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Regional Leaders Meet to Discuss Bolivia Crisis
Published in Saudi Press Agency on 15 - 09 - 2008

South America's presidents are meeting in Chile on Monday for an emergency summit aimed at preventing the collapse of Bolivia, whose leftist President Evo Morales has lost control of about half the impoverished country and said violent unrest there was an attempted coup.
Most presidents from South America's 12-country Unasur (One South) group were scheduled to attend the meeting, including Morales ally Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a moderate leftist who leads the continent's biggest economy. Brazil also is Bolivia's top foreign energy investor and is highly dependent on its natural-gas exports.
An unstable country, Bolivia has significant natural-gas reserves that are crucial to development in South America, and neighbors are keen to preserve the Morales presidency and the rule of law.
Chilean Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley said he expected the South American leaders to send a message of support to Morales and to affirm Bolivia's “territorial integrity.”
Arriving in Santiago, Morales accused four opposition governors of seeking to oust his government. “We've seen looting, the ransacking of institutions, attempts to assault the police and the armed forces,” he said.
Morales said he would explain to his fellow presidents how his political opponents in Bolivia's richer eastern lowlands have mounted a “civic coup,” inciting “crimes against humanity by groups massacring the poorest of my country.”
At least 30 people have been killed in Bolivia in the past week as supporters of Morales fought with rightist opponents angered by his attempts to give poorer Bolivians from the western highlands more political power and redistribute land to the poor.
Morales has lost control over most of eastern Bolivia, where demonstrations have blocked highways and closed border crossings and pipeline sabotage has reduced natural-gas exports to Brazil.
Morales declared martial law in the rebellious province of Pando and sought the arrest of its governor. Governor Leopoldo Fernandez denied any responsibility for the deaths, calling the situation an armed clash between rival groups and accusing Morales of “mounting a farce.”

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