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Bolivians queue for chicken and fuel as protests cripple highways

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By Reuters
Bolivians queue for chicken and fuel as protests cripple highways
Supporters of former Bolivia's President Evo Morales meet in the Plaza Mayor, as part of the protests in La Paz, Bolivia November 16, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Romero   -   Copyright  HENRY ROMERO(Reuters)

By Daniel Ramos

LA PAZ (Reuters) – Bolivians suffered long lines on the streets of La Paz on Sunday to secure chicken, eggs and cooking fuel as supporters of ousted President Evo Morales continued to cripple the country’s highways, isolating population centres from lowland farms.

Officials said a massive Hercules military plane had touched down in the highland capital of La Paz Saturday with a cargo full of meat products, bypassing the barricaded highways that drop down out of the city.

Presidency minister Jerjes Justiniano told reporters the government of interim President Jeanine Anez had established an “air bridge” to La Paz. He said officials hoped to do the same with other major Bolivian cities cut off from supplies.

The Andean nation erupted into crisis following the country’s Oct. 20 election. Then-President Morales, who won the election, resigned last Sunday after an Organization of American States audit revealed evidence of vote rigging. He fled to Mexico.

Morales’ supporters took to the streets shortly after, sometimes armed with homemade bazookas, handguns and grenades, barricading roads and skirmishing with security forces.

As violence has escalated, many in the poorer regions of La Paz had taken to cooking over firewood as long lines for liquified gas, canisters and scarce food complicated life.

“I hope things calm down,” said Josue Pillco, a construction worker from a working-class La Paz neighbourhood. “We’re not getting any food or gasoline.”

Violent protests Friday around Cochabamba, a coca-growing region and stronghold of Morales’ supporters, left at least nine dead, officials said.

The deaths have prompted allegations of human rights abuses by police forces under Anez, a former conservative lawmaker.

Anez has blamed Morales for stoking violence from abroad, and has said her government wishes to hold elections and meet with the opposition to halt protests.

U.N. envoy Jean Arnault said a team would hold meetings with politicians and social groups beginning Sunday to end the violence and push for “free and transparent elections.”

(Reporting by Daniel Ramos and Gram Slattery in La Paz; writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)