At scene of killings, Bolivia farmers rage against interim president

by Hector Velasco
Bolivian police take position as supporters of Bolivian ex-President Evo Morales block a road in the outskirts of Sacaba, Chapare province, Cochabamba

On the road where they say nine local people were shot by Bolivian security forces last week, coca growers mourn the dead and vow to resist interim president Jeanine Anez.

The farmers are supporters of ex-president Evo Morales, who was forced to resign in what he said was a coup as Bolivia has been rocked by violent protests after a disputed election.

The farmers say the military and police opened fire when pro-Morales protesters tried to enter the central city of Cochabamba on Friday, in the deadliest incident of the month-long wave of demonstrations.

Shortly before, Anez had issued a presidential decree granting security forces immunity from prosecution.

"Before this, there were protests, but they did not use bullets... now anyone can come, fire bullets and not get punished," said Jaime Marcas, 26, wearing a woolen cap with earmuffs.

The road from Sacaba, the site of the killings, to Cochabamba -- a Morales stronghold -- has been blocked by security forces.

"They don't let us into the city. They check everything, as if it were a border," Leonor Gonzalez told AFP, her face full of fury.

She said the security forces on Friday deceived them by saying that they would let women go first into the city, but then they shot the men who were kept behind.

Interior Minister Arturo Murillo has hinted that the farmers may have fired at each other, but they deny being armed.

Scattered stones, burnt tires and bundles of abandoned hats and shoes mark the scene of the incident.

"These are from those people who managed to run," said one of the farmers standing guard amid the crowd.

Nearby, nine black metal crosses with floral tributes wilting in the heat have been erected to remember the dead.

The unrest in Bolivia first erupted after Morales -- the country's first indigenous president -- was accused of rigging the results of the October 20 polls to gain reelection to a fourth term.

He resigned and fled to Mexico after losing the support of the security forces.

Anez, the former deputy speaker of the Senate, declared herself the interim president and has pledged to call elections soon.

But in Sacaba, nobody wants to hear about new elections until Anez steps down.

"We do not want this government, we do not know it. We feel anger, all the people in general. Now people are not afraid -- the government have reneged (on its promises), and we push through to the end," warned Marcelo Pacchi, 42.

When one person in the crowd mentioned all-party talks as the way forward for Bolivia, it sparked fury in the crowd.

"No dialogue!" shouted another, earning loud applause.

Bolivian police take position as supporters of Bolivian ex-President Evo Morales block a road in the outskirts of Sacaba, Chapare province, Cochabamba