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Bolivia Declares Martial Law in Protest-Hit Region


Bolivian President Evo Morales has declared a state of emergency in the northeastern province of Pando, one of several hit by violent protests against Mr. Morales' proposed reforms.

Bolivia's defense minister, Walker San Miguel, announced the imposition of martial law on Friday. He said public meetings of more than three people will be banned and anyone carrying weapons will be arrested.

Troops have taken control of the airport in the provincial capital, Cobija and have fired shots to disperse protesters.

Meanwhile, the governor of Tarija province has announced plans to hold talks with members of Mr. Morales' government in La Paz. The governor said he hoped talks would pave the way for a restored peace in Bolivia.

At least eight people were killed in Pando on Thursday in clashes between backers of Mr. Morales and his opponents.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement Friday expressing "deep concern" about the violent clashes and disruption to the country's infrastructure. He said the U.N. is ready to help organize negotiations between Bolivia's battling groups.

Opposition groups in Bolivia's oil-rich eastern provinces began demonstrating last month against the president's plans to rewrite the constitution and redistribute land and natural gas revenues to the poor.

Protests turned violent this week as demonstrators stormed public offices, blocked roads and seized natural gas fields.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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