September 16, 2008 in Nation/World

South American leaders urge end to Bolivia’s domestic strife

By Patrick J. McDonnell Los Angeles Times
Associated Press photo

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales speaks to reporters Monday in Santiago, Chile.
(Full-size photo)

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia – Leaders of nine South American nations called Monday for Bolivians to “take all actions necessary” to help calm the domestic turmoil threatening to split this fractured Andean country apart.

The hastily arranged summit, held in the Chilean capital, Santiago, underscored widespread fears that political violence in Bolivia could erupt into civil war.

The presidents expressed strong support for President Evo Morales.

But it was unclear what effect the meeting might have.

Not represented at the session was the Bolivian opposition, which has repeatedly accused Morales of ignoring calls for reconciliation.

Both sides in the conflict said talks between the government and the opposition in the administrative capital, La Paz, were making some progress. However, the talks thus far have focused on laying groundwork for negotiations.

The central government has lost control over much of the country, as protesters have sacked government buildings, blocked roads, shut down airports and targeted natural gas pipelines.

Opposition regions are demanding greater autonomy from the central government and a larger share of national energy revenues.

Morales has denounced his foes as “fascists,” “oligarchs” and coup-minded “separatists.”

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