By Daniel Ramos
LA PAZ (Reuters) – The regional Supreme Electoral Court building in Bolivia’s biggest city was burned down on Tuesday night during a protest against President Evo Morales’ bid to seek a fourth term.
The government blamed opposition parties for the attack on the court in Santa Cruz. Opposition groups said it had been razed by thugs that had infiltrated the protests.
Earlier this month, the court ruled Morales is eligible to run for re-election.
Thousands of university students staged an initially peaceful protest that descended into acts of vandalism, including the destruction of the three-story court building.
One person was killed in a protest last week and the opposition has said demonstrations will continue unless Morales reverses his decision to run.
Morales’ own 2009 constitution set a limit of two five-year terms, but he asked voters in a 2016 referendum to let him run again in 2019.
When they said no, Morales convinced the Constitutional Court to let him anyway. The court, consisting of jurists nominated by congressional allies, ruled that term limits were a violation of his human rights.
The leftist 58-year-old former coca farmer has presided over an economy that has grown by an annual average of 4.6 percent since he took office, more than twice the rate for Latin America.
But dissatisfaction over the removal of term limits and proposed development of indigenous lands has marred his reputation as a leader emblematic to first peoples’ movements worldwide.
(Reporting by Daniel Ramos; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)