Morales rules out Bolivia clampdown

President to hold talks with opposition leader as protests diminish.

    Police stood guard at the US embassy in
    La Paz as protesters gathered outside [Reuters]

    "We're open to dialogue not only with the governors, but also with the participation of mayors and different social sectors," Morales said.

    Protesters demanding greater regional autonomy and a bigger share of energy resources have taken to the streets in continuing protests across the country.

    The protests have sparked a regional diplomatic row after Bolivia expelled the US ambassador, accusing him of inciting violent demonstrations, with the US responding by expelling the Bolivian envoy to Washington.

    Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader, then expelled the US ambassador to his country, in what he said was solidarity with the Morales government, with the US again responding by saying it would expel the Venezuelan envoy.

    Dozens of Morales supporters gathered outside the US Embassy in La Paz, chanting anti-US slogans.

    Continuing unrest

    Opposition activists had allegedly shot dead seven farmers in the Amazon region of Pando on Thursday, a government official said, describing the incident as a massacre.

    Protests have erupted in several
    regions of Bolivia [Reuters]

    An employee of the opposition-led regional government was also killed in the clashes and at least two people were killed and a dozen wounded in clashes in the northeastern town of Cobija, officials said.

    The Bolivian government has blamed the unrest on the leaders of four states who demand greater autonomy and energy revenue and oppose his plans to change the constitution and distribute land to the poor.

    South America's poorest nation has been in the grip of political turmoil for months.

    Last month, Morales convincingly won a referendum on his rule but in the rebel states, voters also returned most of the governors forming the opposition coalition.

    After failed negotiations to find a compromise solution, Morales announced a new referendum, to take place in December, to vote on his rewritten constitution, which would redistribute land and national revenues to give more to the indigenous population.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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