At least 8 dead as Bolivian security forces clear protesters' blockade at fuel plant

The death toll from an operation by Bolivian security forces to clear the blockade of a fuel plant by anti-government protesters has risen to at least eight, officials say.

Mourners gathered at Catholic church say they were fired on by security forces

A person is seen near to a fire during a protest at a fuel plant in El Alto, Bolivia. (David Mercado/Reuters)

The death toll from an operation by Bolivian security forces to clear the blockade of a fuel plant by anti-government protesters has risen to at least eight, officials said Wednesday.

The public defender's office and the state Institute of Forensic Investigations announced the casualty figures, a day after the violence in the city of El Alto, near La Paz.

People gathering at a Catholic church to mourn the dead said they were fired on by security forces.

Police and soldiers escorted gasoline tankers from the Senkata fuel plant following food and gasoline shortages in some Bolivian cities. The plant provides fuel to more than two million people in El Alto and neighbouring La Paz.

Demonstrators were attempting to blow up the plant with explosives, which could have caused a "massive tragedy," interim Defence Minister Fernando Lopez said.

Bolivia has been in a state of turbulence since a disputed Oct. 20 vote that, according to an international audit, was marred by irregularities. Former President Evo Morales resigned Nov. 10 after protests against him and pressure from the security forces, but his supporters oppose the interim government that took his place.

An injured man is helped by demonstrators during clashes near the fuel plant. (Pablo Aneli/Reuters)

Jeanine Añez, the self-proclaimed president, said Wednesday that she planned to call for new elections following the deaths of at least 30 people in political violence since last month.

"We want the violence to stop," Añez said.

Also Wednesday, Morales said from asylum in Mexico that he wanted to return to Bolivia, and would help in dialogue and efforts to restore peace if he were allowed to do so.

Morales said at a news conference that he was Bolivia's "president-elect," a reference to his claim to have won the Oct. 20 vote despite allegations of fraud.

He also said he would welcome new elections and criticized the Organization of American States, whose investigators concluded there were flaws in last month's election.

In Washington, the Organization of American States passed a resolution to help Bolivia hold elections soon. The resolution backs sending a delegation to Bolivia to coordinate efforts to hold a vote in line with international standards.

Añez has said Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, could face prosecution for fraud if he returns to the country.

Arturo Murillo, a senior figure in the interim government, said Morales is guilty of sedition for allegedly encouraging followers to set up blockades in defiance of the authorities.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.