LA PAZ: Rival Bolivian lawmakers clashed on the floor of parliament yesterday as a presentation by a minister of leftist President Luis Arce descended into a flurry of kicks, punches and hair-pulling.
Minister of government Eduardo del Castillo had been summoned by parliament to give a report on the December imprisonment of Luis Fernando Camacho, the conservative governor of the Santa Cruz region and a leading opposition figure.
While defending the legality of the arrest, Del Castillo criticised parliamentarians from Creemos, Camacho’s party, branding them “radical, thieving, violent groups that came to steal the wallets of the Bolivian people”.
As he spoke, a group of opposition lawmakers displayed banners bearing messages including “with political prisoners, there is no democracy” and photos of Del Castillo labelled “minister of terror”.
When a handful of pro-government parliamentarians attempted to snatch away the signs, a fight broke out between about 20 lawmakers, with blows traded for several minutes, according to images broadcast on social networks.
The fracas ended without serious injuries on either side.
The presentation of the report was briefly suspended, with Creemos lawmaker Maria Rene Alvarez accusing Del Castillo of having promoted a climate of belligerence.
The incident is the latest episode highlighting polarisation in the Andean country, where the opposition claims there are around 180 political prisoners in custody.
The leftist government accuses the prisoners of supporting an alleged coup against former president Evo Morales in 2019 and backing his successor, the right-wing Jeanine Anez, who is also in prison.