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Bolivia protesters burn cars, clash with police after governor arrested


2022-12-31T00:49:35Z

SANTA CRUZ/LA PAZ (Reuters) – Protesters in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz, a relatively wealthy farming region, attacked buildings, burned cars and blocked highways as part of a 24-strike on Friday following the arrest of the regional governor, a right-wing opposition leader.

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Trucks block a street as part of a “general strike” following the detention of Santa Cruz opposition governor Luis Fernando Camacho, for whom prosecutors are seeking pre-trial detention in connection to the 2019 political unrest, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, December 30, 2022. REUTERS/Lesly Moyano

As night fell, protesters in parts of the provincial capital torched cars and tires and hurled fireworks toward police forces, who used tear gas to try to disperse the crowds.

During the day, around the city largely peaceful groups had protested by blocking roads with tires, rocks and flags strung across streets as blockades.

The protests are the latest face-off between Santa Cruz, led by right-wing Governor Luis Fernando Camacho, and leftist President Luis Arce’s government.

Camacho was detained Wednesday on a charge of “terrorism” for his alleged involvement in 2019 political unrest that saw then-President Evo Morales flee the country.

He was sentenced to four months of pre-trial detention late Thursday and was transferred to a maximum security prison early Friday morning.

Camacho has maintained his innocence and called his arrest and transport to La Paz, the country’s capital, a kidnapping. Prosecutors denied the arrest was a kidnapping or politically motivated.

The governor became a face for the right-wing opposition movement as a civic leader who called for leftist Morales to step down in 2019. On Twitter Friday morning, Camacho’s communications team said the fallout from the contested election “was not a coup, it was fraud.”

Camacho also led weeks-long protests snarling trade from the region through last month, calling for the government to move up a census date that would likely give Santa Cruz more political representation and tax revenues.

The government has not said how it will respond to Friday’s roadblocks, though some military forces were spread throughout Santa Cruz late Thursday. In the last round of protests, government-allied groups violently clashed with Camacho supporters.