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Bolivian Protests Hurt Economy, Bring Down President


Indigenous demonstrators raise their arms during protest, Wednesday
Bolivian protesters have taken over several oil fields of a Spanish oil company after weeks of demonstrations demanding the nationalization of the country's energy industry. The protests have forced President Carlos Mesa to offer his resignation.

Bolivia's Congress is scheduled to meet Thursday in a special session to decide if it will accept Mr. Mesa's resignation and appoint a successor. The President resigned on Monday - for the second time since March - in the face of mounting public opposition to his government's policies.

On Wednesday, officials said, a group of indigenous protesters took over several oil fields in the eastern part of the country. Growing public protest is bringing the country's economy to a standstill. President Mesa warned lawmakers that only new elections would end the protests.

The president says this is a time for him to resign, not a time for what he calls "betting on madness."

He was referring to lawmakers' suggestion that he should be replaced by the unpopular Senate leader Hormando Vaca Diez. The president asked Mr. Vaca Diez not to accept the post, and called for new elections instead.

Thousands of demonstrators have clogged the streets of La Paz and other Bolivian cities for weeks, calling for the nationalization of the country's energy industry. They are also demanding a new constitution that would give the country's indigenous population greater say in politics.

President Mesa has warned Bolivians the public disorder is bringing the country to the brink of civil war and called for an end to demonstrations.

Working poor, like Adolfo Colque, say they are not deterred by the president's warning.

Mr. Colque says Bolivia needs a new election in the near future. Otherwise, he says, the unrest will continue.