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The BBC's Dean Squire
"The government has declared a 90-day state of emergency"
 real 28k

Saturday, 8 April, 2000, 23:37 GMT 00:37 UK
Violence erupts in Bolivia
Cochabamba street
Police confront protesters in Cochabamba on Saturday
The Bolivian Government has called the army onto the streets after protests over water price rises spiralled into violence, leaving several dead.

President Hugo Banzer imposed a state of emergency on Saturday following a week of demonstrations.

Cochabamba protesters
Tear gas drove protesters to take cover

The move only further angered protesters and sparked new clashes with the authorities.

Thousands of people have been involved in the demonstrations, which began in Cochabamba, the country's third largest city, before quickly spreading.

Three protesters are reported to have been killed in separate clashes with police.

Demonstrators battled riot police in the city, hurling rocks and petrol bombs at the security forces who replied with tear gas and rubber bullets.


One person died and an estimated 25 were injured, including some with bullet wounds.

Lorries blocking road
Many of Bolivia's main highways are blocked

A body of one of the protesters, reportedly shot and killed by police, was carried through the streets and hailed as a martyr.

AP news agency said police in the city seized radio stations to prevent independent reporting on the situation.

Trade union leaders said one demonstrator had been shot and killed in La Huachaca, some 180km south of the capital La Paz, and three others injured.

The government said the protester had died as a result of "cardiac failure" while manning a roadblock.

Cochabamba protester
Protesters armed themselves with Molotov cocktails

Government Minister Walter Guiteras said scores of protest leaders had been detained and confined to San Joaquin, a remote town on the border with Brazil, 740km from La Paz.

The 90-day state of emergency allows for arrests without warrants, restricts the right to protest and establishes a curfew.

President Hugo Banzer said: "We see it as our obligation, in the common best interest, to decree a state of emergency to protect law and order."

More protests

Peasant leader Felipe Quispe promised that the protests would intensify over the weekend.

La Paz police mutineers
In La Paz, some police have mutineed and joined protesters

Roadblocks have been set up on several national highways by demonstrators, while in La Paz various police units have begun a mutiny over low pay. Teachers and students have begun other protests across the country.

The demonstrations began in Cochabamba over a $200m waterworks project that will increase the cost of drinking water by up to 35%.

A law, currently under debate in parliament, would force farmers to pay for water they get free at the moment.

The president, a former coup leader and military dictator who was elected to power in 1998, has stated he will not back down on the water rates, insisting they are necessary for economic development.

Watching for abuses

"The chaos has begun to spread ... just at the moment in which we are beginning an important economic reactivation plan," he said in a statement.

Walter Guiteras
Guiteras: Confirmed that detainees would be confined

The government - which has a contract with Aguas del Tunari, a consortium led by London-based International Water Limited - says it must guarantee the rights of foreign investors.

Waldo Albarracin, the influential president of the local human rights assembly, said he saw no justification for declaring a state of emergency.

"Now we wait and see if the situation does not deteriorate into human rights abuses," Mr Albarracin said.

The crackdown began early on Saturday with a raid on the headquarters of the Bolivian Workers' Central Union. The wives of 13 police officers who were on a hunger strike for better wages for their husbands were taken away.

This is the seventh time that a state of emergency has been declared since democracy returned to Bolivia in 1982.

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14 Mar 00 | World
'Billions without clean water'
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