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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 02:25 GMT 03:25 UK
Bolivian Congress rocked by blast
A policeman takes cover from the explosion at the Bolivian National Congress
Congress had been evacuated before the bomb went off
A Bolivian miner has blown himself up at the national Congress building in La Paz, in a protest over his pension.

Eustaquio Picachuri, aged 47, also killed two security officers and wounded several others.

The man was reportedly negotiating with the Congress's security team when he set off dynamite strapped to his body.

The incident comes as President Carlos Mesa tries to ease tensions in Bolivia after October's national protests by farmers, workers and miners.

Mr Mesa left the building shortly before the explosion, which happened while Congress was sitting.

The building had been evacuated and sessions were immediately suspended.

Mr Mesa described the attack as an isolated incident and called for calm.

The miner was "in an apparent state of desperation" , he added, in remarks reported by Reuters news agency.

Tensions

The bombing comes at a time when thousands of Bolivian miners are out of work.

In recent years the government has opened the country's reserves of gold and other mineral deposits to private mining companies.

In October, miners, farmers and workers took part in protests sparked by President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada's plan to export natural gas.

Dozens died in the protests that led to the president's resignation.

Since taking office, Mr Mesa has worked to ease social tensions in one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

But he continues to face pressure from the protest groups to turn around a slumping economy and narrow the gap between rich and poor.




SEE ALSO:
Analysis: Bolivia still teetering
20 Oct 03  |  Americas
New Bolivian leader names team
20 Oct 03  |  Americas
Timeline: Bolivia
20 Oct 03  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Bolivia
20 Oct 03  |  Country profiles


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