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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 October, 2003, 22:06 GMT 23:06 UK
Unrest rocks Bolivia
By Elliott Gotkine
BBC South America correspondent in La Paz

Police in Bolivia's main city La Paz have fired teargas at students as protests against the country's plans to export natural gas continued.

The latest protest began in colourful style as hundreds of women danced their way down the city's main street.

Bolivian riot police
Riot police responded after students threw stones
Dressed in their traditional felt bowler hats and ponchos, they were demanding better health care for the elderly and education for the young.

Further up towards the city's main square, thousands of peasant farmers, workers and teachers continued their demonstrations.

Among their many demands, they are calling for land reform and an end to Bolivia's participation in the free-trade area of the Americas.

But the issue which has galvanized all the demonstrators is Bolivia's plans to export its huge natural-gas reserves, most probably to the United States and Mexico.


Students at La Paz's main university are also against the plans.

Police officers told the BBC that more than 1,000 students had gathered in the campus courtyard, throwing stones at passing cars and burning rubber tyres.

Riot police responded by firing several rounds of teargas into the university.

But for Bolivia's President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, the protesters' many gripes have been hijacked by the main opposition group, the Socialist Movement.

He said: "These problems and difficulties are born of what I consider a very radicalised group in Bolivian society who believe they can govern from the streets and not from Congress or the institutions."

Mr Sanchez de Lozada said the main problem was that he had failed to inform the Bolivian people of the benefits they stood to gain from the export of the country's natural gas.

But he was sure that once the country understood what was going on, that peace would prevail.

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