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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 March, 2005, 03:17 GMT
Bolivia leader seeks early poll
A road block in Bolivia. Archive picture
Road blocks have caused major disruption nationwide
Bolivia's president has called for early elections to replace him, amid protests against his economic policies.

Carlos Mesa said he would ask Congress to approve a poll in August, two years before the official end of his term.

The move is likely to mean that he will step down, as he is barred by law from seeking re-election.

The news comes as protesters, who want the government to increase the amount it receives from foreign oil companies, step up a campaign of road blocks.

The Bolivian president won a referendum last year on increasing state involvement in the energy industry, but his proposal has run into opposition in Congress from both the left and right.

Last week Mr Mesa offered to resign in an attempt to break the deadlock with his political opponents, but his offer was rejected by parliament.

President Carlos Mesa
Carlos Mesa has approval ratings of above 50%
The president said he was prompted to seek early elections after failing to convince opposition leader Evo Morales to end the road blockades, the Associated Press reports.

"This is the only way to prevent a bloodbath," he said.

"They have tied my hands in every way to keep me from going forward. We've done everything we can."


Weeks of social unrest have crippled the economy of Bolivia, South America's poorest nation.

As many as 1,500 trucks with rotting cargoes are now stranded on main roads in the worst affected central Chapare region, Reuters news agency reports.

But teachers appeared to hold classes as usual on Tuesday, in defiance of the 48-hour strike called by labour unions.
Map of Bolivia

The protesters have been demanding for several weeks that the government increase the taxes levied on foreign energy firms from 15% to 50% of their sales.

They allege that President Mesa's plans will allow foreign companies to loot the country's natural wealth with no real benefit to them.

President Mesa has said the opposition's demands will not be accepted by the international community.

Plans to export the country's gas sparked a wave of deadly protests in October 2003 and resulted in President Mesa's predecessor being forced from office.

Bolivia unions intensify protests
10 Mar 05 |  Americas
Mesa to stay on as Bolivia leader
09 Mar 05 |  Americas
Bolivia leader quits amid protest
07 Mar 05 |  Americas
Q&A: Turmoil in Bolivia
07 Mar 05 |  Americas
Bolivian fuel protests escalate
22 Jan 05 |  Americas
Bolivia's gas fires new movements
17 Oct 04 |  Americas

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