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Political Crisis Ends in Bolivia


Bolivian protesters took to the streets once more Friday as the country's new president promised to hold early elections and negotiate demands that caused weeks of political turmoil.

In an atmosphere both jubilant and morose, thousands of Bolivian protesters celebrated the end of their anti-government campaign with a final march through the streets of La Paz.

Waving the multi-colored flag symbolic of Bolivia's indigenous people, Segundina Flores said she was ready to return home after weeks of demonstrations, assured the will of the people had served to defeat the country's traditional government powerbrokers.

"After weeks of protesting we defeated the government,our struggle was not in vain," she said.

Bolivia's congress late Thursday appointed Supreme Court Chief Eduardo Rodriguez as the country's interim president to replace President Carlos Mesa, who was forced to resign early in the week Monday. Mr. Mesa said he could no longer lead Bolivia in the face of continued protests that he feared would push the country toward civil war.

Mr. Rodriguez made clear Friday that he had no ambitions to complete Mr. Mesa's term, which expires in 2007. But he said early elections could be held by the end of the year.

The interim president also promised to work with congress to restore law and order.

During weeks of protests mainly in the capital, La Paz, indigenous leaders have demanded more social reforms, justice for the poor and a share of the country's wealth.

The newly selected president was actually third in line to assume the position. Senate President Hormando Vaca Diez and House of Deputies President Mario Cossio Cortez both declined the position.

Friday's final march by protesters also took on a mournful note.

Thousands of miners processed in honor of their comrade Carlos Coro Mayta, who was killed in clashes with security forces on Thursday in the historic Bolivian capital of Sucre.

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