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Bolivia blockades over Morales lead to fuel, food shortages

Protesters, led by coca growers -- the mainstay of former Bolivian president Evo Morales' political base -- began by blocking eight highways a week ago with stones, logs and bonfires (FERNANDO CARTAGENA)
Protesters, led by coca growers -- the mainstay of former Bolivian president Evo Morales' political base -- began by blocking eight highways a week ago with stones, logs and bonfires (FERNANDO CARTAGENA)

A week of road blockades in Bolivia has led to food and fuel shortages as supporters of former president Evo Morales protest his disqualification from 2025 elections, authorities said Monday.

Protesters, led by coca growers -- the mainstay of Morales' political base -- began by blocking eight highways a week ago with stones, logs and bonfires.

"Today we have 25 blockade points in the country, generating a nationwide shortage of food and petrol," said Jhonny Aguilera, an interior ministry official, at a press conference.

The cities worst affected by the shortages are the capital La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, the economic powerhouse of the country.

German Jimenez, director of the National Hydrocarbons Agency, told the Unitel television station that tanker trucks loaded with fuel were blocked by the protests, warning "an explosion could occur."

Thirty-two police officers have been injured in clashes with the protesters, 11 people were arrested and two people died while stranded behind the blockade, according to official figures.

Morales, Bolivia's first Indigenous president, took power in 2006 and was extremely popular until he tried to bypass the constitution and seek a fourth term in office in 2019.

The leftist and former coca union leader won that vote but was forced to resign amid deadly protests over alleged election fraud, and fled the country.

He returned after his ally-turned-foe Luis Arce won the presidency in October 2020.

Meanwhile in December of last year, Bolivia's Constitutional Court reversed a ruling that had let Morales seek a fourth term in 2019, thereby disqualifying him from running for reelection in 2025.

The protesters are demanding the resignation of the judges who took that decision.

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