SANTA CRUZ: Protesters in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz region, a relatively wealthy agricultural zone long in conflict with the federal government in La Paz, burned buildings and blocked highways overnight as part of a “general strike” following their governor’s arrest.
Scattered protesters remained this morning as fires smouldered out, with the Santa Cruz flag strung across roads and large rocks used as temporary roadblocks.
The strike is expected to carry on throughout the day, while an organisation of Santa Cruz civic groups has said the closure of roads leading out of the territory could remain.
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 arrested Wednesday on a charge of “terrorism” for his alleged involvement in 2019 political unrest that saw then-president Evo Morales flee the country. He is also under investigation for a slew of other crimes.
He was sentenced to four months of pre-trial detention late Thursday and was transferred to a maximum security prison early this morning.
Camacho has maintained his innocence and called his arrest and transport to political capital La Paz a kidnapping. Prosecutors denied the arrest was a kidnapping or politically motivated.
The governor became a face for the right-wing movement as a civic leader who called for leftist Morales to step down in 2019. On Twitter this 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 which would likely give Santa Cruz more political representation and tax revenues.
The government has not said how it will respond to today’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.