At least one person has been killed and eight injured after Bolivian police and military forces used armored vehicles and helicopters to unblock access to a major fuel plant that had been blockaded by supporters of former president Evo Morales.
Smoke rose from burning tyres and a military helicopter was seen flying over the area near the the Senkata gas plant on Tuesday, after security forces ended the blockade which had cut off fuel supply to nearby La Paz.
Evo Morales: indigenous leader who changed Bolivia but stayed too long
Morales resigned under pressure on 10 November amid anti-government demonstrations and rising pressure over vote-rigging allegations after an audit by the Organisation of American States (OAS) found serious irregularities in a 20 October election.
But his supporters have since ramped up protests, calling for the caretaker president, Jeanine Áñez, to step down. Mounting violence in the South American nation has seen more than 20 people killed in street clashes.
Paramedics transport a man injured during clashes with security forces to a hospital in El Alto on Tuesday. Photograph: Natacha Pisarenko/AP
In what it said was an attempt to restore calm, Bolivia’s congress, controlled by lawmakers from Morales’s Movement for Socialism (Mas), said on Tuesday it would cancel a contentious vote in the legislature that had been expected to reject Morales’s resignation.
The vote would be suspended “to create and contribute to an environment conducive to dialogue and peace”, the legislative assembly said in a statement, citing instructions from the new senate head and Mas lawmaker, Mónica Eva Copa Murga.
A meeting ahead of the vote, originally planned for Tuesday evening, had been scheduled to discuss plans for a new election as well as the resignation of Morales, who is currently in Mexico, where he sought asylum.
The Mas party holds a majority in the congress and could have voted to reject his resignation, potentially creating duelling claims on the country’s leadership and raising pressure on Áñez.
Morales has railed at what he has called a rightwing coup against him and hinted he could return to the country, though he has pledged repeatedly not to run again in a new election the interim government is seeking to hold.
Bolivians are feeling the pinch of the turmoil, with fuel shortages mounting and grocery stores short of basic goods as supporters of Morales blockade key transport routes.
In the highland capital La Paz, roads have grown quiet as people conserve gasoline, with long queues for food staples. People lined up with gas canisters next to the blockaded Senkata fuel plant on Tuesday.
Images showed some fuel trucks apparently passing the blockade with a strong military and police presence.
“Unfortunately this has been going on for three to four weeks, so people are desperate to buy everything they find,” said Ema López, 81, a retiree in La Paz.
Juan Carlos Huarachi, the head of the powerful Bolivian Workers’ Center union and once a staunch Morales backer, called on lawmakers to find a resolution. “Our only priority is to bring peace to the country,” he told reporters.
Soldiers guard the state-owned Senkata filling gas plant in El Alto on Tuesday. Photograph: Natacha Pisarenko/AP