Protesters demanding a census revolt in Bolivian city

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia (AFP): Riot police used tear gas to quell violent street protests in Bolivia’s largest city on Friday, the latest disturbances in three weeks of unrest over demands that a new census be conducted.

Vendors and public transit workers set tires afire in streets and threw rocks at opponents of leftist President Luis Arce in the center of Santa Cruz, a key hub of the energy industry in Bolivia’s tropical lowlands.

TV images showed that a peasant federation office was looted and burned.

Authorities offered no official count of arrests or injuries sustained in the violence on Friday.

Santa Cruz is a stronghold of center right political forces opposed to the Arce government. Some residents there, claiming that the region pays more in taxes than it receives in services, demand a new census to tally the influx of migrants to the lowlands. The last census was in 2012. The next census is not scheduled until 2024.

If a new census were to measure that the region’s population had grown, it would receive greater federal funds and more seats in Congress.

The Arce government said that four people have been killed and 178 injured in unrest over the past three weeks in Santa Cruz.

The right wing governor of Santa Cruz province, Luis Fernando Camacho, said the protesters Friday were “set upon by the police and by MAS,” the ruling Movement To Socialism party of Arce.