LA PAZ – The southwestern Bolivian city of Potosi has now been paralyzed and isolated from the rest of the country for 11 days, with at least 69 foreign tourists trapped there amid a protest by political and social organizations demanding regional development projects be undertaken to benefit the local populace.
Activities at schools, businesses, industries and banks have all been paralyzed and land travel had been suspended due to blockades on all the routes connecting the city with other parts of the country.
The general strike is “overwhelming,” given that there is “no private or public activity,” the general secretary of the Potosi Civic Committee, or Comcipo, Emilio Elias, told EFE by telephone.
Potosi authorities are demanding that the government invest in a hydroelectric plant, three hospitals, more roads, glass and cement factories and an international airport, among a score of other demands.
Several of these demands are long-standing, given that in 2010 there had been another such strike that trapped more than 300 foreigners in the city for almost 20 days, with authorities only being able to evacuate them by air.
On this occasion, at least 60 Argentine tourists, seven French citizens, a Canadian and a Brazilian are trapped in Potosi due to the road blockades and they have asked the Comcipo leaders to help them get out of the city, Elias said.
“We’ve tried to handle it, we’ve wanted to get our foreign colleagues evacuated, but it hasn’t been possible because the blockade points are inaccessible,” he said.
He added that it is not possible to enter or leave the city because the access routes “are filled with earth, ruins, stones and tree trunks” and in some spots miners and truckers are blocking the routes with their vehicles.
“We need to get out of here, for someone to take pity on us,” one of the Argentine tourists, Laura Losi, told EFE. “We’re in agreement with all the needs of Potosi, but we can’t continue like this. Our money is running out.”
Media accounts say Argentina’s foreign ministry is trying to work out the possibility of evacuating the tourists by plane, although Argentine diplomats in Bolivia have not confirmed that.
Bolivia’s interior minister, Carlos Romero, said at a press conference in La Paz that the government coordinated with the Argentine Embassy to make a list of all the citizens of that country who are trapped in Potosi so that “they can leave by land,” but he said that so far “there has not been a favorable response from the blockading groups.”