LA PAZ (AFP) — Rebel governors in the east of Bolivia are mounting a "civil coup" against the government, President Evo Morales has charged, as a political crisis gripping the country edged closer to confrontation.
Two weeks of road blocks and other anti-government protests in the relatively prosperous states of Santa Cruz, Chuquisaca and Tarija have started to stall the local economies there, national and regional media reported Friday.
Diesel deliveries from neighboring Argentina used by industry were being stopped by demonstrators, as was liquid petroleum gas, needed in household kitchens.
Morales late Thursday accused the governors of those and two other states of launching a "civil coup against democracy." He has sent troops to guard gas facilities in their territories.
But militant rightwing civil groups in one of the other states, Beni, have threatened to take over military posts and expel the regional army chief if he does not agree to come under the command of the governor.
The building crisis stems from Morales's efforts to change the constitution to redistribute land and national wealth for the benefit of Bolivia's indigenous majority, which accounts for 60 percent of the 10-million-strong population.
The leftwing president -- of indigenous stock himself -- has railroaded his reforms through past opposition from the eastern governors, who represent a powerful landowning elite of mostly European descent.
Strengthened by an August 10 referendum on his mandate that won two-thirds support from the public -- albeit mostly from the indigenous portion -- he has announced another referendum for December 7 to approve his revised socialist constitution.
The opposition governors, most of whom also had their mandates confirmed regionally in the August 10 vote, have vowed to prevent the plebiscite taking place in their states.
They are also demanding greater control of revenues from gas fields they are sitting upon, and hefty increases in the prices paid by Argentina and Brazil for the exported gas.
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