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Protests continued in the Bolivian farming heartland of Santa Cruz this week, as thousands of protesters have been marching in the streets and blocking highways following the arrest of the province’s governor last month, Reuters reported.

The unrest began soon after authorities detained conservative Governor Luis Camacho on Dec. 28, over his alleged involvement in the 2019 demonstrations that saw the ousting of leftist President Evo Morales.

In recent days, demonstrators in Santa Cruz have taken to the streets demanding his release. The region’s leaders have also issued blockades on highways leaving Santa Cruz, which has stopped the transport of grains and foods. Others have also called for a federal system to be set up, giving the city more autonomy and state funds.

Analysts said Santa Cruz remains a conservative stronghold against socialist President Luis Arce, noting that the blockade could impact the supply of food to other parts of Bolivia. The stoppage could also affect exports and growth as Bolivia grapples with a large fiscal deficit.

Although Camacho denies the charges against him, Morales and his allies blame him and other opponents for the 2019 ousting of Morales – which they describe as a coup.

The government has prosecuted a number of opposition figures, including Jeanine Áñez, who became interim president after Morales’ removal. Last year, a Bolivian court sentenced her to 10 years in jail.

Human rights groups warned that the government is using a weak justice system to go after its opponents. Meanwhile, observers added Camacho’s detention also comes amid an internal struggle between Arce and Morales – the latter of whom remains the leader of the ruling Movement for Socialism.

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