Tension in Bolivia: MAS supporters attacked protesters in Santa Cruz and the opposition is preparing for a town hall

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The debate over carrying out a census next year keeps the inhabitants of the city of Santa Cruz, the economic engine of the country, in suspense

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Tension in Bolivia: supporters of the MAS attacked demonstrators in Santa Cruz and the opposition is preparing for a town hall

21 days have passed since the protests in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, which is preparing to organize a council this Sunday (EFE)

This Friday Bolivia turns 21 days< /b> of stoppages and blockades in the country, more precisely in the region of Santa Cruz -the economic engine of the nation-. The general strike, which has been going on for three weeks, demands that a population census be carried outduring the coming year, instead of in 2024 when the Government plans to postpone it for logistical reasons.

The results of this census will allow a redistribution of seatsin the Legislative Branch, as well as an updated budget for social assistance, among other things.

During today's session, MAS supporters tried to unblock the central avenues of the city in order to restore traffic circulation, which led to clashes with the protesters who defend the force measure. Police officers had to be present in the conflict zone and even used tear gas to disperse rival groups. So far no arrests or injuries have been reported.

Tension in Bolivia: MAS sympathizers attacked demonstrators in Santa Cruz and the opposition is preparing for a council

Protests in Bolivia calling for the population census to be carried out in 2023 (REUTERS)

Meanwhile, the Santa Cruz Civic Committee -which is leading the protests- called a council for this Sunday afternoon, with the idea of ​​defining whether to maintain or tighten the measure of force. A few days ago, the group had participated in a negotiation table with the president's cabinet Luis Arce which was not successful.

“On Sunday we expect an important turnout for citizens”, the spokesperson for the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz, Manfredo Bravo, after confirming the decision to bring forward the town hall, which was originally going to be held on Tuesday the 15th.

Also , Bravo stressed that “the strike has not been in vain” since “it has managed to position the census problem on the national agenda”. However, Arce would seem to ignore these demonstrations given that the president is expected to promulgate a decreewithin the next few hours with the new date of the census, which could be expected not before the first quarter. of 2024.

Tension in Bolivia: MAS sympathizers attacked demonstrators in Santa Cruz and the opposition is preparing for a council

After an unsuccessful negotiating table, Luis Arce is expected to issue a decree during the new census date, which could be expected not before the first quarter of 2024 (REUTERS)

In any case, without losing hope of a favorable response from the Executive, Bravo explained that the decision on the continuation or termination of the strike and the pressure measures “depend on the content of the decree.” “The fight has been fruitful and it is necessary to prepare for everything that is to come.”

For his part, the president of the Committee for the Promotion of the 2023 Census , Vicente Cuéllar, warned that “it is in the hands of the President to promulgate a supreme decree that sets the new date for the census, it is in the hands of the President to pacify this country”.

In addition to being the economic engine of the region, Santa Cruz is home to the opposition led by its governor, Luis Fernando Camacho, who is leading the protests over the census that would give his region greater political strength and more funds -for concentrating the largest population in Bolivia-.

Two years after assuming power, Arce is currently facing the toughest conflict so far in his administration. Adding to the street protests is the growing climate of tension stemming from social conflicts caused by the shortage of essential products and strong disputes within his party.

Tension in Bolivia: MAS sympathizers attacked demonstrators in Santa Cruz and the opposition is preparing for a council

Arce is facing the toughest conflict so far in his two years in office (REUTERS)

In this context, in a message Arce accused “some groups” of wanting to “destabilize us again” in reference to to the political crisis that the country experienced in 2019after the failed elections denounced as fraudulent by the Organization of American States(OAS) in which the then president Evo Morales was seeking a fourth consecutive term.

This outbreak left 37 dead and led to the resignation of Morales and his subsequent departure from the country to Mexico and then, Argentina.

< p class="paragraph">Months later, in 2020, the elections gave Luis Arce the winner as president – Morales' political heir – who is at odds with his mentor over disputes within the MAS (Movement Towards Socialism)< party. /b>.

(With information from EFE and AP)

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