Bolivian Leaders Want Democratic Solution, Say Bishops

Episcopal Conference Mediating Amid Nation’s Crisis

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LA PAZ, Bolivia, JUNE 9, 2005 ( Bolivia’s bishops say that the civic and government leaders they consulted desire a democratic solution to the nation’s crisis.

Meanwhile, today, thousands of protesters demanding nationalization of the country’s natural gas wealth surrounded the city of Sucre, the legal capital, as police and army troops protected Congress while it met to weigh the resignation of President Carlos Mesa.

A statement published Wednesday by the Bolivian bishops’ conference explained the conclusions arrived at in meetings held since June 3 with officials of the three state powers and representatives of the various sectors, institutions and organizations of society.

Various sectors requested the ecclesiastical hierarchy to mediate in order to find a way out of the tensions stirred after weeks of protests by Indians calling for the nationalization of gas and oil reserves and a growing clamor for early elections.

The prelates noted «the great coincidence» among the leaders they consulted «that answers to the problems be found in the democratic framework and peaceful atmosphere of dialogue.»

Regarding the process of presidential succession, the bishops’ statement said that Congress must «find solutions in keeping with norms in force, also taking into account the people’s point of view and the well-being of the nation.»

«At no time has the Bolivian episcopal conference supported or supports the designation of any citizen specifically» as a possible candidate to the country’s presidency, the statement said.

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