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Last Updated: Monday, 26 November 2007, 02:20 GMT
Bolivia clashes leave three dead
A demonstrator burns a tyre in Sucre
Demonstrators in Sucre want to reclaim the title of capital city
At least three people have died in Sucre, Bolivia, in clashes following the approval of a new draft constitution by a special assembly.

Protesters - angry about the proposed constitutional changes - set fire to a jail and attacked police.

Most opposition members of the assembly boycotted the vote, saying the new constitution will grant too much power to Bolivian President Evo Morales.

The new constitution will be put to a referendum before it can become law.

It was one of the central demands of the mass social movements which helped to get President Morales elected in 2005 that Bolivia's constitution be rewritten to give more rights to the indigenous majority.

A constituent assembly was elected and established some 16 months ago to draft a new charter.

Sticking points

It had been due to deliver a draft new constitution at the beginning of August this year.

But repeated demonstrations over the proposed changes disrupted its work.

One of the key sticking points was the designation of the country's capital.

Sucre, where the assembly was based, has seen weeks of unrest, with protesters taking to the streets in support of an opposition proposal to make the city the sole capital of Bolivia.

Some groups don't accept that an indigenous person is president
President Morales

It is currently home to the Supreme Court, and was Bolivia's capital until 1899.

But since then it has shared the title with La Paz.

Demand for the return of the seat of government to Sucre has fuelled a regional rivalry between President Morales' supporters in Bolivia's poor western highlands and his opponents in the more prosperous east.

There have also been counter-demonstrations in La Paz, where protesters say switching the capital from Bolivia's largest city, with a population of 1.7 million, to Sucre, population 250,000, would be expensive and divisive.

Escalating protests

After months of inactivity, the assembly convened on Friday to a military school on the outskirts of Sucre, amid security concerns at the escalating opposition protests.

All but three opposition politicians boycotted the assembly's heavily-guarded session.

In the absence of opposition delegates, the assembly voted by a simple majority to approve all of President Morales' draft proposals.

Conservative ex-president Jorge Quiroga, leader of the opposition Podemos Party, called it a "constitution drafted in a barracks, written with rifles and bayonets, and stained with the blood" of locals.

Mr Morales accused his opponents of being "unable to accept that an indigenous person is president".

Map of Bolivia
There is disagreement about which city should be Bolivia's capital

Meanwhile, violence flared up in Sucre, and in Santa Cruz, another opposition stronghold.

Protesters set fire to a prison in Sucre, enabling more than 100 prisoners to escape.

Two demonstrators were killed, including a lawyer, killed on Saturday, and a carpenter, who died on Sunday after being hit by a tear gas canister fired by police into the crowd.

The third victim was a police officer, who was "lynched" by the crowd, according to national police commander Gen Miguel Vasquez.

President Morales has pledged to hold a referendum on the new constitution, but has not yet announced a date for the vote.



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