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Bolivia: Anger rises as opposition leader Camacho arrested

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    1 hour ago

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Image source, EPA

Bolivian police have arrested a prominent right-wing opposition leader on charges of terrorism.

Luis Fernando Camacho is the governor of Santa Cruz, the country’s wealthiest region. He helped oust President Evo Morales from power in 2019.

Mr Camacho has led an anti-government strike in Santa Cruz for over a month, bringing the region to a standstill.

His supporters have condemned his arrest as a kidnapping and have taken to the streets in protest.

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But the state attorney’s office said the arrest was connected to the toppling of the former leftist president.

An October arrest warrant accused the governor of “terrorism” but did not elaborate. The 43-year-old has been at odds with President Luis Arce since the leftist politician defeated him in the 2020 election.

The strikes led by Mr Camacho are over delays in carrying out the country’s census.

The census would likely result in Santa Cruz – which has long locked horns with highland political capital La Paz – securing more tax revenues and political power. The census is scheduled for 2024, but protesters want it held next year.

Graciela Ortiz, an assistant for Mr Camacho who was with him during his arrest, said a white patrol van intercepted their vehicle.

“People dressed in black with black guns got out and they started hitting the windows. They didn’t even tell us to get out, they just hit them with the back part of the weapons,” she told the Reuters news agency.

“They threw him to the ground, tied him down, picked him up and took him.”

Upon being arrested, Mr Camacho was taken to a local airport to be flown to La Paz, local media reported.

Bolivian police clash with demonstrators

Image source, EPA

As news of the arrest spread, his supporters took to the streets, setting up barricades and setting fire to the regional prosecutor’s office, according to the AFP news agency.

Protesters also descended on Santa Cruz’s Viru Viru airport, in an apparent attempt to prevent Mr Camacho from being taken to another location.

Long queues have been building up as people stock up on food, fearing road blockades.

Former President Carlos Mesa called the arrest a “kidnapping”.

But Mr Morales welcomed the arrest of the man who helped oust him three years ago.

“Finally, after three years, Luis Fernando Camacho will answer for the coup d’etat that led to robberies, persecutions, arrests and massacres of the de facto government,” he said.

The US State Department urged the government to refrain from excessive use of force against the opposition.

A UN spokesperson said that while they did not know the specifics of the case “people everywhere should be allowed to express their views and protest peacefully”.

“Furthermore, we stand against arbitrary arrests as they violate the fundamental human rights of an individual,” they said.

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