The country has been crippled by mass protests which erupted after the presidential election last month.

Security forces block the advance of supporters of former President Evo Morales in Sacaba, outskirts of Cochabamba, Bolivia, Monday, November 18, 2019.
Security forces block the advance of supporters of former President Evo Morales in Sacaba, outskirts of Cochabamba, Bolivia, Monday, November 18, 2019. (AP)

Residents in several Bolivian cities are reporting food and gasoline shortages because of protests by supporters of President Evo Morales, who resigned and fled to Mexico after a disputed election and nationwide unrest.

Bolivia’s interim government said Monday that its efforts to resupply La Paz faced challenges because demonstrators cut off some transport routes. The new leadership is also struggling to open dialogue with opponents, particularly after the shooting deaths of nine pro-Morales coca growers during a confrontation with security forces Friday in the central town of Sacaba.

The new hydrocarbons minister, Victor Hugo Zamora, told Bolivia’s ATB television that a gasoline supply convoy was having difficulty reaching the city because of roadblocks and ditches dug by protesters.

Many shops in La Paz were closed and the few that opened were charging double the normal price, resident Guillermina Chura said.

“What are we going to give to our families if things continue this way?” Chura said.

Vendor Ana Gonzales said she had packed up her vegetable stand in the street because she had nothing to sell.

“What am I going to live from?” Gonzales said.

She also said Morales should take steps to calm the situation. So far, Morales has remained defiant, condemning the interim government and saying he was ousted in a coup.

Blockades around the major city of Santa Cruz have also disrupted commerce. Producers said fruit and vegetables were rotting on trucks been unable to reach markets.

Bolivia’s pro-Morales faction has set up the blockades as part of a concerted effort to destabilize the interim government, said Alberto Bonadona, an economic analyst and professor at the Higher University of San Andres.

Protests continue

On Monday, Morales’ supporters in Sacaba threw rocks at police, who fired back with tear gas trying to disperse the protesters.

Furious over the shootings in Sacaba, backers of Morales demanded the resignation of Jeanine Anez, Bolivia’s self-proclaimed interim president. She was a Senate vice president thrust into prominence after the resignations of senior leaders in Morales’ administration.

Bolivian church leaders announced plans to begin talks Monday involving UN envoy Jean Arnault. They appealed for the participation of Morales’ Movement Toward Socialism party and said topics would include new elections and calls for a new election panel. Former President Carlos Mesa, who finished second to Morales in the disputed October 20 election, said he would participate.

A total of at least 23 people have been killed in violence that erupted after the presidential election last month, according to the public defender’s office.

Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, claimed victory after the vote, but opponents alleged fraud and mass protests erupted. An international audit concluded there were election irregularities, and Morales resigned Nov. 10 after losing the support of the security forces. He went to Mexico, which gave him asylum.

Source: AP