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LATIN AMERICA | 28-12-2022 19:10

Bolivia charges key opposition leader Camacho with 'terrorism,' says government

Bolivian opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho, governor of the Santa Cruz region, arrested by the police on orders of a prosecutor.

Bolivian police on Wednesday arrested Luis Fernando Camacho, governor of the economic powerhouse Santa Cruz region, on "terrorism" charges, setting off street clashes between his supporters and security forces.

"We inform the Bolivian people that the Bolivian police executed an arrest warrant against Luis Fernando Camacho," Interior Minister Eduardo del Castillo said, adding that Camacho was flown to La Paz, the administrative capital, for questioning.

Camacho, a former right-wing presidential candidate, was under investigation on several charges, including for an alleged role in the resignation of leftist president Evo Morales in 2019, and for allegedly fanning protests in Santa Cruz this year.

The public prosecutor's office said Camacho was accused of "terrorism" in relation to efforts to oust Morales, without providing further details.

The charge echoed the arrest and trial of former president Jeanine Áñez, who was detained in 2021 and given a 10-year prison term in June for allegedly plotting the toppling of Morales.

The governor's office, meanwhile, claimed Camacho had been "kidnapped in a completely irregular police operation."

After learning of Camacho's arrest, supporters barricaded streets in Santa Cruz with paving stones, tree branches and vehicles to demand his release. They also torched the regional prosecutor's office. No injuries were reported.

Dozens of supporters demanding his freedom flocked to Santa Cruz's two airports in a failed bid to block his transfer to La Paz, prompting the suspension of flights at both airports. 

In October, Bolivia suspended several exports to prevent food shortages after strikes paralysed Santa Cruz.

Protesters blocked roads and shuttered businesses as they demanded a census to increase the opposition stronghold's representation in the national legislature, and greater access to state funds.

A census is scheduled for 2024, but protesters want it held next year so that Santa Cruz's increased economic and population weight can be adequately reflected in the national legislature. 

Camacho leads the second-largest opposition bloc in the legislative assembly.

A government minister in October blamed Camacho and other protest leaders for the "paralysis of the productive sector and for threatening food security."

Camacho had also led demonstrations, that turned violent, against Morales' disputed election to a fourth term. Morales left office after losing the support of the military.

Camacho came third in presidential elections in October 2020, which were won by the leftist Arce.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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