One Killed in Bolivia Protests
LA PAZ -- At least one person died Monday in a clash between Bolivian police and importers of used vehicles who were blocking a main route from La Paz to Chile, media outlets said.
Importers leader Juan Carlos Sarzuri reported on PAT television the death of a worker in the sector and said that a second protester might also have died, although that has not yet been confirmed.
ATB television said that the victim was Nelson Aduiri, 22, who died when hit in the neck by a rubber bullet.
The protest kept the road to Chile blocked near the town of Patacamaya, at some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from La Paz, demanding that the Evo Morales administration annul a decree restricting the entry of used vehicles into the country.
Sarzuri said that the importers were "peacefully blockading" and were making "a human rug" until the cops attacked them "with lethal bullets."
"We have one death confirmed and another that is yet to be confirmed," the leader said, adding that many of the demonstrators were "missing or wounded."
ATB also said that two police were grabbed and beaten by the crowd.
The protest was directed against a regulation signed by Morales last week banning the importing of cars more than five years old as well as all used vehicles powered by diesel or liquefied petroleum gas.
According to the government, the growing imports of these vehicles has caused "greater demand for fuel and more risks for the health and safety of citizens due to gas emissions that affect the ozone layer."
The government has said that because of the increasing number of imported vehicles with diesel and LPG motors it has been forced to increase the part of the budget that subsidizes these fuels, which reaches some $400 million annually.
Leaders in the sector say that about 15,000 Bolivian families live off the importing of second-hand vehicles, including the importers, mechanics that ready them for the local market, distributors and dealers.
Hours before the clash, Morales spokesman Ivan Canelas announced that the government will not retreat because of the protests.