Fears are being expressed in Bolivia that the country's fragile democracy is threatened by recent events in La Paz and Santa Cruz.
GV Closed Bolivian Central Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank (2 shots)
GV AND SV PAN House where Father Luis Espinel held meetings (2 shots)
SV AND GV Closed shops. (2 shots)
SV Coffin being carried shoulder high through street followed by mourners
GV PAN Mourners with placards and flags walking through streets
SV Indian playing funeral music (2 shots)
GV Police patrols at cometary gates
SV Coffin arriving at cemetery
GV PAN People at the cemetery
GV Coffin pushed into tomb. People watching (3 shots)
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Background: Fears are being expressed in Bolivia that the country's fragile democracy is threatened by recent events in La Paz and Santa Cruz. President Mrs Lidia Gueiler has sent two armed forces chiefs to Santa Cruz to investigate reports of preparations there for a military coup.
SYNOPSIS: In La Paz, a general strike was called on Wednesday (26 March) to mourn the killing of Father Luis Espinal, a left wing editor and Jesuit priest, Banks and shops were closed for the day. Father Espinal had been kidnapped of Friday (21 March) tortured, and shot. Civic and labour organisations have blamed the assassination on right-wing paramilitary squads trying to thwart Bolivia's move towards democracy. Elections will be held on June 29.
Local political leaders followed the funeral procession through the streets to the cemetery. It was the latest assassination in a country used to political instability. But President Gueiler has said a new head of state and congress (parliament) could take over on August 6 for a four year period of office. The elections will be the country's third attempt in as many years to consolidate a civilian government after almost a decade of military rule. It was sign of the times that mourners at Father Espinal's funeral placards and flags calling for an end to instability and violence. Police patrols were on duty outside the cemetery gates in case of renewed violence. Rumours of military coup swept through La Paz after the funeral.
A Bolivian attempt at democracy failed in 1978 when elections were annulled after a fraud favouring the military candidate was uncovered. It sparked a series of coups which ended with a new ballot a year later. A deadlocked congressional vote to choose between the candidates of the two main parties brought Senate President, Walter Guevara to power as an interim appointment. But he was toppled as head of state by a military coup on November 2. Faced with widespread civil unrest and international pressure, the coups leaders returned power to congress 16 days later and Mrs Gueiler was appointed President.