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Latin American leaders gather in Chile to end Bolivian crisis

15 September 2008 , 07:42770
The violence capped nearly three weeks of roadblocks in Bolivia’s energy-rich south-east, an estimated 30 people have died since Thursday. Protesters stormed government buildings and seized gas fields near pipelines that carry gas to Brazil and Argentina. Supplies have now largely been restored.

Anti-government protesters in Pando clashed with government supporters on Thursday with clubs, machetes and guns. Officials say the region’s opposition governor fled to Brazil, and the government said it would arrest him for what it called a “massacre”.

“A larger tragedy has to be avoided,” said Hugo Chávez, Venezuela's President, who confirmed he would attend Monday’s meeting. Last week, he threatened military intervention in the event of a coup in Bolivia.

Nonetheless, it was not clear what could be agreed by regional leaders on Monday. Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said he was waiting for instructions from Bolivia to avoid being seen interfering in a neighbour’s affairs.

Mr Morales says he will not impose states of emergency in other regions if the violence abates, but prospects for a negotiated settlement look tough.

Three key opposition governors – Rubén Costas of Santa Cruz, Mario Cossio of Tarija and Ernesto Suárez of Beni are ready for the dialogue. But Mr Costas also added: “In times like these, any extreme measure is an option.”

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