• Short Summary

    There are growing fears that general elections, due to be held in Bolivia in July, may be cancelled amid increasing public agitation for political reforms.

  • Description

    GV & SV INT People playing games and reading (2 shots)

    SCU Priest Luis Espinal speaking (3 shots)

    SCU Senora Domitila Chungara speaking

    SV CU Small children of strikers in hall (2 shots)

    CUs PAN Woman with child table and blackboard

    CU Strikers with placard listening to student (2 shots)

    Senora Domitila Chungara, leader of a group of miners' wives on hunger strike said that she and other Bolivian women intended to continue the strike until their demands were met.

    General Banzer has described the hunger strikes as part of a subversive plan organised by left wing groups to cause chaos. The red alert for the forces means that police patrols have been intensified and all military leave cancelled.

    Elections are due to be held in July, but now General Banzer has said these are jeopardised by the unrest and the hunger strikes. In interviews published in local newspapers, he said that though the government was committed to a return to democracy, if the people asked for a cancellation of the elections to end the unrest, the government would oblige. There seems little sign of the protests abating. Leaders of the hunger strikes claim support is growing and are determined to continue their protest.

    General Banzer, who took power in a coup d'etat in 1971 has announced he will not stand at the elections and has come out in support of the candidature of the recently appointed commander of the air force, General Juan Pereda Asbun. The government has also announced a limited amnesty for hundreds of political exiles and a relaxing of the ban on opposition parties. Trade unions have been banned in Bolivia since 1974 and leaders of the tin miners' union exiled or jailed. The army has occupied the mines since the miners went on strike in June 1976.

    Initials BB/0135

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: There are growing fears that general elections, due to be held in Bolivia in July, may be cancelled amid increasing public agitation for political reforms. President Hugo Banzer hinted at the weekend that the election, which would end seven years of military rule, might be cancelled. On Monday (10 January) the armed forces, police and civil guards were placed on a red alert to counteract what the government described as "subversive elements" trying to prevent a return to democracy.

    SYNOPSIS: One continuing protest at conditions in Bolivia has been a series of hunger strikes. Labour and civil rights sources claim about 500 people are taking part.

    About 200 people, including three priests, are on hunger strike in the capital, La Paz, in churches and various offices of the United Nations, say the civil rights sources. One priest, Father Luis Espinal, explained that the strikers had three basic demands -- a general political amnesty, the re-employment of workers fired for trade union activities and the withdrawal of troops who have been occupying the country's tin mines since 1976.

    Father Espinal said the strikes were also an attempt to attract international attention to political conditions in Bolivia and the plight of the families of tin miners sacked, jailed or exiled following the 1976 miners' strike.

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