia’s resource wealth has disrupted natural gas production. Violence has steadily escalated with protestors storming government offices, cutting roads and blockading gas fields. President Morales, though, still hopes for a peaceful solution.