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Bolivia interim president, protesters reach ‘pacification’ deal

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Bolivia’s interim President Jeanine Añez speaks after enacting the law for general elections, at the national congress in La Paz, Bolivia, on November 24, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

Interim Bolivian President Jeanine Añez has agreed to withdraw the military from protest areas as part of a preliminary “pacification” deal struck with protest leaders.

The president in a 12-point pact early on Sunday also agreed to repeal a law giving armed forces broad discretion in the use of force against demonstrators.

“If there’s no need for the army to be in the streets, it won’t be,” Añez said in comments broadcast on state TV at the end of talks with the protest leaders at the presidential palace. “It’s due to extreme necessity that the army was deployed. It wasn’t to abuse anyone or to show power.”

As part of the deal, military officers will remain on guard at strategic state companies to prevent vandalism. The deal also commits the caretaker administration to protecting lawmakers from persecution and providing compensation for family members of the people killed in clashes and freeing those arrested during the protests.

In exchange for the concessions, over a dozen leaders of indigenous groups who took part in the talks agreed to order their followers to end their demonstrations.

Anti-government protesters lifted road blockades ahead of the weekend talks.

The negotiations will resume later on Sunday to finalize a bill that Añez said she would send to congress for passage later in the day.

The Sunday talks will for the first time include Andronico Rodriguez, an influential leader of coca growers who called for protests after Añez took the presidency.

Juan Carlos Huarachi, the head of Bolivia’s largest federation of labor unions, who acted as a mediator in the talks, said peace would soon prevail in Bolivia.

At least 30 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces since the October 20 election that Morales won. Most have died since November 10, when Morales ultimately resigned under pressure from Bolivia’s military and his political opponents, who claimed there had been fraud in the electoral process.

Morales’ forced resignation came only a week after he canceled a massive joint lithium project with a German company.

RT also reported that the US-based Tesla company, which uses lithium batteries for its electric cars, saw its stocks jump after Morales’ departure.

Estimated to be at around 900 million tones, Bolivia’s lithium reserves are believed to contain 70 percent of the world’s known lithium, representing a lucrative market for international investors and competitors.

The mineral is essential in the manufacturing of long-lasting batteries and electric cars.

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