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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 August 2007, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Fights erupt in Bolivian Congress
Scuffles in the Bolivian Congress

Bolivian politicians have exchanged blows in Congress amid a dispute over control of the country's judiciary.

The fighting in La Paz erupted when the opposition tried to stop pro-government deputies from bringing charges of improper conduct against four judges.

Protests also continued in Sucre with demonstrators calling for the seat of government to be returned to the city.

The ongoing protests have disrupted the work of an assembly meeting in Sucre to re-write the country's constitution.

"Bolivia's Chamber of Deputies has joined the list of parliaments worldwide who resolve their political differences with punches, kicks, insults," a Bolivian newspaper, La Razon, wrote of Wednesday's scuffles.

The trouble began when opposition deputies accused supporters of President Evo Morales of trying to exert undue control over the judiciary.

Legislators aligned with Mr Morales were trying to bring charges against Constitutional Court judges who in May ordered the suspension of four of the president's judicial appointees.

Mr Morales has argued that the judges overstepped their legal duties.

Opposition leaders seized the main platform in Congress in an attempt to disrupt proceedings.

Deputies stood on tables, shouted at one another, and then began trading punches and kicks.

Deputies from Mr Morales's MAS party, which has a slim majority, then decamped to the vice-president's office to approve the charges against the judges, provoking a further outcry from the opposition.

Capital clashes

The assembly drafting a new constitution again saw its sessions disrupted on Wednesday as police and demonstrators clashed in Sucre.

People from La Paz state march in El Alto, Bolivia, (July, 20, 2007)
Protests have also taken place in La Paz against the capital's move

The president of the Constituent Assembly, Sylvia Lazarte, said their discussions would be halted "until further notice", the Associated Press reported.

The Sucre protesters were angry at the assembly's decision not to discuss a proposal to transfer the executive and legislative branches of government to the city, which was the sole capital until 1899.

Since then, Sucre has shared the title with La Paz.

The assembly was set up last year, but instead of uniting the country, it has become the focus of division and discord, correspondents say.

The assembly was due to present the new constitution at the beginning of August but was granted an extension until December.

The proposed new constitution would then be put to a national referendum.




SEE ALSO
Morales defends Bolivia changes
22 Aug 07 |  Americas
Huge rally over Bolivian capital
20 Jul 07 |  Americas
Country profile: Bolivia
12 May 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Bolivia
27 Jun 07 |  Country profiles



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