Top Bolivia Union Calls Off Road Blocks After Election Law

La Paz, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 15th Aug, 2020 ) :Bolivia’s main trade union called off its nationwide roadblocks campaign on Friday to ease tensions after the government had approved a law preventing a further postponement to the country’s general election.

Carlos Huarachi, the leader of the Bolivian Workers’ Center (COB), said the union was calling “a pause to the conflict at a national level until October 18″ — the scheduled date for elections.

COB, which has ties to exiled former president , had led a mass roadblock movement throughout the country that lasted 11 days.

Following mediation this week by the United Nations, European Union and Catholic Church, parliament passed a law preventing a further postponement to the election that was subsequently ratified by the government of Interim President Jeanine Anez late on Thursday.

Protesters — mostly indigenous people and peasants — had been angered that the election — originally due to take place in May — was twice postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

They believed the delays were aimed at preventing Luis Arce, the candidate for the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party led by Morales, from becoming president.

Arce has consistently led opinion polls since he was appointed as the MAS candidate in January.

But experts say Bolivia has yet to reach its coronavirus peak, which they say will be in early September.

Authorities said the 142 roadblocks across Bolivia severely limited the ability of trucks carrying oxygen to reach hospitals where coronavirus patients were in desperate need of treatment.

The country of 11 million has registered 3,800 deaths and 96,000 cases.

“We instruct those that are mobilized to truly make peace, because we are peacemakers, to avoid confrontations and deaths,” said Huarachi.

On Thursday he had called the new law “a betrayal” and said it did little to solve the country’s other problems such as its ongoing economic crisis.

The government has accused Morales and Arce of “terrorism and genocide” and of being behind the roadblock campaign.

Interior Minister Arturo Murillo warned the country was heading for “a civil war” and the armed forces and police joined together in appealing for dialogue and a reduction in tensions.

“This election law, regardless of controversies, guarantees elections on October 18,” said Huarachi.

After the MAS dominated parliament passed the election law and the government ratified it, the Supreme Electoral Court approved October 18 as “the final, immovable and unpostponable date for election day.” Some protesters had started to abandon roadblocks on Thursday after parliament approved the new law.

But Aymara indigenous leader Felipe Quispe said that his supporters had no intention of suspending their protest movement, and demanded Anez’s resignation.

Conservative Anez is running third in opinion polls behind Arce and centrist former president Carlos Mesa.

Bolivia has been in political crisis since the October 2019 election won by Morales, who subsequently resigned and fled into exile after an Organization of American States audit found evidence of fraud.

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