Most of the dead and injured on Friday in Sacaba near the city of Cochabamba suffered bullet wounds, Guadalberto Lara, director of the town’s Mexico Hospital, told the media. He called it the worst violence he’s seen in his 30-year career.
Angry demonstrators and relatives of the victims gathered at the site of the shootings, chanting: "Civil war, now!”
Morales, who was granted asylum in Mexico after his resignation Sunday, said on Twitter that a "massacre” had occurred and he described Bolivia’s government led by interim President Jeanine Áñez as a dictatorship.
"Now they are killing our brothers in Sacaba, Cochabamba,” he said in another tweet.
Protesters said police fired when demonstrators, including many coca leaf growers who backed Bolivia’s first indigenous president, tried to cross a military checkpoint. Emeterio Colque Sánchez, a 23-year-old university student, said he saw the dead bodies of several protesters and about two-dozen people rushed to hospitals, many covered in blood.
Earlier in the day, Áñez said Morales would face possible legal charges for election fraud if he returns home from Mexico City, even as the ousted leader contended he is still president since the country’s legislature has not yet approved his resignation. Bolivia’s interim leader also said Morales would not be allowed to participate in new presidential elections meant to heal the Andean nation’s political standoff.
Morales stepped down on Sunday following nationwide protests over suspected vote-rigging in an Oct. 20 election in which he claimed to have won a fourth term in office. An Organization of American States audit of the vote found widespread irregularities. Morales has denied there was fraud.
Families of the victims held a candlelight vigil late Friday in Sacaba. A tearful woman put her hand on a wooden casket surrounded by flowers and asked: "Is this what you call democracy? Killing us like nothing?” Another woman cried and prayed in Quechua over the coffin of Omar Calle, which was draped in the Bolivian national flag and the multicolor "Wiphala” flag that represents indigenous peoples.
Bolivia’s Ombudsman’s Office said it regretted the deaths during the joint police-military operation and called on the interim government to investigate if the security forces had acted within the constitution and international protocols on human rights.
Saturday 16 November 2019 23:44