Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Oct 26 (EFE).- Bolivia’s Santa Cruz province, the country’s largest region and its economic engine, on Wednesday is in the fifth day of a widespread strike with new clashes between civilians who support and reject the call for the national census to be held in 2023 rather than in 2024.
The day was marked by clashes between people supporting the strike for the early census and groups opposing it who blockaded assorted roadways, with the former moving to lift the blockades and get traffic circulating again.
The confrontations came along La Campana Avenue near the Plan 3,000 residential district, with the groups clashing for almost 40 minutes, hurling stones at each other and throwing firecrackers and firing bottle rockets at their adversaries.
At least two people were injured in the melee, according to local media reports.
Police eventually arrived and separated the two groups using tear gas and creating a barrier of motorcycles but the tension continues for several more hours.
Meanwhile, the “fence” around Santa Cruz established by government-backing organizations was in its second day, being felt mainly at the Guillermo Elder Bell oil refinery, in the vicinity of which protesters set up blockades by piling up tires and other debris.
The refinery entrance was taken over by a group that barred the entry and exit of fuel trucks, with many of the vehicles remaining halted outside the facility.
On Tuesday, Bolivia’s state-run YPFB oil company made efforts to ensure the “normal” supply of fuel after reaching a preliminary accord with the blockading forces, but on Wednesday the protesters were once again preventing the refinery from operating normally.
Santa Cruz is the hub of protests demanding that the census be held in 2023, not the following year as the government had ordered last July.
The national population survey originally had been scheduled for November 2024.
The national government says that holding the census in 2024 ensures that the data will be of higher quality and that there is a “depoliticization” of the census process.
Santa Cruz civic leaders, however, are demanding that the census be moved forward so that their booming region’s influence in the legislature will be felt sooner.
They want the data to be available for use by 2025, the year in which national elections are scheduled, with an eye toward employing the information on the election rolls and allocating seats in Parliament, where presumably Santa Cruz will reap significant advantages.
They are also seeking to use the census data to ensure a new distribution of fiscal resources.