The Government took firm action to put down demonstrations in La Paz and in the interior of Bolivia last week and the consensus among politicians is that the action appeared to have forestalled opposition moves in the near future.
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Background: The Government took firm action to put down demonstrations in La Paz and in the interior of Bolivia last week and the consensus among politicians is that the action appeared to have forestalled opposition moves in the near future.
The disturbances were led by students after a teacher's strike for higher wages. They became increasingly violent until they broke out in fighting Thursday night (29 October). Amid the uprisings came reports that Hernan Siles Zuazo, a former President, was seeking support to overthrow President Victor Paz Estenssoro. President Paz's re-election for a second term had caused some sharp divisions in his party.
The students are spearheads against President Paz's pro-American administration. Some are leftists, some are extreme right-wingers but they join forces against the government.
Last week, armed with dynamite, slingshots, Molotov cocktails and clubs, they organized a "march for liberty". At the same time, an armed Indian peasant militia, strongly supporting the government because of its land reform, was holding a demonstration of its own before the Presidential balcony.
As the peasant militia marched, President Paz saluted them with the "V for Victory" sign. In rain and hail, women and children joined the march, until the downpour scattered them. The peasants were obviously eager for a fight and this came at night, resulting in a four-hour exchange of fire. Two on the Government side were killed; one student was reported dead. Many were injured. The Government has charged Czechoslovakia fomenting the riots and has broken relations with that nation.
Some 800 students were arrested; 500 have since been released. Peaceful conditions appear to have returned to Bolivia after nearly a month of disturbances.