LA PAZ (AFP) — The Bolivian government pressed the Organization of American States and the United States for support Saturday as it continued to battle against a push for autonomy by four rebellious provinces.
Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca made the call for diplomatic support for President Evo Morales's government as La Paz lifted its freeze on the accounts of Santa Cruz province, which plans a referendum on asserting autonomy in eight days.
"What is happening in Bolivia is a real conspiracy" against a legitimate democratic government, Choquehuanca said in Washington as he asked the Organization of American States to call for more respect for institutions and the laws in Bolivia.
In a meeting in Washington Saturday, the OAS Permanent Council reiterated its support for Bolivia's institutions and called on regional leaders in the country opposed to Morales to respond positively to its proposal for talks.
Bolivian state news agency ABI reported Saturday that La Paz had unfrozen Santa Cruz's accounts after the eastern province reconnected its provincial computer systems with those of the central government which track public spending.
Santa Cruz, which has led the rebellion by several wealthier provinces against income redistribution efforts by the Morales administration, delinked its computers with the government's system earlier this week.
"We have unlocked the accounts in strict compliance with the law and in response to a letter sent by the Governor Ruben Costas accepts the obligation to submit outstanding documentation," said Finance Minister Luis Arce, ABI reported.
The accounts rift added to tensions over Santa Cruz's efforts to assert autonomy.
Morales has said he views the province's plans for the May 4 referendum as an illegal separatist bid, and has vowed to ignore any autonomy declaration.
But three more low-lying provinces in the landlocked South American nation -- made up of nine provinces in total -- have said they will follow suit with their own pushes for autonomy.
The crisis was triggered by Morales's plans to overhaul Bolivia's constitution to redistribute much of the wealth of the eastern provinces to the poorer Andean highlands.
The conflict in South America's poorest country has taken on an ethnic context, pitting the poor indigenous majority of the mountainous area against the richer, ethnically mixed descendants in the lower provinces.
The four relatively wealthy provinces mulling autonomy moves account for 65 percent of the country's gross domestic product.
At the OAS in Washington, Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza expressed disagreement with Costas's response to the OAS call for dialogue, saying it was just a general answer and did not indicate when or how a meeting might be arranged to look for a way out of the crisis.
Choquehuanca meanwhile said La Paz would appreciate it if the United States was "able to comment" on the crisis in Bolivia.
After a meeting at the US State Department, he said that Bolivia would like it if Washington could signal that "it was not going to support electoral processes that are outside the law."
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