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AMERICA/BOLIVIA – Bishops and laity: “The government must assume its responsibilities and respond urgently to the demands of the population”

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AMERICA/BOLIVIA – Bishops and laity: “The government must assume its responsibilities and respond urgently to the demands of the population”

La Paz (Agenzia Fides) – The Secretary General of the Bolivian Episcopal Conference, Monsignor Giovani Arana, yesterday, in the name of the Permanent Episcopal Council, made an urgent appeal to the government to “assume its responsibilities and seek solutions to the conflicts that the Bolivian people restoring peace, democratic coexistence and providing an urgent response to the demands of the people”.
In the statement entitled “We are Bolivians”, “let us therefore seek what contributes to peace and strengthens us in the faith” (Rm 14,19), the bishops recall “the alarming escalation of violence that is taking place in the country , where human lives are put in danger by clashes between Bolivian brothers that arouse resentment and hatred”. They then recall the words of Pope Francis in the encyclical “Fratelli Tutti”, “love builds bridges”, and reaffirm that the current violence in the country can have fatal and irreversible consequences.
Since Bolivia is a state of law”, the statement recalls, “it is the duty of the government to protect the human rights of all Bolivian citizens and to provide solutions to social problems, respecting the dignity of every Bolivian” and it is also the duty of the authorities to always seek the common good. “The right way to resolve the conflicts that afflict everyone is through dialogue, without double intentions, devoid of particular interests”, repeat the bishops, and in the case of the census, “using objective criteria of impartial technicians”.
To the parties in conflict, they repeat: “An urgent and unconditional dialogue is necessary so that the problems which generate these conflicts, which we unfortunately see spreading dangerously throughout the country, can be resolved effectively, quickly and with fraternal respect”.
The Santa Cruz region, considered the economic engine of the whole country, has been on an indefinite strike for 13 days, asking the government to carry out the population census in 2023 instead of 2024. The census was to take place this year, but the government announced its postponement to 2024 due to the problems caused by the pandemic. According to the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz, this postponement is causing economic damage to the region and to political representation in the
next elections (see Fides 28/10/2022). The strike triggered a series of clashes, sometimes violent, between supporters and opponents, which spread to other cities in Bolivia. Bolivian civic committees warned yesterday that they would organize a national strike starting next Monday, November 7, if the government of Luis Arce does not bring forward the population census to 2023.
The effects of the protesters’ strike and the roadblocks are now being felt, especially with the shortage of fuel and food. The Bolivian government has temporarily banned the export of six basic food products due to a “risk of shortage”. Víctor Hugo Valda Antelo, Episcopal Delegate for Health of the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz and General Director of the Catholic Hospital, informed that the continuity of care in Catholic hospitals is highly threatened due to the lack of fuel, which prevents the transporting patients and hindering medical and nursing staff, who make every effort to provide regular care to the sick. He also appealed to the authorities and in particular to the people who prevent the fuel from reaching the pumps: “In the name of the God of life, allow the supply of fuel and the passage of the roadblocks in priority and immediately to the ambulances and hospital transport, as they are essential to continue saving lives”.
The Bolivian Council of the Laity has published a manifesto denouncing and protesting against the abuses committed in the country, mainly in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. He therefore urges the leaders “to change their attitude, remembering that they were elected to serve the entire Bolivian people, to guarantee prosperity, peace and harmony to all the inhabitants”.
According to information gathered by Agenzia Fides, the President of Bolivia, Luis Arce, yesterday posted a message on social networks in which he declared that the dialogue to resolve the dispute over the census is still open and announced the creation of a technical committee to set the final date. The government also said it agreed with the recommendations of the Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) to avoid further violence and start dialogue as soon as possible in order to reach an agreed date for the census. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 4/11/2022)


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