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Bolivia arrests key opposition leader: government


Bolivian police on Wednesday arrested Luis Fernando Camacho, a key opposition figure and governor of the economic powerhouse Santa Cruz region, the government announced, without specifying the charges.

“We inform the Bolivian people that the Bolivian police executed an arrest warrant against Luis Fernando Camacho,” Interior Minister Eduardo del Castillo said on Twitter, adding more information would follow.

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Right-wing civic leader Camacho was under investigation on several charges, including for an alleged role in the resignation of leftist president Evo Morales in 2019, and for allegedly fanning protests in Santa Cruz this year.

The government did not immediately respond to AFP’s inquiries into the reason for Camacho’s arrest.

The governor’s office, meanwhile, claimed Camacho had been “kidnapped in a completely irregular police operation.”

It added in a statement: “The governor’s whereabouts are unknown, so we hold President Luis Arce’s government responsible for his physical safety.”

After learning of Camacho’s arrest, dozens of supporters flocked to Santa Cruz’s two airports, shouting they would not allow his transfer to the administrative capital La Paz, and demanding his freedom. 

Flights at both airports were suspended.

In October, Bolivia suspended several exports to prevent food shortages after strikes paralyzed Santa Cruz.

Protesters blocked roads and shuttered businesses as they demanded a census to increase the opposition stronghold’s representation in the national legislature, and greater access to state funds.

A census is scheduled for 2024, but protesters want it held next year so that Santa Cruz’s increased economic and population weight can be adequately reflected in the national legislature. 

Camacho leads the second-largest opposition bloc in the legislative assembly.

A government minister in October blamed Camacho and other protest leaders for the “paralysis of the productive sector and for threatening food security.”

Camacho had also led demonstrations, that turned violent, against Morales’ disputed election to a fourth term. Morales left office after losing the support of the military.

Camacho came third in presidential elections in October 2020, which were won by the leftist Arce.

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