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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May, 2005, 02:59 GMT 03:59 UK
Bolivia admiral denies coup plan
By Elliott Gotkine
BBC South America correspondent

Admiral Luis Aranda
Admiral Aranda said the armed forces respected the law
The head of Bolivia's armed forces has denied that the military is planning a coup and has criticised two officers for calling on the president to resign.

Commander-in-chief Luis Aranda called the officers' statement in a radio interview irresponsible and untimely.

The development came on yet another day of protests in La Paz by indigenous groups demanding a larger state role in the country's gas industry.

President Carlos Mesa has refused to step down over the crisis.

A new energy law came into effect last week.

But left-wing groups have derided the legislation as too soft, while the president, foreign energy firms and the business sector say it is too tough.

As protests continued, rumours abounded that the Bolivian military could be plotting a coup.

They have now been lent a measure of credence after two lieutenant colonels went on a local radio station to tell President Mesa to step down.

They also called for the nationalisation of Bolivia's energy industry, and for the constituent assembly to debate a new constitution.

Protests in La Paz
Protests are continuing in La Paz and elsewhere
The two officers were quickly slapped down by Admiral Aranda.

"They aim to sully the military institution with their coup-plotting zeal when the armed forces respect the state of law and the existing institutions," he said.

Meanwhile, road blocks cut La Paz off from the rest of the country and the city itself was again brought to a standstill by thousands of demonstrators demanding the nationalisation of the energy industry.

Pressure on the president is also growing from the wealthy east of the country.

In a direct challenge to his government, local leaders have convened a referendum for autonomy.

They want more of a say in their own affairs and a larger slice of the oil and gas wealth that lies within their province.

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07 Mar 05 |  Americas

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