November 20, 2019 / 2:19 PM / 20 days ago

Bolivian lawmakers seek election breakthrough as death toll hits 30

LA PAZ, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Bolivian lawmakers meet later on Wednesday to try and agree a path to new elections and defuse street violence that has killed 30 people since a disputed October vote.

The South American country’s two chambers of congress are to discuss annulling the Oct. 20 poll and appointing a new electoral board, paving the way to a new vote after long-term leftist leader Evo Morales resigned under pressure this month.

Currently led by a caretaker government, Bolivia is grappling to mend stark divisions between Morales supporters and opponents seeking to move beyond his nearly 14-year rule.

He stepped down on Nov. 10 under pressure from protesters, civil groups, security forces and allies, as well as an international audit which found serious irregularities in the election count and cast doubt on his announced outright victory.

Since then, an interim government under conservative former senator Jeanine Anez has struggled to quell deadly violence, and fanned divisions with abrupt shifts in policy away from Morales, the country’s first indigenous president.

In a statement, Anez said she would present a bill to call for new elections on Wednesday “as the whole country is demanding” and that it would be through legal, constitutional channels unless lawmakers blocked it.

“We have developed a basic bill. It can probably be corrected, agreed upon, enriched by all the sectors that are involved with the aim of pacifying the country and choosing our rulers,” she said. “But there will be elections in the country, we guarantee it.”

Conflict in the region of Cochabamba and the high-altitude city of El Alto has rattled Bolivia over the last week since Morales’ departure, with clashes at a gas power plant blockade on Tuesday leaving six people dead.

That took the total number of deaths in the post-election unrest to 30, according to Bolivia’s official human rights ombudsman. (Reporting by Daniel Ramos and Monica Machicao; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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