Bolivia Ablaze in Tire Fires and Roadblocks

Burning car tires strewn over a highway outside the Bolivian capital – a symbol of discontent with the government of President Evo Morales on Tuesday.

The road blockade is the work of the El Alto Neighborhood Federation.

Its leaders say a national consensus that has been delayed by the national government is at the center of the protest.

[Ricardo Valencia, El Alto Community Leader]:
“Our districts are setting up the blockades but there will be more so. We won’t lift the blockades until we meet with the government. We will keep fighting and hope that El Alto gets a positive answer and they tell us what date the population and housing census will be done.”

The blockades in El Alto started Monday and cut off access between the capital and its international airport.

Flight passengers were seen on foot carrying their suitcases up the steep hill from La Paz to the large slum city of El Alto, on the outskirts of La Paz.

Residents there say the lack of census data means not enough funds for infrastructure development are released.

[Rene Cabezas, Neighborhood Leader]:
“The government promised us a National Population and Housing Census in 2011. And now they say it is impossible to do. We understand that but believe that the census is important because we believe that El Alto has a much larger population than the figures from the 2001 census. But [without the data] it is difficult for the public works and the resources the city needs to be released.”

Similar marches and strikes were called in the southern city of Potosi, and a march against a plan to construct a road in the Amazon took off from Trinidad on Monday.

Morales says they were a coordinated effort to undermine him politically.

[Evo Morales, Bolivian President]:
“I sometimes feel that they only think of themselves and they don’t take into consideration the rights of others. We all have the same rights and duties. As such one must analyze the interests of Bolivia as a whole – of the entire country. And with those people who concede that our basic interests are to work for the whole country, we see results.”

Morales is Bolivia’s first president of Indian descent and he has enjoyed five years of solid backing from Bolivia’s indigenous majority.

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