Supporters of Bolivia’s President Evo Morales burn dolls representing Leopoldo Fernandez, governor of the opposition state of Pando, in La Paz, Monday, Sept. 15, 2008. Several opposition provinces are seeking greater autonomy from Morales’ government and insist on the cancellation of a Jan. 25, 2008 referendum on a new constitution that would help him centralize power, run for a second consecutive term and transfer fallow terrain to landless peasants. At least 30 people have been killed in clashes this week, according to authorities (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) – South America’s presidents converged on Chile for an emergency summit Monday aimed at preventing the collapse of Bolivia, whose leftist president has lost control of about half the country and said bloody unrest there amounts to an attempted coup.
Evo Morales said he would explain to his fellow presidents how his political foes in Bolivia’s rich eastern lowlands have mounted a “civic coup,” inciting “crimes against humanity by groups massacring the poorest of my country.”
At least 30 people were killed in political violence last week, prompting Bolivia’s first indigenous president to declare martial law in the rebellious state of Pando – where Morales says thugs used machine guns against his supporters – and seek the arrest of its governor.
Gov. Leopoldo Fernandez denied any responsibility for the deaths, calling it an armed clash between rival groups and accusing Morales of “mounting a farce.”
Morales has lost control over most of eastern Bolivia, where protests have blocked highways and closed border crossings and pipeline sabotage has forced a cutoff of nearly half his nation’s natural gas exports to Brazil.