LA PAZ – The governor of the southwestern Bolivian province of Potosi has joined dozens of people in a hunger strike aimed at pressuring President Evo Morales’s government into meeting a series of demands, the latest tactic in a week of upheaval in that region.
Gov. Felix Gonzalez, a member of the ruling Movement Toward Socialism, or MAS, party, began fasting Friday night at the offices of the Potosi Civic Committee, the president of that body, Celestino Condori, told the PAT television network.
Condori said the number of hunger strikers has now reached 30. Potosi city, the provincial capital, has been the scene of much of the upheaval, with a general strike and road-blocking protests having been held for the past 10 days and a mass march taking place on Friday to force the government’s hand.
“The people of Potosi are furious and enraged and we’re now in a mass hunger strike that is being led by our governor,” Condori said.
Potosi is demanding a solution to a boundary dispute with the neighboring province of Oruro, the construction of a modern airport, mining projects and the preservation of the conical form of Potosi city’s emblematic Cerro Rico mountain, which is in danger of collapse due to mining activity.
The national government has sought unsuccessfully to launch a dialogue with Potosi leaders and convince them to suspend the protests, while regional authorities are demanding that Morales travel to the city of Potosi to negotiate a solution to the conflict.
According to El Potosi daily, at least 25 foreign tourists were flown out of the city Friday by plane.
Another group of 15 Spanish, French, Brazilian, Argentine and German tourists were unable to depart due to lack of lighting at the airfield in the provincial capital, but were scheduled to leave on Saturday.
Among the stranded Spaniards were Antonio Alayeto and Rafael Bastida, who have been in Potosi – an important colonial city that supplied silver for the Spanish Empire – since last Saturday.
“Our time’s running out. We have jobs and if we don’t get back on time we could lose them,” Alayeto said while waiting for a chartered flight, the newspaper reported.