Protesters in Santa Cruz, a relatively prosperous agricultural region of Bolivia, attacked buildings, burned cars and blocked highways on Friday as part of a 24-hour strike following the arrest of the regional governor, a right-wing opposition leader.
As night fell, protesters in parts of the provincial capital set fire to cars and tires and hurled fireworks at police, who used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Pedro Vaca, special rapporteur on freedom of expression for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), said in a post on Twitter that he received reports of “serious attacks” on the media, attributed to police efforts.
“I call on the authorities to issue public instructions to their agents about the duty to guarantee freedom of the press, peaceful assembly and association,” he said.
During the day, largely peaceful groups in the city had protested by blocking roads with tires, stones and flags stretched across the streets like blockades.
The protests are the latest confrontation between Santa Cruz, led by Governor Luis Fernando Camacho, and the leftist government of President Luis Arce.
Camacho was detained on Wednesday on “terrorism” charges for his alleged involvement in the 2019 political unrest that caused then-President Evo Morales to flee the country.
He was sentenced to four months in pre-trial detention late Thursday and was transferred to a maximum security prison early Friday morning.
Camacho has maintained his innocence, calling his arrest and transportation to La Paz, the country’s capital, a kidnapping. Prosecutors denied that the arrest was a kidnapping or politically motivated.
The governor became a face for the right-wing opposition movement as a civic leader who called for Morales to step down in 2019. .”
Camacho also led weeks of protests last month snapping trade from the region, calling on the government to raise a census date that would likely give Santa Cruz more political representation and tax revenue.
The government has not said how it will respond to Friday’s roadblocks, although some forces were scattered across Santa Cruz by late Thursday. In the latest round of protests, government-affiliated groups violently clashed with Camacho supporters.
Meanwhile, some companies said they would pause sales while Camacho was in jail.
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