LIMA, Oct. 14 (Xinhuanet) -- Bolivia's armed forces said Tuesday that the
military would no longer support President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada "as an
individual" but would respect the constitution and the elected government.
Bolivia swirled deeper into crisis Tuesday as protests continued unabated,
which left at least one dead.
Meanwhile, the Group of Rio, the Andean Community
(Ancom), Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia expressed their
concern over the social unrest in Bolivia, which has left about 70people dead.
MILITARY WITHDRAWS SUPPORT FOR
The commander-in-chief of Bolivia's armed forces, General Roberto Claros,
withdrew his support for President Sanchez de Lozada, who has already lost the
backing of Vice President Carlos Mesa and seen Economic Development Minister
Jorge Torres depart.
Claros told reporters in La Paz, the administrative capital of Bolivia,
that the armed forces do not support the president as an individual, but respect
the Constitution, which provides for the safeguarding of a legitimate
Sparked by Sanchez de Lozada's gas export plans, waves of protests rolled
across the country in the past four weeks and haveleft about 70 people dead, 28
of them killed on Monday during clashes between demonstrators and security
forces, mainly in La Paz and the nearby city of El Alto.
The Bolivian government had originally planned to sell natural gas to the
United States and Mexico, a deal that could bring about1.5 billion US dollars a
year to the impoverished Andean nation.
But protesters complain that under the deal's terms,
Bolivia would get only 18 percent of the profits from the project and the
economic benefits would not reach the poor majority in the country.Opponents of
the deal are particularly angry with the government'spossible use of a port in
Chile to ship the gas. Bolivia fought a war with Chile in 1879, during which
Bolivia lost its coastline.
PROTESTERS SHOW NO LETUP
More street clashes erupted in Bolivia Tuesday as demonstratorscontinued to
protest against Sanchez de Lozada's privatization andanti-poverty measures. A
human rights group said one worker was killed near El Alto during the clashes.
Angry protesters dug up roads with picks and piled rocks at major
crossroads to block traffic. The international airport in ElAlto remained closed
to commercial flights, and passengers anxiousto leave the country had to board
charter flights out of Bolivia.
Supplies of food, fuel and other daily necessities in La Paz and El Alto
are running increasingly low as protesters barred entrances into the cities. The
lack of oxygen supplies led to the death of three babies in a hospital in La Paz
on Monday, doctors said.
Routes to neighboring Argentina, Chile and Brazil have also been blocked by
Indians and truck drivers.
Although Sanchez de Lozada has said he was shelving the gas export plan,
protest leaders said it is still a far cry from what they want.
"The only way to resolve the crisis is the resignation
of the president," lawmaker Evo Morales said. Hundreds of protesters stood
behind a highway fence in La Paz chanting, "The president must go!"
NEIGHBORS URGE TALKS
The Group of Rio, in a statement, expressed Tuesday its "deep concern" over
the Bolivian crisis and the hope that stability and peace would be restored soon
"Social peace must be restored" with respect for law, the constitution and
the guidelines of the Inter-American Democratic Charter," the statement said.
The group also called on every social and political sector of Bolivia to
contribute to strengthening democracy in the country.
The Andean Community (Ancom) called for negotiations in order to find a
peaceful settlement of the crisis. Ancom expressed its support for the
government of Sanchez de Lozada and urged respect for democratic institutions
and governance as part of a "Ancom commitment to democracy."
Argentina said Tuesday it hoped Bolivia's problems could be sorted out
through dialogue. A Foreign Ministry statement said Argentina called on the
government and opposition forces to solve the social, political and economic
problems of the country "withinthe framework of the democratic system and with
full respect for the rule of law."
Chilean Interior Minister Jose Insulza said: "We hope the country manages
to sort out its problems and strengthen democracy." Chile's air, land and
railway transportation companies canceled their contacts with Bolivia on
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Roy Chaderton and his Colombian counterpart
Carolina Barco in Bogota called the Bolivians to solvethe problems of the
country through dialogue.
"It is important to us that democracy is kept in Bolivia," saidBarco.
Venezuela also appealed to Bolivia to solve its political, social and
economic problems in a peaceful way. Enditem