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Violence in Bolivia continues as death toll reaches 16

Latest update : 2008-09-14

Bolivia's government and a main opposition leader voiced hope for reconciliation on Saturday after overnight talks to end a wave of political violence that killed at least 16 people and prompted martial law.

The number of people killed in violence between pro- and anti-government protesters in a northern Bolivian town this week has risen to 16, the government said Saturday.
Interior Minister Alfredo Rada told Roman Catholic radio station Fides that at least eight bodies, most of them rural workers, had been found on a river bank close in Porvenir, close to where eight other bodies had been counted on Thursday.
A ministry spokesman confirmed the toll to AFP and added that a team of prosecutors and doctors were heading to Porvenir, located 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the town of Cobija, capital of the northern state of Pando.
Bolivian President Evo Morales on Friday ordered martial law in Pando after the discovery of the first eight bodies.
Rado accused the opposition governor of Pando, Leopoldo Fernandez, of bearing responsibility for the "massacre" by arming workers in his office. He said he suspected the rural workers had been gunned down in cold blood and not in clashes as Fernandez had asserted.
The deaths were the worst examples of the unrest that has gripping the eastern half of Bolivia since Tuesday.
Anti-government gangs linked to opposition governors in the region this week stepped up their challenge to Morales's authority, ransacking government offices and taking over airports. Authorities in five of the country's nine provinces reject socialist reforms Morales is trying to push through.
The government has said it fears a civil war.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has threatened military action if Morales is toppled or killed.

Date created : 2008-09-14